Your Campaign’s Vital Darth Vader (Episode I)

Every campaign must be, at its core, a story.

Story is a powerful part of the human consciousness. Its elements are immutable: a relatable hero encounters an urgent challenge and sets out, against the odds, to put the world right.

That’s the age-old formula that excites human passions, whether in a Homeric epic, a Victorian novel, a Hollywood blockbuster…or your new campaign.
In your campaign story, your institution is the hero. Or it’s your donor. Or it’s both at once, when they join together to make this a classic buddy picture.

But who is the villain?

“Hold on,” you say. “We can’t say ‘villain’ in our campaign. That’s just too “negative.”

Admittedly, the word “villain” has never appeared in any of our case statements. But we do observe that many institutions, accustomed to beating the drum about their strengths as they market their services, sometimes struggle to craft the most effective story for their campaign. Because doing so requires them to point out their barriers, their blocks, their ticking clocks. Their “villains.”

A campaign must articulate a compelling vision for the future. Vision will build affinity among like-minded constituents—but that’s all vision will do. To justify a campaign, you also have to say, “Right now, the world has an urgent, difficult challenge that we are uniquely positioned to overcome.”

That’s because until your donors understand the forces standing in the way of your vision, there is no pivotal role for them to play, no reason to become the hero. Vision inspires loyalty, but it’s challenge that motivates action.

All institutions are working to shape our society as the proverbial “shining city on the hill.” And how do you accelerate that vision? By trumpeting an occasional call to the ramparts.Come on, now: if it weren’t for Darth Vader, who would have cheered for Luke Skywalker?

Read on for Episode II

Effective May 1, 2023 — Snavely Associates is now named Foster Avenue. We have updated this post accordingly.

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.)

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