It’s becoming harder and harder to find great (or even good) campaign chairs.
It’s no longer the good old days. It’s the good new days. And the sooner we understand what’s changed, the quicker we can develop leadership models that’ll work for today’s capital campaigns.
Why it’s so Hard to Find a Capital Campaign Chair
There are two main reasons why finding good campaign chairs in today’s world is such a challenge.
People are busy.
Yup — they’re busier than they used to be.
Often, both partners in a family have jobs. And in many families, both partners juggle the responsibilities for growing kids and aging parents. This is because people are having children later in life and their parents are living longer. So when they get to the age that’s ideal for a campaign chair, 50’s and 60’s, they’re still raising kids and also dealing with aging parents. What many refer to as “the sandwich years” have gotten longer and later.
Add to those time pressures that hours people spend at their computers, and there’s not much time left over for volunteer work, particularly the demanding sort of volunteer work we expect of our chairs.
Peoples’ choices have expanded.
With the ease of the Internet, people are engaged not only in local charities, but many people have expanded their interests and their giving around the globe.
They travel more. They have multiple residences. Their attention is fragmented between their in-person communities and their on-line communities.
Getting people to make a big commitment of time, energy and money to your campaign is tough!
So what can you do?
3 Ways to Recruit the Right Campaign Leadership
Here are three winning strategies that will help you get the best campaign chairs.
1. Don’t forget the WIIFM (What’s In It for Me).
You’ll be more likely to recuit a great campaign chair if you can articulate the many things that a chair will get in return for their efforts:
- greater visibility
- making a big difference
- getting first rate leadership training
- making new friends
- becoming more connected
- having a great deal of fun
Think about what’s likely to important for your prospective campaign chair and shape the role to fit what they’re looking for.
2. Make sure they know they’ll have great staff support.
You can make the job of being a campaign chair easy — or at least easier — by providing excellent support.
You can draft materials, outline agendas, help manage communication, prep them for public events, schedule meetings and a host of other things. Make sure that you’re staffed up for the campaign well enough so that you can provide your campaign chair with first rate support. And talk about that when you recruit them.
3. Let them know they’re going to be successful.
Leading a campaign is a high-stakes, high risk position. And no one wants to take on the task if there’s a decent chance they’ll fail.
Before you recruit a campaign chair, think carefully about their chances of success and be prepared to discuss them with your prospective chair. If failure is a real possibility, you should think twice before recruiting a chair. Not only do they not want to fail publicly, but you don’t want to put them in that position.
Consider a Capital Campaign Leadership Team
The burden of chairing your campaign may be too big for any one person. If you’re having trouble finding the right campaign chair, think about your campaign leadership as a team.
- Consider co-chairs or even tri-chairs.
- Use honorary chairs — sometimes two or three of them.
- Consider asking different people to chair various aspects of the campaign.
- You might have a Lead Gift Chair and a chair for the public phase of the campaign.
- You might have an alumni chair and chair for the board (current and former) campaign.
- Add to that a chair of the campaign steering committee and a chair of the campaign kick-off event.
And WOW! You’ve gone from one chair to a team of chairs.
The team approach requires you to be a team leader!
The challenge of a leadership team is to spell out clearly and carefully who is supposed to do what and them manage the team so they gain strength through their numbers rather than confusion. This team approach requires that you, the key staff person, be a great leader for this complex leadership team.
Campaign Leadership is Critical
The decisions about who should chair your campaign are worthy of your full attention.
Your campaign leadership will play a huge role in determining the success of your campaign. A strong and committed chair or team of chairs can jet-propel your campaign to raise more money than you ever imagined.
Start strategizing early about who would be the ideal candidates and be sure you involve them from the beginning. That way, when you’re ready to enlist them, there’s a good chance they’ll be ready to say yes.