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Board roles in capital campaigns: The basics + 4 tips

March 25, 2022
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For your nonprofit organization, a capital campaign is a significant undertaking that requires intensive preparation and substantial financial resources. Get your whole staff on the same page from the very start to ensure maximum momentum moving forward.

As your organization prepares to conduct extensive donor outreach and raise funds considerably higher than your annual fundraising goals, remember that the success of your campaign depends upon the full support of your board. To achieve this, take the time to keep your board members informed about your campaign plan and their roles within it.

Board roles in capital campaigns fall into two categories: governance responsibilities and individual participation. To get started with understanding your board’s involvement in a capital campaign, we’ll walk through their responsibilities as a group and as individuals, then share four tips for preparing your board for a successful campaign.

Board governance roles in a capital campaign

As a whole, your board will provide feedback on vital aspects of your capital campaign planning, especially decisions to invest money or resources. The four primary board governance responsibilities are:

  • Approving the project. Leading up to the campaign, the board must approve the project plans, including the goals and strategies to achieve them.
  • Accepting feasibility study recommendations. Before moving forward with a capital campaign, it’s essential for organizations to determine their likelihood of success through a feasibility study. After the study, the board is called on to accept study recommendations, including the preliminary campaign dollar goal.
  • Approving capital campaign budget. The board must also approve a separate budget for the costs of the campaign itself. This budget is often approximately 10% of the campaign goal.
  • Reviewing campaign progress. Once the campaign is in motion, the board will regularly receive campaign reports as it progresses. Capital campaigns can span a few years, so your board will be called upon to approve any necessary changes to the goal or strategy.

At various stages of your capital campaign planning, solicit feedback from your board members to ensure you have their approval before solidifying any major decisions. This will ensure that the campaign moves smoothly once it’s in progress.

Individual board member roles in a capital campaign

While they’re performing their governance responsibilities, individual board members will also need to step up during a capital campaign. This is especially true during your campaign’s quiet phase, which is essential for ensuring that your organization has all of the funding it needs to meet its campaign goal. These responsibilities involve giving and soliciting major gifts.

Board giving during capital campaigns

Board member contributions can play a significant role in helping your organization reach its campaign goal. Encourage individual members to make significant gifts that demonstrate their commitment to the capital campaign’s success. Ideally, their gifts should be multi-year pledges that are higher than their regular annual gifts.

Because board members have different financial capacities, it’s perfectly acceptable to receive a wide range of board campaign gift amounts. There are plenty of other ways for them to contribute to your fundraising efforts throughout the campaign.

Board involvement during capital campaigns

There are a variety of roles that board members can take on to assist in a capital campaign’s success. Encourage each member to help in ways that best suit them.

For instance, some board members with training and valuable connections in the community can solicit gifts from major donors on your organization’s behalf. Others may contribute by identifying and qualifying prospective donors or hosting cultivation events. Additionally, board members can play a major role in thanking and stewarding campaign donors to retain their financial support.

Most importantly, every board member should be informed enough about the details of your campaign’s project to comfortably discuss and advocate for it as ambassadors in the community.

4 tips to prepare your board for a capital campaign

In order to set your board up for effective participation in your upcoming campaign, prioritize regular communication to keep them informed about relevant updates and priorities.

Consider these options for helping your board members fulfill their roles:

  • Provide learning materials. There are many online resources available for nonprofit board training, some of which are created specifically for capital campaigns. Be sure to provide these materials to your board members to help them fully understand how best to contribute.
  • Set aside time at board meetings. Dedicate some time at several board meetings to discuss the campaign and keep everyone updated on its progress. Consistently reinforce the campaign’s core purpose and messaging to help board members be better ambassadors.
  • Plan a capital campaign training session. You could offer virtual or in-person training options and set them up as a standalone or series of meetings. This could even be an extension of a regular board meeting to provide enough time for training.
  • Ask your consultant to design a custom training session. If you’re working with a consultant, ask if they can help provide more interactive training to maximize board participation.

Give your board members everything they need to support your capital campaign’s success. As with any major initiative, it’s important to get questions answered and everyone on the same page to move forward. Thoroughly explain your plan, including hiring a capital campaign consultant, conducting a feasibility study, and additional considerations to help them better understand the process.

What do board members need to succeed?

As your nonprofit heads into the earliest stages of your capital campaign, ensure that your board members have a clear understanding of their governance and individual roles. Take time early on to identify resources and share them with board members so they understand how their contributions fit into the bigger picture of your campaign’s strategy and timeline.

While your capital campaign may have high stakes, set a positive tone for your organization to maximize excitement and success for everyone involved, from your board to your staff and volunteers.

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