To Craft a Compelling Capital or Comprehensive Campaign, First Nail Your Messaging

Once you’ve completed the discovery phase of your capital or comprehensive campaign, what’s next? You’ve gone through the foundational exploration process with your audiences and honed in on your campaign’s core goals, but the following step is crucial. Now it’s time to consider exactly how to support those goals with a focused messaging strategy.

Your campaign message is the crafted way in which you convey the inspirational goal you landed on in the discovery process. It’s how you grab potential donors’ attention and spark their passion for your cause in a way that makes them truly want to get involved. 

If you imagine the discovery phase as the concrete in your foundation, the campaign message is the structure itself: the layout, the walls, the literal structure of the building. 

Campaign messaging is essential for many reasons. Namely, the messaging offers clarity on some of the most essential questions you must answer, including “Why exactly is our organization launching a capital campaign?” And, “Why should someone support this campaign?” 

Clarifying these core statements with your campaign message gives your executive leadership team and development officers what they need to pitch prospective donors with confidence. This essentially means your messaging strategy delivers on the financial goals you’ve set for your capital campaign.

Messaging is Essential to Your Campaign’s Vision

For many involved in building your nonprofit’s new comprehensive or capital campaign, the visuals (using the earlier building metaphor, think the paint colors, countertops, and overall aesthetic) tend to take center stage. They are the fun part, and our brains are wired to like visually interesting details. We’re like squirrels and crows in that way — easily distracted by bright, shiny objects. 

But the visuals won’t matter if you don’t first establish a solid messaging strategy to inform their development. When your messaging strategy is done well, it builds your internal team’s confidence in your campaign and allows the rest of the campaign’s pieces to fall nicely in line. 

Aside from building confidence, a strong messaging strategy acts as a guide when speaking at fundraising events or major donor meetings, while also helping your organization clarify its vision.

To ensure you build a campaign with teeth, you must focus on your messaging strategy.

Creating Your Core Messaging Strategy Is a Group Activity

Think of the input gathered from beneficiaries, donors, the development team, and leadership in your research phase as a Venn diagram. Everywhere their input overlaps will become part of your messaging strategy.

Now that you have this research, your nonprofit is ready to build out the messaging strategy for its next fundraising campaign. Working collaboratively with your nonprofit leadership, fundraising counsel, and your creative partner in a workshop setting is pivotal. Gathering input from each key player ensures your campaign message is authentic to, and resonates with, everyone involved. Authenticity is key.

When you begin crafting your core campaign message, you should use a workshop format to brainstorm and co-author your messaging together. This ensures authenticity. It also enables you to work out any kinks together and to avoid the pitfalls of lacking adoption later on.  

Start by having each person in the room pitch words or phrases that align with that campaign’s purpose. It’s “Why?” if you will. Then, move on to answering the other 10 core questions every campaign should answer. This approach allows everyone to have input on what they believe the soul of the messaging strategy should be before any ideas are thrown to the side. This process also enables you to work through any nuances and avoid any potential landmines. 

A few questions you should aim to answer in this workshop would be:

  • What is this campaign? (Elevator Pitch)
  • Why does our campaign exist? (Purpose Statement)
  • Why should donors support this capital campaign?
  • What will we do with the funds raised?
  • Why do we think we’ll be able to achieve this capital campaign goal?
  • How is this campaign different from our other fundraising efforts?
  • How will we change the world with this campaign?

Workshopping your messaging strategy should happen as an in-person group (or over Zoom) over several hours (our workshops typically take up half a day). Regardless of the way you workshop, realize that pinpointing your campaign message is a group effort. And it’s not one that will happen overnight. Acknowledge from the beginning that this Mad Libs-style brainstorming you started with will require multiple iterations to fully form into a polished idea you can share with potential donors. It’ll also likely require a copywriter, and a brand partner as well, but alas. 

Distill Your Message Into a Name  

You may have people telling you the name of your comprehensive or capital campaign isn’t important as long as the message behind the campaign is solid. Clearly, those parties haven’t been exposed to the slew of unfortunate names other organizations have tried to make work. The last thing you want is for a potential donor to see your campaign name and laugh you out of the room (this has happened).

A similar method to what you followed to craft your fundraising campaign message should be followed for the naming process. Your name should be a distillation of your core message arrived at through a workshopping process. The tip of the tip of the spear. 

A strong, memorable name that conveys the basis of your message is important for your campaign. It’s also important to remember that your name doesn’t necessarily need to be incredibly unique or distinctive, so long as it’s accurate and authentic. Surprise surprise. 

A great example of a strong comprehensive campaign name is ReMission, a campaign intended to fund brain cancer research to help move brain cancer diagnosis survival rates from 5% to 50% in 5 years. Purpose statement (or Why?) – “this campaign exists to make sure brain cancer becomes a comma instead of a full stop” — that is, so brain cancer doesn’t end so many lives.

The Final Elements

After you have worked through multiple drafts of your comprehensive or capital campaign messaging strategy, you should end up with a few distinct pieces of content that you can use when speaking to donors. Those pieces include an elevator pitch, a purpose statement, and other key messages that your development team can use when answering donors’ questions. 

And if done well, the time and effort you’ve spent distilling your campaign messaging strategy will reap tangible returns. These results will provide your team with the compelling message necessary to hit the pavement and successfully engage your community of supporters.

Pique Donor Interest With a Clear Message

Through the iterative processes of both your discovery and messaging strategy steps, your campaign vision is now taking shape.

You should be able to work directly from the messaging strategy document while presenting to donors and feel 100 percent confident that you’ve hit the mark. You should feel proud of having captured your campaign’s vision. 

That confidence will ensure that you’re comfortable speaking to groups of five or 500. When they ask the tough questions, you’ll be ready with clear answers.