One of the key aspects of a successful capital campaign is how you train your board and staff members. Most people haven’t experienced a capital campaign. If they have, they’ve been part of one aspect or another, but relatively few people have led a campaign from start to finish.

As a result, staff and board members need lots of training. Training can cover a wide range of topics such as:

Training is not a once and done event. Rather, it’s about providing continuous opportunities for growth, all the time, in big and little ways. In fact, whether you are in a campaign or not, you should be training people all the time!

Why You Shouldn’t Necessarily Use the Word “Training” to Train

The idea of training has negative connotations. People hate the idea of training, especially if they already consider themselves experts in an area (or don’t want to learn about it at all, as is the case with many board members when it comes to fundraising).

Don’t call it “training” — instead, present it as “opportunities for growth.”

If you want to train your board members successfully, think about providing ongoing opportunities for growth for your team. Weave training exercise and discussion topics into every meeting.

Consider topics you might incorporate in board and committee meetings. Frame your training as “topics for discussion.” Incorporating learning into many meetings will make them more engaging and interesting. And, it’s more likely you’ll get fuller participation from your team.

Create Time for and Lead Learning Opportunities

You may not think of yourself as a trainer. Most people aren’t expert trainers. In fact, my training skills weren’t very good when I started either. But over the years, I’ve studied how adults learn and practiced how to engage people with long and short exercises to improve their skills. Gradually, I’ve become better and better at training.

The good news is that you don’t need to be an expert training facilitator to incorporate learning opportunities into every meeting you lead. I’ve found a wonderful resource that you can rely on too.

Consult the Bible for Fundraising Training

Several years ago, Andrea Kihlstedt and Andy Robinson wrote a book that is a brilliant resource for that kind of thinking, called Train Your Board (and Everyone Else) to Raise Money. It includes 52 exercises, organized by training topic and written up in recipe format.

If you can’t find it on Amazon or your local bookstore, (strange, but possible) you can get it directly from the publisher.

I asked Andrea about their process of developing the book, and it turns out that when she and Andy were planning the book, they pulled out their favorite cookbooks and intentionally used the recipe format to create the training exercises in the book.

Each exercise includes time (how long it should take), ingredients (what materials you will need), and step-by-step directions. They even suggest “menus” of training exercises to put together for longer sessions.

I use my copy of this book all the time. It’s highlighted, underlined, and dog-eared. I highly recommended it if you’re responsible in any way for engaging your board members in fundraising.

My Favorite Training Exercise

I’d like to give you a little peek inside so you can decide if these exercises are a good fit for you and your staff.

My favorite exercise (though I like many) is called How High Will You Go. It’s an exercise that encourages board members to start thinking about how they and other donors make giving decisions. It’s brilliant because it gets board members to consider a bigger gift than they are currently making and under what circumstances they might make that gift.

This exercise also helps board members come up with a list of things your organization might do to get your largest, non-board member donors to consider bigger gifts. For more helpful training exercises, check out this post.

Debriefing is Key

One of the most important aspects of any training exercise is the debrief. Each exercise in the book comes with detailed debriefing instructions.

Most exercises in the book take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour. You can choose exercises based on the topic, your audience and timing. Some are appropriate for the full board, while others might be better used in a smaller setting — like a campaign committee meeting.

Consider Outside Expertise for Your Campaign’s Duration

Unless you have board and staff members who have led numerous campaigns from start to finish, it’s likely that you’ll need to provide learning opportunities for your board and your team. Training is not a “once-and-done” event, but you should train people throughout your campaign.

It’s likely you’ll need support in this area as your team learns and grows together. Capital Campaign Toolkit advisors are experts in weaving ongoing training opportunities into your campaign planning for you and your larger team.

Always be on the lookout for opportunities to engage staff, board, and other volunteers in learning and growing together — that’s what training is all about.


  1. Laresa Griffin

    I love this book! My copy is quite weathered, too! I have used it for many development committee meetings and our volunteers LOVE the exercises. Practical, fun, thought-provoking, and stretching them beyond their comfort zone….but WE always learn something beneficial from each exercise.

  2. Nancy Sherrod

    I agree! This book is so accessible and well done. I have used it many times with planning groups, community groups, boards, and staff. It’s a jewel of a book in the development field. Thank you Andrea and Andy!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *