By Aly Sterling, founder and president of Aly Sterling Philanthropy
All nonprofit fundraising efforts require the coordination and support of strong teams to help them succeed, and this is especially true of capital campaigns. Capital campaigns are intense fundraising periods that span multiple years and are meant to achieve a substantial, significant goal for your organization. If your nonprofit is currently planning for a capital campaign, you can’t afford to waste time with an ineffectual team of members who aren’t all on the same page.
As a fundraising professional, it’s your responsibility to bring together an effective team of leaders, supporters and advocates that will productively work together to drive your campaign forward and reach your fundraising goals.
As you strategize for your upcoming capital campaign, consider how team members within your organization can fulfill the pivotal roles needed to carry out your mission. Here are the most important positions when it comes to planning a capital campaign:
- Capital Campaign Consultant
- Campaign Chair(s)
- Planning Committee
- Steering Committee
- Board Members
At Aly Sterling Philanthropy, we know how important it is to strategically plan your capital campaign from the start. Our team of fundraising consultants works with nonprofits every day to develop fundraising strategies and solutions that achieve their goals. In our experience, finding dedicated leaders and advocates to fill these seven roles leads to the greatest long-term success when it comes to capital campaigns. Let’s take a closer look at each role.
1. Capital Campaign Consultant
There’s no avoiding it: capital campaigns are massive undertakings. To complete any major project such as creating a new building, acquiring land or purchasing a high-value piece of equipment, nonprofits need access to a sizable donation haul. Additionally, these endeavors take careful, thorough planning at every stage of the process, from your major-donor focused quiet phase to your far-reaching public phase.
Whether this is the first time your nonprofit has taken on a project of this magnitude or you have experience with capital campaigns, you know that they require a significant amount of time, effort and background knowledge. This is where bringing on a capital campaign consultant is critical.
Finding the right capital campaign consultant is the first role you should fulfill within your campaign process because these specialists offer services that prepare nonprofits for every stage of the campaign. Most capital campaign consultants offer services such as:
- Conducting feasibility studies to develop realistic goals, gather information to create a project blueprint and generate initial awareness and support for the campaign.
- Ongoing campaign management to carry the project through each phase and ensure the campaign stays on target.
- Major gifts and donor cultivation to help create a strategy for acquiring and retaining the support of major donors.
These professionals provide a fresh, outside perspective that can enhance your current strategies with a creative approach. Plus, by bringing on a consultant from the beginning, they’ll help your team adapt and devise new strategies as challenges or opportunities arise.
2. Campaign Chair(s)
Every campaign needs a public face: the person everyone can recognize as the top leader that drives the project forward. In a capital campaign, your campaign chair plays that part.
Your capital campaign chair is the most central, visible leader of your project. This person (or multiple people, in some cases) will attend and oversee all committee meetings and act as an advocate for your campaign within the community. Responsibilities of this role include:
- Recruiting and managing other committee members to create a strong, effective team.
- Communicating about the campaign in public arenas to spread awareness of the effort and garner support.
- Directing volunteers to harness the power and enthusiasm of these supporters for specific elements of the campaign, such as the kickoff event.
The right campaign chair will be a dedicated, influential leader within your community with the leadership skills and project management experience needed to see the campaign through. They could be someone on your nonprofit board, but they don’t have to be — you likely have plenty of great candidates who can fulfill these responsibilities who aren’t on your board. Search for someone with the necessary leadership background, and most importantly, a high level of enthusiasm for the campaign.
3. Planning Committee
Next, as your campaign gets off the ground, you’ll need a solid team of contributors to handle the details of the planning process. Your planning committee should consist of 10-15 members, both staff and volunteers. This team will prepare your campaign from the very beginning by setting a fundraising goal and deadline. Additionally, your planning team will take on these tasks:
- Reviewing your gift range chart to determine how many prospects you’ll need to reach out to and how many gifts you’ll need to achieve your goal.
- Combing through your donor lists to identify top prospects to get in touch with during the quiet phase.
- Preparing your case for support and an effective campaign pitch to present to prospective donors.
