There is a TV commercial that you’ve probably watched many times. It’s from an auto insurance company that presents strange accident scenarios and concludes with the statement that they’ve both seen it and covered it before. While the examples they use are far-fetched and primarily for entertainment value, the point they’re making is valid. You want to go with the company that has experience with all types of claims, or, as is said in the commercial – “been there, done that.”
This commercial reminds me of questions I’ve been often been asked at conferences and sometimes even by prospective clients: “why do I need campaign counsel when I can get everything I need from a book or online article?” My answer is straightforward. A written blueprint for a major gifts campaign seems simple and effective until something goes wrong. And, in all the many, many campaigns I’ve been associated with, I’ve never seen a campaign without the unexpected happening. In most campaigns, the unexpected will happen several times.
When problems arise, you want to have a campaign consultant by your side who has experience with the unexpected. In fact, I tell all my clients that our carefully crafted plan of campaign will be impacted by twists and turns that no one can predict with certainty. I assure them that the real value of a major gifts campaign consultant is not just to be there when things go right, but rather to help them succeed despite problems that may arise along the way. Over the years, I’ve helped clients work through a variety of the unexpected – having the president resign mid-campaign, losing the development officer mid-campaign, negative press articles, recessions, contract issues that go public, bad accreditation review, foundation board problems, and many others. A good campaign consultant will help you work through these issues and, if possible, still help you succeed with your campaign.
But two of the most important advantages a client receives from campaign counsel is both an external objective assessment of problems and solutions as well as the experience in having dealt with these issues before. As someone once said, if all roads were straight, you wouldn’t need a steering wheel. But since the steering wheel is there we should assume there will be curves in the road. Good campaign counsel can be that steering wheel. When it comes to curves in the road – “been there, done that.”