Choosing a Stellar Campaign Leader

Posted by admin on Aug 10, 2018 10:19:32 AM

Dedicated volunteers are worth their weight in gold to the regular fundraising operations of your charitable organization. These high-level volunteers provide credibility and undertake the essential relationship-building that helps attract friends, supporters and financial resources to your organization.

In conducting a successful capital campaign, the importance of volunteers—particularly committed, high-performing volunteer leaders—simply cannot be overstated. In fact, amid the many decisions you will make in planning a capital campaign, selection of the best leader could well be the single greatest factor for determining your overall success. By evaluating candidates based on the presence of key qualities and attributes, you will be certain to pick a stellar campaign leader.

Passion and Commitment — The most effective leaders will become involved in your campaign because of their commitment to and interest in your organization’s campaign and not solely because of their wealth, connections or willingness to ‘lend their name.’ Their commitment should encompass several things: belief in your mission, a sincere desire to serve others and the community, and a capacity to communicate those values to others and inspire them to become involved.

Does your campaign leader understand and believe in your organization’s important mandate? Will she be able to express genuine belief in the importance, urgency and value of your campaign? Will she be successful in convincing others that your organization is worthy of their personal support?

Collaboration and a Team Approach — A campaign is an intense effort with many moving parts involving many people performing a myriad of tasks at different times. Is your campaign leader a team player, willing to collaborate and work with others? Can she efficiently delegate tasks and engage other campaign volunteers? Will she foster a positive atmosphere of openness and respect? As described by management guru Peter F. Drucker in his book, Managing the Non- Profit Organization, exemplary leaders "don’t think ‘I.’ They think ‘we’; they think ‘team.’ They understand the job to be to make the team function. They accept the responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit."

History of Success — Success breeds success. Does your campaign leader exemplify achievement and success? Is she a leader of a well-run business or institution in your community? Have the projects and organizations that she has been associated with in the past been successful? People with a track record of accomplishment will bring knowledge and experience to your campaign. More importantly, such leaders will attract others who are talented and motivated. People like to be involved with those who enjoy success. Other business and community leaders will be motivated to join your campaign because of the opportunity to associate with and work alongside your campaign leader. Together, these winners will help build the buzz and momentum that will make involvement in your campaign irresistible to an ever-widening group of volunteers and donors.

Respect and Influence — The most important contribution of a great campaign leader is enthusiasm and a willingness to open doors to the people who will make your campaign happen—other volunteers and major donors. To both engage volunteers and solicit major gifts, having the right person ask is almost always the most essential ingredient for success. Is your campaign leader well-known and highly-regarded within your community? Will she be someone that others will welcome into their boardrooms, offices and living rooms? Will potential volunteers listen carefully to what she is saying? Will potential donors respond favorably to her encouragement and be willing to join her in committing time and resources to your campaign? Is your campaign leader the sort of person that others would have a difficult time ‘saying no’ to?

Willing to Lead by Example — Your campaign leader should be willing and enthusiastic about making a leadership pledge or gift. A leadership gift is not always judged entirely by size—the timing of the pledge or contribution can also be critical. Most often personal commitment to involvement in a campaign by the inner core of volunteers begins with confirmation of the first and largest lead gift. Such a gift—typically made by the campaign leader—has a catalytic effect and stimulates others to come forward and rise to the challenge.

A substantial lead gift provides the essential leverage for the campaign and will significantly affect the strategy and timing for engaging the handful of other key volunteers who will drive the campaign to reach its goal. In effect, your campaign leader’s substantial and precedent-setting gift will become the most powerful fuel to jumpstart your campaign.

Take the time to choose carefully. The most effective campaign leaders are selected because they are excellent candidates, not because nobody else wants the job. It can be difficult to find qualified persons to fill such an important role and tempting to tap the first person who is even vaguely interested. Resist the temptation to "get moving and fill the position" as quickly as possible. The long-term benefits of setting your sights high will far outweigh the short-term delays or frustrations to your campaign. Above all, be patient, thorough and highly selective. You will be sure to recruit an exemplary community member who will bring stellar leadership and extraordinary results to your capital campaign!

Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is one of 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

Topics: Campaign Feasibility and Planning Studies, Board Development, campaign leadership, Capital Campaigns, fundraising consultants, Fundraising Principles, Professional Skill Building, strategic planning, successful capital campaigns

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