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Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE

About Linda

Capital Campaign Volunteers (Part 3)

Once the campaign plan is in place, your organization can start recruiting volunteers to help implement the plan. While the role of staff and board will be important during the campaign, the role of volunteers is critical to success and should not be undervalued.

In a Nutshell

This is Part 3 of a multiweek series on conducting capital campaigns by Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE. This series follows Linda's Capital Campaign Readiness Series, which focuses on making sure the organization is ready for a capital campaign. In today's installment, Linda discusses the first step in the process of conducing the capital campaign: developing a campaign plan outlining the entire structure of 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.

Community Leaders as Capital Campaign Volunteers

Involving key community leaders in the campaign will assure that the entire community will get involved. Recruiting the right campaign chair is the first step in getting community leaders involved. A chair that is well known and respected in the community will be able to use this influence to recruit other community leaders to come on board. The chair should be someone who has the passion for the organization in order to speak with enthusiasm about the project and the organization. Leadership qualities are also important, as the campaign chair needs to motivate and inspire all the other volunteers who will be involved in the campaign.

In many cases, there will be two co-chairs of a campaign or a chair and vice chair. Occasionally it is wise to have more than two people head up a campaign, particularly if there are spouses involved. Your organization should carefully evaluate the reasons to include more than one person as chair, as this will require a little more coordination, and clear roles need to be defined for each person in a leadership role. It is critical to recruit the chair before enlisting other volunteers, because people will be reluctant to get involved if they don’t know who will direct their efforts. The right campaign chair(s) can be very influential in recruiting other volunteers.

Want to Learn More?

Learn more about capital campaign volunteers. Pick up a copy of Capital Campaigns: Everything You NEED to Know, by Linda LysakowskiLinda goes into much more detail on capital campaign volunteers in her book, Capital Campaigns: Everything You NEED to Know, published by CharityChannel Press. You can order it from the CharityChannel Press bookstore,, Barnes & Noble bookstore, or at a bookstore near you.

Once the campaign chair is in place, the other campaign cabinet positions can be filled. Working with the organizational structure described in an earlier article, chairs must be recruited for each division. It is strongly recommended that each division have two co-chairs. Sharing the workload makes it easier to get people to agree to chair a division, and helps assure attendance at campaign cabinet meetings by at least one of the chairs. Division chairs must be carefully selected to suit the needs of the committees they will be heading. For example, the chairs of the leadership gifts division should be people who will make a leadership level gift themselves and have the contacts and influence to talk with others with leadership gift capability. Likewise, chairs of the special event committee need to be well-organized people who know how to run a successful event. Each committee chair prospect should be discussed with the campaign chair(s) to determine if this person has the right qualities and if the chair(s) feel this candidate is a good choice to chair that specific division.

It will be critical to have developed the position descriptions and timelines for each committee before recruiting chairs of those committees. The chairs of each committee will then recruit enough volunteers to handle the task they have accepted. Committees that will be doing face-to-face solicitation should always follow the rule of one volunteer for every five prospects that are to be seen. In some cases, especially at the leadership gifts level, solicitors may even call on fewer than five people, because the size of the gifts being solicited will require numerous visits before the person is prepared to make a commitment. Depending on the number of constituents in the division, it may be necessary to have a structure of team leaders within the division who will recruit additional volunteers. For example, if the small business division has five hundred prospects to solicit, they will need one hundred volunteers, so rather than have the chairs try and recruit one hundred volunteers for their division, they can recruit twenty team leaders who will in turn each recruit five volunteers, thereby assuring that all prospects can be visited personally.

Often in a campaign there will be hundreds of volunteers involved. Although this sometimes sounds like a daunting task to staff and volunteer leadership, it can be accomplished easily if the organizational structure is in place from the beginning. Following a simple step-by-step process makes this task one that can be accomplished very easily:

  • Establish the campaign divisions, based on the constituents of your organization and the scale of gifts.
  • Determine the number of prospects in each division.
  • Determine the number of volunteers needed to accomplish these solicitations (number of prospects divided by five).
  • Recruit the chair and vice chair of each division.
  • Determine if team leaders are needed and assist chairs to recruit them.
  • Have team leaders recruit volunteers.

Training Capital Campaign Volunteers How to Ask

Once all volunteers are recruited for each division, they will need to be trained in techniques of making the “ask.” Even volunteers who have a lot of campaign experience will need to attend strategy sessions and help develop the appropriate strategies to solicit prospects. Committees working on various divisions in most cases should be trained separately, since the approach to solicit a leadership donor will be very different from that of those in the small business division, for example.

The campaign cabinet needs to meet regularly, monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly depending on the size and scope of the campaign. Subcommittees should meet individually between meetings. It will be very important to have regularly scheduled meetings in order for committees to report on progress, discuss developments within the organization and the project, and inspire and motivate volunteers. Regular communications between meetings will be important as well. Staff and campaign leadership should be in communication by phone and/or email in order to assess progress and assure that committees are following the strategies for keeping the campaign on track. It is important for volunteers to celebrate successes in the campaign, both small and large. And, of course, at the end of the campaign, there should be a volunteer celebration event.


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