“I thought all publicity was good publicity!”…Not necessarily.

Kim Koch

By Kim Koch, Consultant

Every nonprofit competing for donor dollars is thrilled when positive media coverage increases community awareness about its organization.  It’s a gift to be thrust into the spotlight without spending a dime to promote your mission!

So, what do you do when this happens while you’re in the quiet phase of a capital campaign? 

We highly recommend that you hold off on engaging the media during this phase of the campaign for the following reasons:

  • To wait until you have a newsworthy moment.  It’s more impactful to reach out to the press when there’s a big fundraising milestone (e.g., being at 90% of your goal).  Sending numerous, premature announcements to the media will tire them of telling your story and dilute the effectiveness of announcing a major fundraising achievement.
  • To avoid preemptive giving.  Talking to the press about your capital campaign will cast a wide net to a large pool of donors.  If you cast that net too soon, you’re likely to receive multiple small gifts – possibly from large donor prospects who had the potential to give much more with proper engagement.  More specifically, you lose the opportunity to have intimate, one-on-one conversations with high-capacity philanthropists about why they like to give and why your project should be a giving priority.
  • To time your capital campaign message appropriately.  Quiet phase fundraising allows you to calibrate, track and project your fundraising progress – allowing organizations to adjust strategies around the goal and timing.  Once your goal is announced to the media, it’s out there!  If you’re having a very successful campaign, you have now lost the opportunity to increase your goal without confusing your donors and the public.  If you’re struggling to meet your goal while the public is watching, your campaign will look like a failure and possibly cause credibility challenges for your campaign and even your organization.

During the quiet phase, your best strategy is to involve the media to promote exciting accomplishments around your mission or the project – without mention of the campaign.  This is the perfect time to talk about the compelling need and how your project will better serve the community while keeping your campaign goal under wraps.  Remember – until you’re ready to go public, typically when you’re at 70-95% of your goal – mum’s the word!

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