Pendulum image as an analogy for creating momentum with campaign messaging.

Message Over Mechanics: The Key to Campaign Success: Part II

Institutions preparing for major campaigns work hard to decide goals, recruit leaders, and populate pyramids. Those are all important. But too many organizations invest too little too late on the most important thing: campaign message strategy.

In Part II of this blog, we look at how savvy early messaging accelerates your campaign by turning halfhearted stakeholders into true believers. If you missed Part I of this series, check it out HERE.

Messaging moves the masses

Despite all your planning, your campaign remains just an idea on paper until stakeholders begin to own the ideas behind it. Prime time for this motivation comes well before you’ve asked anyone for a dime. Early on, you must invest more effort than you think in answering the “why now, why here, why this” of your campaign. Doing so pays off by allowing you to move people by…

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

  • Your campaign has one chance to make a great first impression. But too many institutions cut corners on their campaign feasibility study prospectus. True, you’re not asking for money yet. But those interviewees are your top prospects; you are counting heavily on their opinions. If your case is a muddle, their reaction will be too. From their first exposure, you must crystallize why this effort is different and more urgent than any appeal you’ve ever made. 
  • Savvy institutions are investing in digital platforms like Ovrture to hyperpersonalize the study prospectus. For staunch loyalists, this medium creates delight and signals that the campaign is not business as usual. For long-shot prospects, it’s your institution’s stunning debut.

Accelerating Campaign Pacing

  • Until they truly own the campaign message, even the most earnest champions can remain ineffective and lukewarm. That’s especially true of volunteers — those high-powered people who abhor vagueness and demand clarity. From the first, make these people feel the urgent difference that a major infusion of philanthropy will make. This accelerates their commitment at the stage you need it most — in the creation and authorization of the campaign.

Achieving Team Fluency

  • Campaign momentum starts with clear messaging. But it’s team fluency that lights the afterburners. Work out your message, then train your staff and volunteers to adapt it to individual donor interests. A common language makes your entire team more efficient. Clients tell us that even after months of planning, it’s fluency training that makes the campaign feel real at last.

Who should work on your “why”

The rigors of campaign planning argue for including a philanthropic messaging specialist at your table. You’ll want someone who has experience evoking an institution-wide vision. Of course, that’s what our firm does, so pardon the shameless self-promotion! It’s just that we’ve seen too many campaigns where senior communications counsel, involved at the outset, could have prevented missteps and sparked momentum.

Why before what, what before how

Policies, pyramids, and pipelines are part of every campaign. But these “how” elements only get traction when you have a solid “why.” When people embrace that “why,” your campaign takes flight from the very beginning. That’s the time to invest in crafting your message.

Doug Diefenbach | Vice President, Strategy & Brand

Before becoming Foster Avenue’s main message strategist and editorial lead, Doug spent more than 35 years helping a wide range of major institutions articulate and exceed their goals for strategic alignment, brand visibility, constituent engagement, and philanthropic revenue. Doug has led both campaign planning and communications in both consultant and staff executive roles. (Fun fact: Doug founded, led, and for years performed at an improv comedy theater in Chicago — an affliction that still surfaces from time to time.)

But enough about us.
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