It’s a big deal for any organization to contemplate a capital campaign. And it’s critical that each board member gets on board before you proceed.
Therefore, you should be doing everything possible early in the planning process to help your board members get comfortable with — and excited about — the idea of a campaign.
The idea of a capital campaign often starts with a strategic planning process. Board members have been involved with developing, and approved, a plan for significant growth. The idea of a campaign should not be a surprise when it’s introduced.
5 Ways to Prepare Your Board for a Capital Campaign
There are many things you can do to help your board members understand the roles and responsibilities required for a campaign. Here are five great ways to engage your board in the campaign process.
1. Have a “myth-busting” board meeting
At your next board meeting, set aside 30 minutes to bust some popular campaign myths.
Have each of the most popular myths listed on a flipchart. Go around and ask board members if they’ve heard any of the ones on the list and why they are believable. Then, share stories and facts about why they are wrong.
Common campaign myths
Three of the most popular campaign myths are:
- A celebrity will come in and save the day.
- Each person will give the same amount (if you need to raise $1M, just get 10 people to each give $100K).
- Major donors are “out there” and you simply need to find them.
In the process, board members will begin to understand how capital campaigns actually work.
2. Complete a board assessment
The simplest way to get your board members to discuss a potential campaign is to have them complete a readiness assessment and discuss the results.
Use the simple board assessment tool on our website and ask each board members to complete it. It should take 5 minutes or less. Let them know you will be collecting their results at the end of the meeting (they can be anonymous).
If you have a longer than 30 minutes…
Attempt to discuss each question. For some questions, you might ask for a show of hands regarding answers and then have short discussion. For other questions, you may simply ask who was surprised by the question / answer and brainstorm ways to improve.
If you have less than 30 minutes…
Select two or three key questions to discuss. Ask board members what they think needs to happen prior to launching a campaign.
In either case, you will want to emphasize that you don’t need to have 100% yes to launch a campaign. Some things can and will be works in process.
3. Schedule individual meetings
Schedule meetings with each board member individually to discuss a potential campaign. Encourage questions. Give each board member a chance to ask questions and alleviate their fears. This will help you understand their concerns and have an opportunity to address any issues which may come up down the road.
If you can bring a board member who has campaign experience with you to join the discussion, you should. If not, the Executive Director or Development Director can have these early discussions.
If you do not have experience with this kind of conversation, brainstorm as many potential concerns as possible and practice your response. You don’t want to sound like a robot, but you also don’t want to go in unprepared.
Common campaign concerns
Frequent campaign concerns among board members include things like:
- Will I need to ask my friends for money?
- How much will I be expected to give?
- What is the chance that we will succeed?
These are all valid and important questions. If they don’t bring them up, you might do so.
4. Invite a guest to your board meeting
Ask a volunteer or two from other organizations to answer questions and share their experience of going through a campaign. They should be volunteers who have recently gone through successful campaigns in your community.
Do not leave this up to chance. You should screen them carefully and have a sense of how they will answer questions. You might ask some of the following screening questions:
- What were your concerns before heading into a campaign?
- Did your organization hire a consultant? What was the process/experience?
- Did you do a feasibility study? How did it work?
- What was the biggest challenge? How did you overcome it.
- What surprised you about leading a campaign?
- How did you find new donors?
Allow 30-45 minutes for your guest(s) to answer questions. If you want to be strategic, your guest(s) should be people you hope to engage in your campaign down the road. Be sure to thank them for their time and for sharing with your group.
5. Interview consultants without an RFP
When you issue an RFP, you miss an opportunity for capital campaign consultants to share how they work and offer what they think you need.
In other words, when you require consultants to respond to an RFP, you often ask them to fit a round peg in a square hole. I realize you’re trying to compare apples to apples, but you’ll probably miss the chance to hear from the best consultants how they would approach your campaign. That’s because busy and successful consultants rarely respond to RFP’s — they don’t need to.
Instead, research 3 to 5 consultants to interview (we hope one of your considerations will be Capital Campaign Pro — click here to speak with us about your campaign). Ask around for referrals from those organizations who have conducted successful campaigns in your community. If you’re part of a network of organizations (YMCA’s for example), ask for references from other similar types of organizations.
Try to narrow your search to:
- One small shop or solopreneur
- One large shop or national firm
- Capital Campaign Pro (capital campaigns are our business)
- Possibly one or two more
Ask the consultants you interview what they think you need and how they would help support your campaign. You’ll learn a ton by going through this process. Then ask the top two back to meet with key staff and board members (in-person or virtually) and submit proposals.
Aim to Eliminate Board Member Skepticism
A campaign is serious business. It’s practically essential to have your board on board and excited about your campaign. Once you’ve gone through the steps and exercises outlined above, take a moment to evaluate your board’s progress. How much skepticism about the campaign remains?
Because it’s so important that your board is supportive of your campaign, you may ask board members that remain skeptical to step down from the board. It’s probably not the right board for them to serve on as you head into a campaign. Genuinely thank them for their service and let them know you hope they will continue to be involved.
Find Out if You’re Ready for a Campaign
Download any of our four free assessment tools to help you determine whether you are truly campaign-ready.