Monday, February 29, 2016

Campaign Planning Is a Valuable Tool for Nonprofits

In Cures for Ailing Organizations I show readers how to strengthen their leadership team and organization’s structure. But I also emphasize that without accomplishments, a nonprofit cannot survive. Nonprofits are founded to make specific changes for the communities they serve. The founders saw a problem that was serious enough to go to the trouble of creating an organization to solve it.

Sometimes such societal changes can occur over the long term through ongoing programs. Nonprofits that provide services to particular sorts of people are one example where ongoing programs are the best choice.

However, most other types of nonprofits need the skills to force positive change through advocacy and proper campaign planning. The status quo is not easily changed so a good shove is usually needed. These skills enable the nonprofit’s leaders to choose the best campaigns and carry them through to success. Succeeding with a campaign is one of the best ways to grow a nonprofit because those whose lives were improved by the campaign will want to help the nonprofit accomplish even more.

A few examples of well-known campaigns that succeeded in improving lives:  
Great campaigns don’t have to be as high-profile as these. In fact, some take place in just a few meetings with the appropriate officials.

Campaigns can also be used for malicious purposes, so understanding the way they work can help nonprofit leaders identify and stop harmful campaigns before they gain momentum. One example of a malicious campaign that is particularly galling to One Street is the successful adoption of the car industry’s invention of jaywalking to criminalize those using the public right-of-way without a car. No pedestrian or bicycle nonprofits existed at that time because there hadn’t been a need. So the campaign went unchecked and to this day, anyone who sets foot in an American street is at best mocked and at worst hauled off to jail. I have to admit, it was a damn clever campaign.

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of exploring campaign planning processes in detail for a very special project in eastern Ukraine. A few months ago leaders of the Kyiv Cyclists’ Association invited me to come to Ukraine to teach three campaign planning workshops in three eastern cities. The goal of the project is to help reunite the country through partnerships toward positive change, in this case, bicycle and sustainable transportation campaigns.

All three workshops had to be completed by early March in order to meet with the requirements of USAID, the funder of the project. We realized the timeframe wouldn’t work for my teaching the workshops, so we had to find a way to transfer my campaign planning workshop experience to them so that they could teach them themselves. (Read more about the project in our upcoming Jan-Feb 2016 E-newsletter).

Through several Skype meetings and many emails Viktor, Ira, and I worked through best practices and the most common difficulties of these workshops to ensure theirs would start at a high level. We also created a customized workbook for attendees, which Viktor and Ira translated into Ukrainian Cyrillic.

Teaching someone else is one of the best ways to review and learn even more about a favorite topic. I’ve posted the basics on One Street’s Campaign Planning page, but training Viktor and Ira meant a far deeper analysis. Through this project, I have been reminded of the importance of:
  • Ensuring that only leaders of nonprofits attend the campaign planning workshop because only they will know what their organization can and cannot take on.
  • Distinguishing between campaigns and programs.
  • Choosing a campaign that is likely to win.
  • Remembering that problem development is always the most difficult for attendees, so plenty of time must be given for this early step.
  • Emphasizing that attendees are the experts for their unique situations and need workshop time to work through the details, so case studies from other areas are all but useless.
  • Taking the time to allow attendees to fully assess who in their community has the power to solve the problem they have defined.
  • Showing attendees the value of completing a comprehensive campaign plan before launching it. I like to use a favorite quote from Sun Tzu in The Art of War, 6th century BC: “The successful strategist only enters battle after the battle has been won.”

Two of the three workshops have already taken place and the results are outstanding! See them in the E-newsletter article linked above. Most notable are the clear goals for growing each of their nonprofits through their campaigns and using them as springboards for even more positive change in their troubled area.

I’ve learned many times over the years, and especially over these past few months, that campaign planning is one of the most valuable tools for energizing nonprofits and ensuring they forge a confident path toward the mission their founders intended. Eastern Ukraine is becoming a proven model of this through this inspiring project.

If you would like more info on One Street's Campaign Planning efforts please use the comments box below.


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