The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

The Just Enough Planning Guide: A Roadmap to Help Nonprofits Reach Their Campaign Goals

This guide, from the talented team at Spitfire Strategies and the Communications Leadership Institute, is designed to provide organizations and coalitions with just enough of a process for planning successful campaigns. The guide is designed to work best with policy campaigns, issue campaigns, corporate campaigns and public education campaigns. If you are looking to pass a law, win popular support for an issue, organize a boycott or let a bunch of people know that something is bad for them, this guide is for you. It could also help you with another type of campaign, but we chose to focus on the types of campaigns mentioned above to make the tool more concise.

Download The Just Enough Planning Guide below.

For some people, planning a campaign is less about following a process and more about following their instincts. Long-time campaigners believe they have a feel for the road. With each new campaign, they load the station wagon with all the gear that has served them well in the past—all the tools and the processes. They have a destination in mind, shift into autopilot, and the campaign strategy unfolds from reflex and memory. Experience has taught them well—they pack light and know all the shortcuts. Or do they?

For less experienced campaigners, the tendency is to overpack for fear they’ll find themselves down the road lacking a key tactic or guide. They bring it all along for the ride. Then, they often hit every attraction and marker along the way, even when it pulls them off track from their true destination—if they were even clear about their destination when they started.

Organizations looking to run effective campaigns need to find the middle ground between the underpackers and the overpackers. They must chart the “happy planning medium” between the Autobahn speedsters and the country road rovers. They need a go-to planning source that offers assistance with the campaign at hand and campaigns ahead—a guide that can help them define their destination, assess whether or not they can get there, launch them in the right direction, measure their progress and (when necessary) be flexible enough to make changes on the fly.

With funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Spitfire Strategies and the Communications Leadership Institute set out to find the perfect approach to campaign planning. In our search, we found that groups approach campaign planning in many different ways. Some follow highly detailed guides and processes that we dubbed the “War and Peace planning method.” These costly affairs are time intensive, cover even the most minute details, and take a long time to learn and implement. Other groups seem to wing it, resulting in one of two possible outcomes—haphazard success or derailment. Surprisingly, a number of the campaigns with seemingly little planning still achieve exactly what they set out to do. However, a good many others are stymied by unforeseen events that derail them and cause the campaigners to waste too much time and money to ever get things back on track.

After much effort, we could not find the campaign planning tool we were seeking, so we created this: The Just Enough Planning Guide™. It borrows from what we consider to be the best practices out there and provides organizations and coalitions with a planning process that gives them a clear sense of where they are going, the best way to get there, and what to expect along the way.

To those using this guide, we make three promises:

  1. We didn’t make this up. We studied dozens of campaigns, some successful and some not, so we could share the lessons learned. We also asked bona fide experts who have won a campaign or two (and lost others) to describe the key planning elements—not all the bells and whistles, just the “musthaves”—and we included those here.
  2. We left plenty of room for flexibility and creativity. For minimal planners, this guide doesn’t constrain the creative process; rather, it helps you organize your creativity in a way that channels all your brilliant ideas to help you achieve your campaign’s goal. It also lets you build your campaign your way.  You determine the main components of your campaign—we help you plan for them.
  3. We kept it as simple as possible. We know that a successful planning guide can’t burden you with so many stops, detours and roadside attractions that you start asking, “Are we there yet?” This guide will help you on your way, not get in your way.


Just Enough Planning Guide eBook


About Spitfire
Spitfire Strategies ( offers nonprofits and foundations communications planning, counsel and training to help them create positive social change.

Our goal is to help social change organizations use their voice in a strong, clear and compelling way to articulate their vision of a better world. We craft effective communications strategies and bring ideas to life. Spitfire then works with our clients to build the best team to implement those ideas. We work with organizations to build the necessary internal capacity to communicate effectively over the long term.


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About This Blog

Connie Poulos
Senior Associate, Copywriter

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