If you’re getting ready for a capital campaign, you had better be sure you’re board is fully behind and excited about the plans.
I’ve heard more than a few people express concern about their board’s commitment. At the meeting when they discuss the plans, there doesn’t seem to be a head of steam. One or two board members will voice their opinions, but the others are just quiet.
Don’t accept that response as tacit agreement.
You’ve got to find out how your board members really feel. And if they’re not excited, you’d better take a step back to figure out why not and what to do about it.
Your Board Can a Make (or Break) Your Capital Campaign
Capital campaigns put nonprofit boards to the test like no other effort. Your board members have got to be fully committed and willing to participate if you’re campaign is going to be a roaring success!
With so much on the line, we encourage you to take your board’s campaign temperature before you move forward.
Find out if your board members are fully committed
First, let’s talk about what not to do.
Don’t just flat out ask them at a meeting how they feel about the campaign. It’s as likely to backfire as it is to work.
- Board members often don’t voice their real feelings in meetings.
The last thing you want is to have several, or even a majority, of your board members go along with the plan just because they don’t want to be nay-sayers!
People are often hesitant to voice objections when in a group. And board members who go along just because everyone else seems to won’t bring the kind of full-hearted energy you’ll need for your capital campaign to succeed.
- One or two vocal critics can sink the project.
Though many of your board members may be supportive, it only takes one or two talkative, negative board members to turn the discussion sour. And when you’re planning a major project, it’s not smart to give a negative board member that kind of power.
But with this simple technique, you can set your board up for an honest and effective discussion about your campaign.
Survey Your Board Members First — Then Discuss
Schedule a meeting to discuss your plans. Then, before the meeting, give each board member a chance to weigh in individually with a brief survey.
Put together a short survey about the potential capital campaign for your board. Create the survey as a word document and attach it to an email which you send to each board member. Ask them to fill it out and email or mail it back to you before the next board meeting.
Keep it short. Six to eight questions should do.
Be sure to tell board members that their responses won’t be attributed to them individually, but instead will be reported collectively at the meeting. Explain that the collective results will be the basis for a discussion about whether and how to move ahead with the campaign.
That last part is important, because you want each board member’s honest opinion.
Questions to ask your board members
You should ask questions that will help board members think about their own commitment.
Here are some suggestions of the kinds of questions you might ask. These are just a start for you, not a final set.
- On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about this plan?
- Rank the projects we’re thinking of funding in priority order.
- If we move ahead with the campaign, which of the following roles will you play? Check all that apply. (Your list might include things like making a campaign gift, serve on a campaign committee, host events, be a spokesperson, attend campaign events, and solicit gifts.)
- How confident are you that we can succeed?
- What three things worry you most?
- What three things excite you the most?
- How likely would you be to make a campaign gift that is over and above your annual contributions?
After all of your board members have returned their surveys, collate the results and send a simple report to board members. They will set up a genuine discussion at your board meeting.
What to discuss with your board members
If the survey results indicate that many on your board have reservations, then you’ll have a conversation with your board about what needs to happen to strengthen their resolve and make them more enthusiastic.
If it turns out that most of your board members are excited and committed, then you’ll have a conversation about how to move forward.
Knowing where your board really stands is critically important before you launch your campaign. Be sure to give individual board members a chance to have their thoughts known before you move ahead. They will appreciate it, and you’re likely to be more successful.
** Photo credit: tomwang / 123rf Stock Photo