After helping with the initial campaign kickoff, the planning committee will ensure everything is organized and on track as you transition out of the quiet phase and into the public phase of your campaign, where your project is introduced to the broader community.
4. Steering Committee
The steering committee is the campaign’s principal fundraising entity. This team will carry out your main fundraising strategy, so steering committee members should have some fundraising experience and be able to make recommendations and solicit major donations. Further, the steering committee will take charge of:
- Developing relationships with prospective donors and volunteers to build a strong foundation of support throughout the community.
- Addressing campaign challenges as they arise to keep the project moving forward.
- Maintaining campaign momentum by publicly advocating for the campaign and internally supporting and advising team members.
Generally, there tends to be overlap between the steering and planning committees because both teams are tasked with keeping the campaign on track as it moves forward.
The steering committee is responsible for overseeing the campaign throughout the quiet phase and bringing on major donor support, so they should be influential or prominent community members. You can raise the profile of your campaign and gain even greater donor support by bringing on committee members with influence and sway in the community.
5. Board Members
In any campaign or project your nonprofit takes on, your board members will be critical components of your success. As Aly Sterling Philanthropy’s nonprofit consultant guide states, “Your board members are a key source of power and guidance for your organization.” You not only need your board’s approval to launch your campaign, but you also need the valuable major donor connections that they bring to the table.
To leverage their influence and connections, board members should contribute to the campaign by:
- Making a contribution to show their support and kickstart the giving process.
- Meeting with major donors to strengthen relationships and secure their support.
- Ensuring the campaign stays on budget throughout the entire process.
Your board members likely already have close relationships with many of your major donors, and they can leverage those pre-existing relationships by reaching out to their networks of major donors with whom they have a personal or professional connection. Even with the continuation of social distancing and other pandemic-related restrictions, board members can still hop on a phone or video conference with prospective donors to make the case for support.
To keep your campaign afloat, you’ll need team members assigned to address the day-to-day activities and projects. Staff members such as your development director and major gifts coordinator are integral leaders of and contributors to your capital campaign team because they have a comprehensive understanding of fundraising and your organization.
Double the Donation’s overview of capital campaigns states that staff members are critical for multiple elements of a capital campaign. This includes the feasibility study, where your capital campaign team collects insights and opinions from your staff members. Also, staff members should take on tasks such as:
- Managing the day-to-day operations of the campaign to provide continuity since they are the team members most familiar with your organization’s specific needs.
- Bringing their area of expertise to the table to address specific tasks that arise. For instance, marketing specialists can handle any PR needs, while volunteer coordinators can manage volunteers for specific events.
- Participating in ongoing training and development activities to enhance their skills and become more effective contributors to the campaign. For example, when staff members take a training course on marketing or communications, they can improve their promotional skills to better communicate with donors and other stakeholders about the capital campaign.
You should recruit the most enthusiastic, productive staff members to work closely on the capital campaign to ensure its overall success.
The last role that needs to be filled within your capital campaign team is the role of volunteers. Many of your campaign team members will be volunteers themselves who donate their time to help your cause.
This guide to capital campaigns recommends recruiting volunteers who are highly active networkers within the community. These contributors will be able to bring strong prospective and current donor relationships to the table while also promoting your cause within the community.
Since volunteers can be any member of your capital campaign team, their duties might include:
- Leading or serving on committees to provide guidance for an aspect of the campaign.
- Soliciting gifts among friends, family and other community members.
- Promoting your campaign through social media and other platforms and acting as an ambassador for the cause.
Volunteers are the foundation of all nonprofit activities, and your capital campaign is no different. Ensure you equip volunteers with the training and education necessary to be effective contributors to the campaign.
With that, you’ll have a well-rounded capital campaign team that can handle any obstacles that arise when carrying your campaign through the finish line. Be sure to reach out to each capital campaign team member early on in the process to explain the responsibilities of their role and warm them up to the project. Also, foster open communication across all team members to boost cooperation, cohesion and teamwork throughout the campaign. Good luck!