Every leader enters a capital campaign with trepidation. Can I help to bring form to a campaign organization? Am I truly able to commit the time necessary? Are my personal networks expansive enough? Will my peers respond? Do I have an overarching passion for the cause? Some of these concerns are practical, others are very personal.
I must admit that I had to be convinced to chair Habitat for Humanity’s Double the Homes, Double the Hope Campaign in the Madison, Wisconsin, area. Although my leadership team and I had experienced a Habitat build in our hometown of Middleton, adjacent to Madison, and wanted to participate in others, I was uncertain about my suitability to lead the $3.5 million effort. When a key volunteer, the executive director and their CDS senior campaign director approached me, I demurred by saying that I’d be happy to help them find the right person, but that I didn’t have the networks I believed would be necessary for success.
Although I had lived in the area as a youth and had attended a nearby university, I had left the area to work in industries that kept me in the Carolinas and environs for most of my adult working career. I returned to the community a short five years ago. Our company had been involved with United Way, but other than that, I believed that I had few connections.
The Habitat representatives were relentless, saying finally that they would provide the networking through several long-time campaigners they were in the process of recruiting. CDS Senior Campaign Director D.C. Dreger articulated a plan that delineated the role I would play and made me feel comfortable about accomplishing my part.
I came into the campaign encouraged by Habitat’s enthusiasm for me as their Campaign Chair and was ready to do my best to organize, monitor, and press the campaign forward. Along the way I’ve discovered some interesting and exciting benefits:
- Our participation has raised the stature of our company within the community. In fact, our company recently was named the top volunteer corporation in Dane County for 2005.
- Our associates are pleased, perhaps even proud, that I would do this for their community. We have had a tremendous response from our associates who want to help build a Habitat house.
- I have met some great business leaders. The breadth of my exposure through the campaign to the business community allowed me to meet leaders in commerce, technology, insurance, health care, and others who are in manufacturing as we are.
- I will have lasting relationships for having done this work. There are so many wonderful people who have a heart for helping others. Many of them have the same attitudes and desires that I do. It’s a “simpatico” that has led to a meeting of the minds and hearts.
- This work has been very energizing. There is nothing like success. I have been able to work with my company leadership team and associates to build a successful business; I have worked with the Habitat campaign’s volunteer leaders and their staff and have similarly enjoyed success in helping dozens of families achieve a dream of home ownership.
It’s been a lot of effort—more time than I thought I’d be willing to commit—but the rewards have been handsome. I am better poised to be a leader in the community; I believe I have better positioned my company to be a more significant player in the area; and I’ve made lots of new and wonderful friends.
If you’re asked, and if the asker is persistent, I’d suggest that you listen closely to discern if you might not be just the right person to lead the campaign. And you might find—as we did here in Dane County—that you can raise a million dollars or more beyond the goal!
Ron Zabel was Campaign Chair for the capital campaign in 2004-2005 for the Habitat for Humanity of Dane County, Wisconsin. Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) helped with that campaign. CDS is among the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada. If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.