Campaign Bootcamp: Module 1

This is the first in a new series of posts on how to create a campaign plan. The series will finish with a live ‘bootcamp’ workshop where you’ll get templates, tools and tips to help you create your own campaign plan there and then!

In this post we’ll start with what campaigns are and why they are an effective antidote to the common challenges charities and not for profits face in promoting their cause.

What is a campaign (and why would you want one)?

A campaign is time limited, focused burst of promotional activity with a particular purpose in mind.

You might associate the idea with political campaigns, to get someone elected. Or John Lewis’ Christmas ad campaign to make us think of them while Christmas shopping. Or Oxfam’s emergency relief campaigns to fundraise in the wake of disasters.

This campaign-style approach is also a familiar way of promoting events. Who else followed a trail of elephants around the city a few summers ago? Or saw invitations to recent local events in Sheffield like:  Light the Night; Heritage Open Days or Off the Shelf? All short lived promotions designed with specific purposes in mind.

But, how can campaigns help with long term goals?

Do you have longer term goals like an ongoing, urgent need to raise more funds? Or influence key stakeholders on your beneficiaries’ behalf? Or to get more people to step forward as volunteers?

If your goals are long term rather than short term, you may not have considered a campaign-style approach before. But a campaign-style approach  offers lots of advantages.

Campaigns have productivity advantages

  • They are time-limited: it’s more possible to sustain a higher intensity of promotional activity because it’s not going on forever.

  • They are focused because they are intended to achieve a particular goal.

  • They are measurable - their performance is measured against the goal - were enough tickets sold, funding targets met etc?

  • They get done - campaign tasks get prioritised above the general day to day ‘busyness’. They become the important and urgent tasks that get people’s time.

They have other advantages too

  • They can be creative and innovative. If a campaign is temporary, you can afford to try something a bit different or risky without being stuck with it permanently.

  • They can freshen things up by providing new messages for your audiences. (They  may have got a bit over-exposed to your usual promotions).

  • They offer great opportunities to learn how to improve things next time round. The aim, plan, do, review cycle fits campaigns very well.

They are a good antidote to the common problems of overwhelm.

If the scale of what you need to achieve day to day leaves you feeling chronically over-stretched and under-resourced, they offer the possibility of breaking your larger tasks into bite-sized campaign-style chunks.

If you apply the plan do review cycle, you will also steadily improve your process. This will help you to achieve more with less effort each time you run your campaign:  and that can’t be bad!

What’s involved in creating a campaign?

At its heart a campaign is essentially a plan and 90 days (or a quarter of the year) can be a good time frame to start with.

The campaign plan identifies your weekly campaign tasks. (Planning ahead also helps you to mobilise any other people involved more effectively).

During the campaign planning process you decide what your weekly campaign tasks are going to be. To decide what these are, the campaign planning process starts with two important questions:

  1. What do I want to achieve by running a campaign? (What does success look like?)

  2. Who do I need to encourage, nudge, convince … and what do I need them to do?

I will look at these questions in our next instalment on campaigns. I’ll consider what a good campaign goal looks like, why it’s important to have a good understanding of your audience and which tools and techniques you can use to help make these first steps in your campaign planning process go smoothly.

Sophy Hallam