As your organization moves toward a capital campaign, your board will have to make some critical decisions. And board members are often, even usually, not well equipped to decide.

3 Misconceptions Your Board Has About Capital Campaigns

Very few people, no matter how sophisticated about business or non-profits they are have had the experience of guiding an organization through a capital campaign from A to Z. And most people start with some serious misconceptions.

Here are three of the most common misconceptions.

  1. Rich people we don’t yet know will make the largest gifts to our campaign. We’ve just got to find and ask them.
  2. While we know we need a few big gifts from people with lots of money, most of the rest of the money will come “selling” bricks.
  3. The first thing we need is a fancy campaign brochure. If we send it out to everyone on our mailing list, money will roll in.

All of these statements are FALSE!

  • Rich people you don’t yet know are unlikely to give the largest gifts to your campaign.
  • A big effort to “sell” bricks is not likely to raise anywhere near enough money to make your campaign successful.
  • And, a campaign brochure is NOT the first thing you need for your campaign. In fact, you won’t need any elegant, printed brochure until very late in your campaign, if ever.

If your board members believe those misconceptions, it’s not because they are stupid or foolish. It’s because they don’t know any better.

So, before you go very far down the road to asking them to approve a campaign, you should make sure they know how a capital campaign really works.

3 Key Campaign Concepts Your Board MUST Understand

Your board members don’t need to know everything there is to know about capital campaign. But they should understand a few key concepts.

1. Where the Money Comes From

First, your board members should know that the success of your campaign will depend on 10-15 large gifts that collectively will amount to 60% or even as much as 70% of your campaign goal.

Raising those gifts is the most important part of your campaign. Additionally, your board must realize that raising those gifts will probably take as long as a year or more. And during that time, you will not publicize your campaign.

2. Who Are the Likely Donors

Second, your board members should know that those top 10-15 large gifts will be likely to come from donors that already support your organization, or at the very least from donors who are active philanthropists in your community.

The donors likely to make the largest gifts are:

  • Those who have the ability to give at one of the high levels.
  • Those who believe in your mission.
  • Those who have contact with someone at your organization (board or staff member or volunteer).

Don’t let your board members be distracted by the hope that very rich people with no connection will make those gifts.

3. How the Money Will Be Raised

Third, your board members should know that the primary way of raising the money for your campaign will be asking for gifts personally, not sending brochures and expecting results.

Some of them may be anxious about soliciting gifts, but not all of them will have to do that. They can help with the campaign in many ways.

4 Ways to Give Your Board Members the Capital Campaign Training they Need

To train your board to better understand capital campaigns, consider one or more of the following:

1. Share This Post

Share this post with your board members and make it a topic for discussion at a board meeting.

2. Conduct a Workshop with Your Board

Engage an experienced capital campaign trainer to do a workshop with your board. In our experience, you will need at least 2 to 3 hours for that workshop. It can be in-person or over Zoom.

If you’re in need of experienced leaders to guide a board workshop, learn about the training provided by the Toolkit’s campaign experts.

3. Consider Solicitation Training

Invite board members who will participate actively in asking for gifts to a solicitation training. As with the more general concepts, many board members have misconceptions about how to solicit gifts.

So don’t assume that just because a board member is enthusiastic about asking, he or she knows the best practices.

4. Ensure board members know their role

Finally, all board members want to know what their roles and obligations are with regard to the capital campaign:

  • What percent of the campaign goal should come from the board?
  • Will every board member be expected to give? If so, at what level?
  • How will the board’s responsibilities overlap with the campaign steering committee?

You should address these questions in the early stage of your campaign.

Jump-Start Your Board’s Campaign Preparedness

Your board members have good reason to be anxious. The project is big. The goal is high. And every one of them is wondering how much they’ll be expected to give. Our free guide, The Board Member’s Guide to Capital Campaigns, will help your board members understand how a capital campaign works and what their roles will be.

Download the free guide »

This guide will help you understand your own role, and that of the entire board, during a capital campaign. It will answer the questions board members most frequently ask, or wish they could ask.

If you have any questions about how your board can help make your campaign successful, leave a comment below.


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