This post highlights the wisdom that campaign expert and Capital Campaign Pro advisor, Paula Peter, offered in a lively conversation about campaign leadership with Capital Campaign Pro Co-Founders, Amy Eisenstein and Andrea Kihlstedt.
This is the third of a six-part series of posts drawn from discussions with six of our campaign experts. A full audio discussion of the topic has been recorded for the podcast, All About Capital Campaigns, which you can listen to on your favorite podcast platform.
As one of the most experienced advisors at Capital Campaign Pro, Paula Peter has worked with many dozens of organizations on campaigns. In today’s post, she highlights the topic of campaign leadership — particularly, how to recruit the best campaign chair.
How to Recruit the Best Capital Campaign Chair
Recruiting an ideal campaign chair (or co-chairs) is one of the most common challenges faced by organizations, regardless of their size, campaign, or mission. Finding the right chair is important because the volunteers in leadership positions set the tone for the campaign, along with your other campaign volunteers.
Essential Traits of a Good Campaign Chair
An ideal chair for your campaign will:
- Be willing and able to use their own connections
- Advocate for the organization and campaign throughout the community
- Possess the 3 C’s: courage, commitment, and curiosity
Don’t Rush to Enlist Your Campaign Chair!
Many organizations believe the first thing they need to do when preparing for a campaign is to recruit a campaign chair. But that’s a common mistake!
When you select a campaign chair too early in the process, you may find that you’ve picked the wrong person for the job. Take the time to do your due diligence BEFORE selecting your campaign chair.
One of the things you test in a feasibility study is who would make the best campaign chair (or co-chairs). If you select a chair prior to the feasibility study, it’s unlikely you will have truly explored all of your options.
No Obvious Campaign Chair? No Problem
Sometimes the right campaign chair is obvious. But for many organizations, that’s not the case. What if your organization doesn’t have an obvious person who would be the perfect campaign chair?
If you’re asking this question prior to the feasibility study, don’t fret. Possible candidates to serve as campaign chair or co-chairs may surface through the people interviewed during the study. Use the feasibility study process to help identify the right campaign leadership — simply ask participants who they feel would make a great chair for your campaign. Often, the same name(s) come up over and over.
If for some reason you don’t have an obvious leader at the end of the process, you can use different people to chair different sections of your campaign.
For example, you might have a chair of the quiet phase and a public phase chair. While that may not be ideal, that model can work, particularly if you pair them with a well-know and respected honorary chair.
3 Tips to Recruit the Right Chair for Your Capital Campaign
Here are three winning strategies that will help you get the best campaign chairs.
1. Don’t forget the WIIFM (What’s In It for Me)
You’ll be more likely to recuit a great campaign chair if you can articulate the many things that a chair will get in return for their efforts:
- greater visibility
- making a big difference
- getting first rate leadership training
- making new friends
- becoming more connected
- having a great deal of fun
Think about what’s likely to important for your prospective campaign chair and shape the role to fit what they’re looking for.
2. Make sure they know they’ll have great staff support
You can make the job of being a campaign chair easy — or at least easier — by providing excellent support.
You can draft materials, outline agendas, help manage communication, prep them for public events, schedule meetings and a host of other things. Make sure that you’re staffed up for the campaign well enough so that you can provide your campaign chair with first rate support. And talk about that when you recruit them.
3. Let them know they’re going to be successful
Leading a campaign is a high-stakes, high risk position. And no one wants to take on the task if there’s a decent chance they’ll fail.
Before you recruit a campaign chair, think carefully about their chances of success and be prepared to discuss them with your prospective chair. If failure is a real possibility, you should think twice before recruiting a chair. Not only do they not want to fail publicly, but you don’t want to put them in that position.
Consider a Capital Campaign Leadership Team
The burden of chairing your campaign may be too big for any one person. If you’re having trouble finding the right campaign chair, think about your campaign leadership as a team.
- Consider co-chairs or even tri-chairs.
- Use honorary chairs — sometimes two or three of them.
- Consider asking different people to chair various aspects of the campaign.
- You might have a Lead Gift Chair and a chair for the public phase of the campaign.
- You might have an alumni chair and chair for the board (current and former) campaign.
- Add to that a chair of the campaign steering committee and a chair of the campaign kick-off event.
And WOW! You’ve gone from one chair to a team of chairs.
The team approach requires you to be a team leader
The challenge of a leadership team is to spell out clearly and carefully who is supposed to do what and them manage the team so they gain strength through their numbers rather than confusion. This team approach requires that you, the key staff person, be a great leader for this complex leadership team.
Listen to Our Podcast for More Tips
In addition to discussing campaign leadership, the podcast that inspired this post also covers the importance of resourcing your campaign. We discussed why it’s important to create a campaign budget (separate from your organizational budget, which includes new staff members to help with your campaign). Don’t miss it!