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Undertaking a Major Campaign: The Board Indicators You Need To Be Aware Of

Is your board up to the task of taking on a major capital campaign? Without full board member readiness, a campaign is unlikely to gain the foothold it needs to achieve optimal results. We’ve compiled a list of indicators that can help you determine whether your board is up to the challenge, no matter what the dollar goal is.


First, you need actively engaged members. We can’t say it enough: the key to any successful campaign is a team of passionate and driven people who are united behind a clear and compelling vision. You want everyone powering together towards the same goals. This takes being clear on strategy and areas of focus. Board members liaise with influential public donors, and really getting behind the campaign works to build confidence in these potential donors’ minds and increases an organization’s ability to secure funding.

You’ve got to spend money to make money. Unfortunately, it’s true. People, new systems, feasibility studies, messaging and communications strategies, great materials, and infrastructure are all prerequisites for pulling off a successful major campaign, so it’s likely that a significant upfront investment will be required. A great board won’t be afraid to tap into the resources at its disposal.

Know your brand and understand what you’re trying to build. Understanding the differentiators and the key message is essential. A board must be clear on the niche and value proposition of the campaign. They must be able to answer the question, “What will my gift accomplish, and why are you the best group to accomplish it?” A board must also have a true understanding of the balance sheet. What is the capital funding, for how long, and what are the other revenue streams? What it comes down to is that your board needs to know what your organization brings to the table, so that they can then effectively spread that message in the world.

Define the roles and expectations of the leaders involved. Does everyone know what his or her job is? Moreover, does everyone know what everyone else’s job is? An effective board knows what it’s supposed to do, and what the other leaders are supposed to do, before any action is taken. Running a capital campaign is a collaborative effort. When everyone understands what the shared roles and responsibilities are, it is easier to coordinate an effective movement. In addition to time and resources, board members also need to dip into their own pockets, since they increase credibility by making personally significant financial donations towards the campaign themselves.

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Lastly, you need to put in the time. You’ve got to put in the work and you need a board that’s in it for the long haul. Ask yourself, “Does the board understand how much time the campaign will take, and are they ready for that?” Get clear on time commitments from board members to determine if they are sufficient for carrying out a campaign. Does everyone have the resources and patience to see it through to the end? And, are you expecting any major leadership changes that will materially impact the other players, the donor confidence, or the campaign momentum?

Board members play a significant role in an organization’s ability to carry out a successful capital campaign. Assessing the readiness of a board is an essential task to carry out prior to undertaking a major campaign. By ensuring that all board members have the time, finances, resources and understanding to carry out a campaign, a nonprofit organization greatly increases its chances of engaging donors and reaching its financial goals – and ultimately, its mission.

Kristin Heller

Kristin Heller

Kristin joined Olive Grove in 2010 as its first Marketing Director. Since then, the firm quadrupled in size, and Kristin was a big part of that growth by serving in many key roles for the firm, including Consulting Director and Senior Consulting Director. Before leaving Olive Grove in April 2015, Kristin was a integral member of the leadership staff delivering exceptional consulting services to a diverse range of clients.