You probably think about volunteers with mixed emotions.

On the one hand, volunteers can be invaluable partners in your organization’s success. On the other hand, volunteers can be super-frustrating in many ways.

Despite the potential for frustration, consider these four clear and compelling reasons you should use volunteers in your campaign:

  1. Engaged volunteers bring connections and contacts
  2. Respected volunteers provide extra legitimacy to your important work
  3. Involved volunteers are more loyal and give more generously
  4. Capable volunteers can shoulder some of the important tasks of your campaign

Because of these critical reasons, we encourage you to build volunteer engagement into your campaign as a strategy to ensure your campaign’s success.

Many Campaign Committees, But Only One Core Committee

While you will likely use many volunteers throughout your campaign, it’s a myth that you should have one, enormous campaign committee.

Instead, think about a series of campaign committees designed to fit specific needs for a short period of time, so volunteers can participate and then be “released” and perhaps engaged again for a different task.

One “Core” Committee

However, one committee remains throughout the campaign. You might call it your Core Committee.

Think about this Core Committee as the “Executive Committee” of your campaign. Some organizations call it their “kitchen cabinet.”

The Core Committee: Central to Your Campaign’s Success

The Core Committee is a small group of special people who drive your project and your campaign. This group, usually 4-6 people, must be small enough to be nimble, and the members must be fully committed to advancing your campaign.

Your campaign’s Core Committee will meet frequently (weekly or monthly) and regularly throughout the campaign, from the early planning until the last follow-up is done.

Who Serves on the Core Committee?

The Core Committee often includes the following individuals:

  • CEO / Executive Director
  • Development Director
  • Board President / Chair
  • One or two other board members
  • Campaign Chair (once one is identified)

What’s the Role of the Core Committee?

This committee usually operates below the radar. While some members may have public positions in the campaign, this group wields quiet power and authority. It performs a number of key tasks, including:

  • Serve as the “brain trust” of the campaign
  • Participate in regular meetings depending on the stage and needs of the campaign
  • Monitor the progress of campaign planning and execution
  • Recommend course corrections to the board as needed
  • Provide advice about undertaking a feasibility study and engaging a campaign consultant
  • Identify and recruit additional campaign volunteers
  • Support the campaign financially with an early and meaningful commitment
  • Assist with asking for campaign gifts

Members of this Core Committee or “kitchen cabinet” usually also serve on other campaign committees.

Build Volunteer Engagement through Ad Hoc Committees

As I mentioned earlier, you should build volunteer engagement into the structure of your campaign through a series of ad hoc committees.

Most campaigns have several ad hoc committees or task forces. People are more likely to serve when the tasks are clear and the timeline is finite.

We encourage our clients to build out their campaign with these volunteer committees:

  • Core Committee
  • Campaign Planning Committee
  • Steering Committee
  • Lead Gift Committee (with a Board Solicitation Task Force)
  • Donor Engagement Committee
  • Campaign Communications Task Force
  • Campaign Events Committee

You can use “task force” or “sub-committee” depending on the culture of your organization.

These volunteer groups don’t all work at the same time. Some are active during the early phases of the campaign. Others kick-in later when you move from the quiet phase to the public phase of the campaign.

Key Strategies to Make Any Campaign Committee a Success

No matter what committee or task force you are working with, however, you must set them up for success. Here are some key strategies our clients use to make their committees effective.

  • Develop clear objectives and timetable for each committee
  • Schedule meetings in advance
  • Start and end meetings on time
  • Send a summary of action steps after each meeting
  • Design the agenda for every meeting to actively engage every participant
  • Resist the temptation to use meetings just to report to the group

We find that using Zoom for campaign meetings increases attendance because it is convenient and effective. Consider using Zoom at times even when you can get together in-person. Then, when you do get your committee together in-person, make it something special.

Engaged Volunteers are Generous Volunteers

At the end of your campaign, you may wish to see how many gifts came from people who were active volunteers during the campaign process. Over many campaigns, we’ve seen a remarkable correlation. Active, happy, engaged volunteers lead to more gifts and more generous gifts.

Weave volunteer engagement into the fabric of your campaign. You won’t regret it.


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