3 Strategies to Prepare Your Board for a Capital Campaign

Are you planning a capital campaign? If so, what are you doing to get your board ready?

A brief discussion at a board meeting or two won’t be enough!

If you want to avoid trouble down the road, you’ve got to make sure that ever board member understands the campaign plans, knows what’s going to be expected of him or her, and is fully committed.

Your Board is Ultimately Responsible

Your board, after all, is ultimately responsible — whether the campaign succeeds or fails!

If the campaign is unsuccessful, they will be left holding the proverbial (empty) bag. And if the campaign is successful, they will be responsible for making sure that the campaign objectives are carried out as planned.

The campaign committees will come and go. But your board will stay.

What’s your plan for informing and engaging your board?

Three Strategies for Engaging Your Board

Use these three strategies to make sure your board is fully ready for your campaign.

1. Step by Step Approvals

Your capital campaign is probably the result of a planning process that decided the projects you are now raising money for. Votes approving those projects are really the first step in board commitment.

But it’ll take a while to develop the campaign objectives and fundraising goals that result from the planning process. Be sure your board sees and approves the campaign objectives and fundraising goals.

Then, once you’ve completed your feasibility study or campaign planning study, the board will once again have an opportunity to review and vote on your campaign goals and whether or not to move forward.

Through this step-by-step approval process, your board members will be fully engaged and in control. And that’s where they should be!

2. Capital Campaign Workshop

Most board members have only the most general sense of capital campaign fundraising. Some board members may have been a volunteer on one or two campaigns, but you’ll find very few people who have actually been involved in a campaign from beginning to end.

You should plan on having a 3-hour workshop for your board, conducted by someone who both understands capital campaign fundraising and is an experienced and engaging trainer.

Schedule a workshop well in advance so that board members can set aside the time. Ideally, the workshop should be before you hire a consultant to do a feasibility study.

The workshop will help your board understand their roles and responsibilities but as individuals and as a board.

It will also answer a great many questions your board members undoubtedly have about the campaign. Here are some typical, pressing questions board members have.

  • How long will it take?
  • Do we need a consultant?
  • Should we do a feasibility study?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Will we need additional staff?
  • When do we need a campaign brochure?
  • Will we all have to solicit gifts?
  • What percentage of the campaign goal does the board have to give?

At the end of a well-designed retreat, your board will feel more comfortable and confident about what’s ahead.

3. Scheduled Campaign Retreats

Your campaign is likely to take two years or more from beginning to end. That’s a long time and you must keep your board involved — even those who don’t play an active role in the campaign.
Consider scheduling two or three board retreats at various times throughout the campaign.
Retreat 1. Your Campaign Workshop

The first might be your campaign workshop, conducted by an expert.

Retreat 2. Determining the Official Goal
The second might combine both the board and the campaign steering committee. This would take place as the quiet phase comes to and end and the board and steering committee must evaluate the progress and make a final decision about the campaign goal.
Retreat 3. Planning the Final Push

Then, toward the end of the campaign, when it’s time for a final push, a retreat could provide the energy and impetus to finish strong with a last round of solicitation and public relations and marketing.

Bottom Line: Develop a Plan to Engage Your Board

Your board’s involvement and commitment to the capital campaign vital to your success. And you’ve got to develop a plan early to prepare them and then to keep them involved in the campaign.

For more information about developing a plan and engaging your board, watch this recorded session Andy Robinson and I had with our coaching group about getting your board ready for a successful campaign.

What challenges are you having with your board? Let us know in the comments.

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