Have you ever served on a committee and had the odd and uncomfortable sensation that you were there for reasons that no one discussed with you?

If you’re a major donor, you may suspect that you’ve been invited to the table in the hopes that you would make a large gift. But that’s seldom what you are told. Similarly, if you’re a person of color, you may suspect that you were invited to diversify the group. But once again, people will shy away from focusing on that.

A Campaign Steering Committee is organized to broaden the group of people involved in the campaign. And people are recruited to serve for multiple reasons.

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Campaign Steering Committee Members Have Their Own Needs

When you recruit your committee members, keep in mind what it is that most people want from their committee experience:

  • They want to know that their participation makes a real difference.
  • They want to meet and socialize with people.
  • And they want to learn.

Your Steering Committee members don’t just want to give a big gift or be a token participant. They want to matter!

The Inevitability Factor

Organizations work hard to identify and enlist people in their community who will make the success of the campaign inevitable. Those are people who are recognized in their community. They have a history of working on successful projects. And often, they have the capacity to make large gifts to the campaign.

Campaign Steering Committee – Role and Function

The Steering Committee is the chief fundraising body for the campaign. This group will be actively engaged in developing and implementing strategies to cultivate and solicit prospective volunteers and donors.

8 Official Functions of Steering Committee Members

The Steering Committee will be directly responsible for soliciting the majority of lead and major gifts. They are responsible for a variety of functions:

  1. Make a generous gift to the campaign commensurate to their role, preferably at the lead level
  2. Work under the leadership of Campaign Chair(s) and with the Executive Director and Campaign Manager or Development Director to oversee campaign
  3. Provide advice and counsel to staff and serve as a sounding board for campaign activities and functions
  4. Help identify, cultivate and solicit prospective donors and volunteers
  5. Develop and implement specific solicitation strategies for individual prospects
  6. Personally solicit gifts for the campaign
  7. Attend Steering Committee meetings to maintain campaign momentum
  8. Be a public ambassador for the campaign in the community, personally and at public events

A Less Official Description of Functions

Personally, I like this less official statement of the function of a Campaign Steering Committee:

The Campaign Steering Committee is made of advocates, supporters and community leaders who individually and collectively can help make the campaign successful.

Individually, people who serve on the Steering Committee will be asked to help in ways that are in keeping with their skills, interests and positions. Members of the steering committee will be asked to make a personally meaningful financial commitment to the campaign.

Collectively, the Steering Committee will serve as a brain-trust that helps conceive and discuss opportunities and thinks through and solves challenges as they arise.

Let Committee Members Know WHY You’re Recruiting Them

You can easily dispel some of the discomfort people might feel about ulterior motives for recruiting them. It’s quite simple really. When you recruit people to serve on your Steering Committee, tell them why you have selected them.

On Major Donors…

When you recruit significant donors in your community, let them know that their stature as donors in your community is one of the reasons and that yes, you hope they will give a generous gift to the campaign. Then, discuss other ways they might help.

On Diversity…

If you are speaking with people of color who are being recruited in part for that reason, let them know that having a diverse committee is important to your organization. Discuss with them how they might help reach into the community more broadly and other roles they might play.

Honesty is the Best Policy and a Solid Recruitment Strategy

Real, forthright conversations with people about why you have selected them for the Steering Committee will create welcome and refreshing opportunities for real conversation. Large donors are well aware why you are enlisting them. And so are people of color. You don’t have to pretend otherwise.

Above all, honesty really is the best policy. Have the courage to make your covert motives overt. It’ll set the right tone for your campaign committee, and pave the way for a successful campaign.


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