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Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE

About Linda

Capital Campaign Human Resources (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of a series I'm writing on capital campaign readiness. In Part 1, I started at the beginning, by asking: What is a capital campaign, and when do you need one? In Part 2, I discussed the infrastructure that will be needed for your campaign. Today, I discuss human resources needed to support your campaign. I'll address the question: Who needs to be involved in the campaign, other than staff? Yes, I'm speaking of involvement of your board members, volunteers, and donors.

In a Nutshell

This is Part 3 of a multiweek series on capital campaigns by Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE. In Part 1, Linda launched the series with the basic questions, What is a capital campaign, and when do you need one? In Part 2, she discussed the infrastructure needs for a capital campaign. In today's installment, she discusses human resources needed to support your campaign. In this and the next few articles, Linda discusses how to evaluate your internal readiness for a campaign and then move on to assessing your community’s willingness and ability to support the campaign. Linda is the author of two popular books on capital campaigns published by CharityChannel Press, Are You Ready for a Capital Campaign? Assessing Your Nonprofit's Ability to Run a Major Fundraising Campaign and Capital Campaigns: Everything You NEED to Know.

Capital Campaign Human Resources: Board Members, Volunteers, and Donors

To understand who needs to be involved in the capital campaign, besides staff, there are three areas to consider in this regard:

  1. the board’s commitment;
  2. volunteer leadership; and
  3. a pool of donors for the campaign.

Board Commitment

Any discussion of capital campaign human resources starts with board commitment, one of the key areas that needs to be addressed before moving forward with a campaign. Has your board reached consensus that this campaign is necessary, and has it agreed on a preliminary goal for the campaign? Does the board understand its role in the campaign and that their role will include a financial commitment as well as working on the campaign? I recommend that once your board has decided a campaign is in order that they pass a formal resolution at a board meeting to proceed with the planning for a campaign. It is wise, at this juncture in the planning process, that a consultant be invited to talk to the board about its role in the campaign so board members understand what is involved in running a campaign before it passes a resolution to move forward. Once the planning study is begun, board input into the preliminary case for support and the development of an interviewee list will be needed. And, providing the study is positive and the campaign moves ahead, board members will need to understand that 100 percent board giving to the campaign will be required before asking the public to support the campaign. At least three to five board members should also be committed to working on the campaign cabinet and recruiting others to become involved. All board members must be willing to support the campaign to the extent they can contribute both time and dollars. The presence of board members at key campaign events will be required in order to show their united support of this project.

Want to Learn More?

Want to learn more about capital campaign human resources? Pick up a copy of Are You Ready for a Capital Campaign? Assessing Your Nonprofit's Ability to Run a Major Fundraising Campaign, by Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE.Linda goes into much more detail on capital campaign human resources in her workbook, Are You Ready for a Capital Campaign? Assessing Your Nonprofit's Ability to Run a Major Fundraising Campaign, published by CharityChannel Press. You can order it from the CharityChannel Press bookstore,, Barnes & Noble bookstore, or at a bookstore near you.

It will be helpful, although not always necessary, that at least some board members have the ability and willingness to make substantial leadership gifts to the campaign. This will depend very much on the makeup of the board, which is why many organizations preparing for a campaign will start to beef up their boards in advance of the campaign. For grassroots organizations and those with community-based boards, the lack of cash and clout on the board can be made up with the right approach to recruiting key volunteer leadership.

Volunteer Leadership

When it comes to capital campaign human resources, volunteer leadership is, in my opinion, the single most important element of a successful campaign. The board and staff alone should not try to run a campaign without support of key community leaders. Before recruiting people to serve on your campaign cabinet, the steering committee should review a list of potential donors and try to get those with the greatest potential to give to also become involved in the campaign. A list of corporate and individual donors will be developed through the planning study process and this can serve as the basis for recruiting campaign leadership. It will be vital to include key community leaders in the planning study process. It is much easier to invite these leaders to serve in a campaign capacity if they’ve been included in the planning process.

Volunteer recruitment will need to be handled with extreme care. Often, organizations want to jump the gun and start recruiting campaign leadership before they have a clear idea of the expectations for these volunteers. It will be vital to have a campaign plan in place that includes, among other things, position descriptions for all volunteer roles and timelines for each committee. Trying to fit volunteers into roles after they are recruited is like hiring a staff person and then deciding what the organization wants the person to do. The volunteer recruitment process must be handled just as carefully as one would handle hiring a staff person, with due diligence and thoughtfulness of the best role for this volunteer. We will talk more about this in a future article on structuring the campaign.

Pool of Donors

Finally, in wrapping up our look at capital campaign human resources, there is one more group of people that need to be evaluated and included—donors! That sounds pretty basic, that you need donors before entering into a campaign. But surprisingly many organizations feel that the campaign will generate its own interest in the organization and that they need to go out and find a whole cadre of new donors. While it is true that often campaigns do help an organization uncover and involve new donors, the majority of donors to a campaign will come from those who are already aware of and support your organization. So a careful study should be done of the potential for major gifts among the organization's current donor pool.

One good way to evaluate this is to look at the level of giving from past donors. Who is in the list of the top 10 percent of the organization’s donors? Who are the loyal donors who give year after year, even if not at a significant level? Here is where the donor software discussed earlier comes in. If you have a good software system with up-to-date information, it will be much easier to develop a list of potential donors than if you need to search through hard copy records or rely on institutional memory.

Although the planning study may uncover a whole new list of potential donors, the consultant will need a base of people to interview. You should start preparing a list of potential donors as soon as you feel you are ready to start a planning study.


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