Preparing your Board
for a Capital Campaign
Ann C. Fitzgerald, President
In my experience, nothing captures the imagination of a nonprofit board like two words: Capital campaign.
I think that’s because some board members think a campaign is a magical process for raising a lot of money quickly.
Well it’s not exactly magic, but a good campaign can be pretty magical!
A campaign—to build new space or increase programming capacity—is a serious, intensive endeavor that can transform a nonprofit, if done well. But it requires the full commitment of the board and staff for an extended period of time and should not be entered lightly. There are many tools available to assess a group’s “readiness” for launching a campaign, but what’s discussed less is the role of the board.
Here are some ways board members can prepare for the work ahead and their role in the campaign’s success:
- Recruit new board members. Ensure the board is up to full strength by strategically filling any vacancies. Think carefully about potential members who can take a leadership role in the campaign either by making a significant gift, chairing a committee, or being a connector.
- Attend board meetings. A key indicator of nonprofit health is attendance at board meetings. Stive for an attendance rate of 80% or more.
- Get educated. There is no shortage of books and training programs about capital campaigns. Take some time to get informed about the scope of the project and the ideal role of the board.
- Review the budget. It takes money to raise money. The board should be aware of what it costs to launch and execute a campaign. If the campaign goal is $2 million, you should expect to spend 15% of this total on fundraising costs. In a bigger campaign of $10 million or more, expect to spend 4-5%.
- Provide the campaign’s operating funds. Each board member should give early to the campaign and, collectively, the board should provide at least 10% of the campaign objective. Some or all of this money could go to the fundraising costs including a feasibility study, travel, events, marketing materials, etc.
- Provide leadership. A successful campaign is not a spectator sport. Every board member needs to enthusiastically commit to the objective and prepare to donate their time and treasure as well. This means participating on committees, identifying prospective donors from their networks, and joining in donor meetings.
As philanthropists look to nonprofits for transformative ideas to solve today’s big problems, it could be an ideal time to launch your major campaign. Improve your chances of success by involving and informing your board early in the process.
If you need help educating your board, or otherwise preparing your campaign for launch, contact us – we would love to fast forward your team’s campaign success!
Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.