Successful fundraising requires qualified volunteer leadership. Whether you are launching an annual campaign or a capital campaign you need a campaign chair who is committed to your cause and willing to put in the time required to achieve your fundraising goal. The ideal chair makes your goal his goal. He is well respected, has a track record of leadership in local and regional fundraising campaigns, and the financial means to make a leadership-level gift. He is someone people cannot say “no” to, and he hates to fail. He allocates the necessary time to lead and manage the campaign, and provides pro-bono services. He is comfortable making the case and asking for gifts. He both attends and leads campaign meetings, bringing out the best in others, and encouraging all to give to their capacity.
If you are wondering where to find such an individual, we suggest looking at your existing relationships, starting with long-term donors and current major donors. Consider current and former board members and advisors. Reflect on the well-respected leaders in your community and create a list of those who might benefit from being involved with your campaign. Remember: not all volunteerism is altruistic! A commitment to your organization’s mission is critical, but self-interest could also be a driver.
Here are a few examples. A bank president may have lost a grandchild to domestic violence and wants to interrupt the cycle and save others from such grief. An alumnus may want to enhance her profile in anticipation of a future run for state-wide office. A business leader from another part of the country may be relocating her business operations to your community and needs to build relationships and goodwill. You may be surprised at what drives people’s intentions and who wants to support your fundraising.
As you recruit your chair, share your fundraising plan with him. Give him time to review your plan so he can determine if he has the time, connections, and willingness to make it work. Ask him who he wants to support his efforts: Let him invite others to join his fundraising team. He may have a circle of colleagues he works with who can “make things happen.”
While it takes time to identify, solicit, and engage your top fundraising leadership, your efforts will yield results. An engaged and qualified chair can do more for your campaign than an enthusiastic chair who lacks experience and connections.
Here are the top three things to remember in regard to fundraising leadership. First, leadership is critical to the success of any fundraising effort. Second, fundraising must be volunteer-driven, with strong, experienced leadership. Third, people give to people.
Leadership is key to fundraising readiness: we invite you to assess your fundraising readiness for free at www.saadandshaw.com
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.
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