What Role Does Your Board Play in a Capital Campaign?

capital campaigns Feb 23, 2021

During your feasibility/planning study, you may receive recommendations for strengthening or enlarging your board. The board’s role will be critical to the success of your campaign. Without a 100 percent commitment from the board, both in concept and financially, it will be impossible to ask others for support.

Many organizations beef up their boards’ involvement in development efforts before starting campaigns. An organization might expand the size of the board, create a development committee, or obtain training and education in fundraising areas for the board. During your feasibility study, you are likely to receive recommendations for strengthening or enlarging your board.

Some basic questions to ask about your board are:

  • Except for illness or occasional travel, do your organization’s board members attend board and committee meetings regularly?
  • How many of your board members are highly aware of, although perhaps not always in complete agreement with, the organization’s mission, programs, history, current challenges, and plans?
  • How many of your board members are comfortably conversant with your organization’s mission statement and program?
  • How many of your board members are comfortably conversant with your organization’s vision and values statements?

The Traditional Three Gs


Get, or

Get Off

Just as with other fundraising activities you do on an ongoing basis, board giving will be a critical first step in your campaign. We’ve probably all heard board giving defined in terms of the three Gs listed above. If board members aren’t giving or getting, they should get off the board. This concept might seem harsh, but it is important to stress the board’s financial commitment before you launch a campaign.

Many funders will not contribute until they know the board has made a financial contribution first. Foundations will often ask this question on the application for a grant. Corporations, businesses, and individuals, however, also want to know that the "family” of the organization has supported it with the first commitments before asking others to join them in supporting the campaign.

Another way to look at board giving in a more positive light is to consider my “new three Gs” and think about how you can educate, inspire, and improve your board using these concepts.

Linda’s New Three Gs:


Get Ready


The “gather” phase involves assessing your board and its involvement in your development efforts. “Getting ready” means that you develop a plan to identify, recruit, and train board members who are able and willing to give and get. With these steps, you will be able to “grow” your board into a powerful force which can help your campaign succeed. Here are some questions to get you started in assessing your board:

  • How many members of your board of directors made a direct financial contribution to your organization last year beyond buying tickets, purchasing goods, etc.?
  • Beyond their own giving, how many of your board members help raise funds for your organization?
  • How many of your board members can positively influence others in the community who may impact the success of your organization’s campaign (e.g., make major financial contributions and/or provide effective volunteer leadership)?
  • How many of your board members have contacts in the foundation world who could help secure grants for your campaign?
  • How many of your board members have contacts in the business community who could help secure gifts or grants for your campaign?
  • How many of your board members have contacts with individual major donors who could help secure gifts for your campaign?

The chair of your board will play a particularly important role in the campaign. The board chair is typically the official spokesperson for your organization. Without the chair’s support and enthusiasm, it will be difficult to convince people that your organization is ready for a campaign.

Board/Staff Relations

All organizations have some internal conflict or tension between board and staff. Conflict between the board and the staff can become more apparent during a campaign, when so many volunteers are deeply involved with your organization. Volunteers and donors will quickly sense that relationships within the organization are askew and will be reluctant to support the campaign if the conflict is severe. What is the level of conflict in your organization?

Board Education

Building the board’s enthusiasm is one of the most critical elements in a capital campaign. But, of course, your board members don’t think they need training! They don’t have time for it, and they won’t listen to what you say anyway, right?

The first essential step is to avoid the word “training.” Use a resource, such as my workbook, Are You Ready for a Capital Campaign? for a board “training session.” You can do an all-day or half-day training session for the board before launching a campaign, and/or do a series of mini sessions throughout the campaign. Since you will likely be working with a consultant, that person can help you plan board training that is appropriate for your board.

Leading up to the campaign, you can plan some type of board education at every board meeting--even if it is a five-minute presentation on the Role of Boards in a Campaign, Ethical Issues in Capital Campaigns, or Making the Case for Your Campaign--you get the idea. For a more intense session, schedule a retreat at a convenient time for most board members, often a Saturday morning or a half-day session in place of, or before, a regular board meeting.

Board education can be done by staff but is usually more effective when done by an outside resource. A consultant, a board member from another organization, or some other experienced resource can often tell your board the things it needs to hear with a new spin.

As discussed above, you might need to “beef up” your board before starting your capital campaign. You can use the grid in Are You Ready for a Capital Campaign? to help you plan for your board development.

To learn more about capital campaigns and your board’s role in the campaign, take my course, Capital Campaigns: Yes, You CAN Do It. Sign up here


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