The Importance of Volunteers in a Capital Campaign

Feb 22, 2021

The right campaign cabinet is one of the most important indicators of whether your capital campaign will be successful or not. Involving key community leaders in your project can make all the difference in the world. Your board and staff alone should not try to run a campaign without support of key community leaders. If they do, they miss out on a lot of talent, connections, and money these community leaders can provide to your campaign.

Before recruiting people to serve on the campaign cabinet, your campaign steering committee should review a list of potential donors and try to get those with the greatest potential to give to also become involved in the campaign.  A list of corporate and individual donors will be developed through the planning study process and this can serve as the basis for recruiting campaign leadership. It will be vital to include key community leaders in the planning study process. It is much easier to invite these leaders to serve in a campaign capacity if they’ve been included in the planning process.

Volunteers will also be able to expand the scope of your prospect base and will be far more effective at soliciting their peers than anyone within the organization can be on their own. They may, in fact, be the only ones who can open doors to major donors.

What will the volunteers do? You may need hundreds of volunteers to run a capital campaign. Starting with the campaign leadership, it will be important to find the right person to do the right job. Some volunteers will be needed for planning campaign and events and coordinating campaign publicity, but the majority of campaign volunteers will be involved in the important tasks of identifying, cultivating, and soliciting, and stewarding donors. It is critical to have an organization chart and position description for every volunteer job within the campaign.

How do you find volunteers? The planning study report is the first place to look for potential volunteers. Also, ask your board members, other volunteers, and staff for their suggestions about people who can help. And of course, most campaign volunteers will be inviting other volunteers to join their committee or somehow get involved.

Volunteer recruitment will need to be handled with extreme care. Often, organizations want to jump the gun and start recruiting campaign leadership before they have a clear idea of the expectations for these volunteers. It will be vital to have a campaign plan in place that includes, among other things, position descriptions for all volunteer roles and timelines for each committee.

Trying to fit volunteers into roles after they are recruited is like hiring a staff person and then deciding what the organization wants the person to do.  The volunteer recruitment process must be handled just as carefully as one would handle hiring a staff person, with due diligence and thoughtfulness of the best role for this volunteer.

The campaign plan is the foundation for a successful campaign and will help you get things off to a good start. The plan should include a brief overview of the process taken by your organization that led to the campaign.  A key ingredient of the plan is the campaign organizational chart showing all the various divisions of the campaign and the number of committee people that will be needed to staff all the divisions. Position descriptions for all volunteers should also be included in the plan along with a timeline for each committee and an overall time schedule. Volunteers should not be recruited until the plan is completed. It will be critical to show your volunteers that a well thought out plan, including expectations of volunteers has been developed so they understand their role and the time and monetary expectations that will be asked of volunteers. The principle groups of volunteers that will be involved are members of the campaign cabinet, which includes chairs of all the various committees that will be involved in the campaign. I’ll write more about the categories of volunteers in another article.

If you need to learn more about capital campaigns and the importance of finding the right volunteers for your campaign, take my course, Capital Campaigns: Everything You NEED to Know. Sign up here

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