How to Secure Board Buy-In For Your Capital Campaign

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Even if your board isn’t a “fundraising board,” board members’ buy-in for and commitment to your capital campaign will be key to your campaign’s success.

When every board member is fully committed and excited about the campaign, their commitment and energy have a way of fueling the entire enterprise. But if a few board members are anxious and hesitant and unsure a campaign is a good idea, their reluctance will likely undermine your campaign’s success.

So, even if you are convinced that a campaign is essential, don’t move willy-nilly into planning a campaign without ensuring that your board is fully on board.

Here are three ways to do that.

1. Involve the board in pre-campaign planning and training.

According to a recent benchmark study, most capital campaigns (62%) grow naturally out of strategic or long-range planning that is conducted by the board. When that happens, the seed for a capital campaign is planted. But when the motivation for a campaign comes from one individual or some immediate circumstance, you’ve got to circle back to make sure that the board is fully engaged in the decision to move forward.

Most board members have little experience with capital campaigns. Some may have played a small role in a larger campaign for their college, for example. But very few have a solid understanding of what a campaign is and what will be expected of them.

Of course, it’s hard to commit to something you don’t fully understand. One important way of engaging your board is to provide them with information about what a capital campaign is, how it works, and what their roles will be. While you can find a great deal of information to share with your board members online, the best way to educate your board about campaigns is through training designed specifically for them.

You can train your board either in person or virtually. If you are planning a board retreat, you might use a portion of the retreat to bring in an expert to conduct capital campaign training. Even one hour of training about capital campaigns can provide enough information and clarity to help your board members understand what they are committing to.

But if you aren’t planning a retreat, a virtual campaign training will work quite nicely. These days, most board members appreciate virtual meetings. A skilled virtual trainer can make savvy use of virtual meeting rooms to make sure that even online training actively involves the board members in the learning process.

2. Have board members play active roles in the campaign.

When people play an active role in a project and get involved, they become more committed. So, getting board members engaged in the campaign is a very effective way of getting them fully committed to the campaign’s success.

Your board members might play many roles in your campaign. The role most board members fear most is asking for campaign gifts. But that is just one of many important roles. Once your board members understand that they can choose ways to get involved that suit their abilities, they will be happy to participate.

Here is a short list of roles board members often play in capital campaigns.

  • Serving on a campaign committee
  • Helping draft or review the case for support
  • Identifying and cultivating potential donors
  • Hosting a cultivation gathering or house party for donors
  • Being part of the solicitation team asking for major gifts
  • Thanking and stewarding donors after they make gifts
  • Supporting the staff in campaign work

Of course, your board members should all be asked to make a personal contribution to the campaign at a level that indicates a serious commitment. The level of giving will be different for every board member, but a board that is fully committed will encourage every board member to give as generously as they are able. Personal giving further increases the level of commitment and buy-in to the campaign.

3. Continually engage board members throughout the campaign.

Once your board members are involved, you will have to keep them involved through the campaign. An important way of doing that is to make campaign reporting a regular part of board meetings. Regular reports should let board members know where the campaign stands in terms of dollars raised, what phase the campaign is in, and what plans are in the campaign pipeline.

As the campaign draws close to and finally reaches its goal, board members who have been involved throughout the campaign will feel a special excitement and pride. While many people will have played important roles in the campaign, the board will bear ultimate responsibility for its success.