This post highlights the wisdom that campaign expert and Capital Campaign Toolkit advisor, Paula Peter, offered in a lively conversation about campaign leadership with Toolkit co-founders, Amy Eisenstein and Andrea Kihlstedt.

This is the third of a six-part series of posts drawn from discussions with six of the Toolkit’s experts. A full audio discussion of the topic has been recorded for the podcast, All About Capital Campaigns, which you can listen to on your favorite podcast platform.

As one of the most experienced advisors at the Toolkit, Paula Peter has worked with many dozens of organizations on campaigns. In today’s post, she highlights the topic of campaign leadership — particularly, how to recruit the best campaign chair.

How to Recruit the Best Capital Campaign Chair

Recruiting an ideal campaign chair (or co-chairs) is one of the most common challenges faced by organizations, regardless of their size, campaign, or mission. Finding the right chair is important because the volunteers in leadership positions set the tone for the campaign, along with your other campaign volunteers.

Essential Traits of a Good Campaign Chair

An ideal chair for your campaign will:

  • Be willing and able to use their own connections
  • Advocate for the organization and campaign throughout the community
  • Possess the 3 C’s: courage, commitment, and curiosity

Don’t Rush to Enlist Your Campaign Chair!

Many organizations believe the first thing they need to do when preparing for a campaign is to recruit a campaign chair. But that’s a common mistake!

When you select a campaign chair too early in the process, you may find that you’ve picked the wrong person for the job. Take the time to do your due diligence BEFORE selecting your campaign chair.

One of the things you test in a feasibility study is who would make the best campaign chair (or co-chairs). If you select a chair prior to the feasibility study, it’s unlikely you will have truly explored all of your options.

No Obvious Campaign Chair? No Problem

Sometimes the right campaign chair is obvious.  But for many organizations, that’s not the case.  What if your organization doesn’t have an obvious person who would be the perfect campaign chair?

If you’re asking this question prior to the feasibility study, don’t fret. Possible candidates to serve as campaign chair or co-chairs may surface through the people interviewed during the study. Use the feasibility study process to help identify the right campaign leadership — simply ask participants who they feel would make a great chair for your campaign. Often, the same name(s) come up over and over.

If for some reason you don’t have an obvious leader at the end of the process, you can use different people to chair different sections of your campaign.

For example, you might have a chair of the quiet phase and a public phase chair. While that may not be ideal, that model can work, particularly if you pair them with a well-know and respected honorary chair.

Listen to Our Podcast for More Tips

In addition to discussing campaign leadership, the podcast that inspired this post also covers the importance of resourcing your campaign. We discussed why it’s important to create a campaign budget (separate from your organizational budget, which includes new staff members to help with your campaign). Don’t miss it!

For the full conversation, listen to the full discussion here. And check out the All About Capital Campaigns Podcast on your favorite podcast platform.


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