The 'AAA' Approach to Board Members and Your Capital Campaign
I take a hard line about board members contributing. Not willing to make a personally meaningful gift when you serve on the board? Then you should resign. Period.
Notice, I didn’t say a gift of a specific amount. For some board members, a gift of $5,000 is insignificant when compared to other gifts they make or gifts they might make. But for others, a gift of $100 might be a stretch.
Small gifts that require thought and sacrifice can express as much commitment as a larger gifts made by wealthy board members. Really, what’s important is that every board member is committed to the organization and the mission it serves.
Board Member Commitment Is Non-Negotiable
If you’re a board member, you’ve got to show up and take a stand for the cause. That kind of serious commitment is contagious. It creates the kind energy and enthusiasm that can jet propel your organization.
If you are heading into a capital campaign, your board’s full and complete commitment is particularly important.
Board Members Fill Three Important Roles
Here are the three roles of committed board members:
My friend Kay Sprinkel Grace developed this "AAA Way." (Check out her new book!)
All three of these roles require personal commitment to the cause. In an ideal world, each board member would play all three roles. But I’ve found that while most people can be effective Ambassadors and Advocates, not everyone can do a great job of Asking for gifts.
Some people just aren’t great askers.
If you’re in a capital campaign where you’ll be asking for large gifts, you need skilled and effective askers. So, rather than try to push every board member to ask for gifts, identify those who are willing and train them to do it well!
Train the other board members to be wonderful Advocates and Ambassadors. Their roles will be critical to the campaign’s success, too. But don’t push them into roles they aren’t comfortable with.
Here’s How to Prepare the Solicitors on Your Board
Most people haven’t been trained to ask for gifts. In fact, I’ve found that some board members who see themselves as experienced askers don’t even do it very well. They often think of their job as pitching major donors rather than partnering with them.
Your capital campaign gives you a wonderful opportunity to train them. The stakes are high, and you can develop a small training program just for them. Consider this three-part approach.
1. First-Rate Solicitation Training. Create a special opportunity for board members and other high level volunteers to get some first rate training. Many consultants provide solicitation training as part of their work. And you might engage someone like my colleague Andy Robinson, who is a master trainer.
2. Practice, Practice, Practice. Like most other complicated things, you’ve got to practice to get really good. So team your less experienced askers with people who are more experienced and have them go out on calls together. You might also ask some of your very committed donors if they’d be willing to have a practice session with a board member. Practicing with a real donor who knows its practice is very freeing and fun for both.
3. Ask an Asking Coach. Finally, encourage each board solicitor to use an asking coach. That’s someone who will sit down with them before a solicitation to discuss the best approach. The coach might also review what happened after the solicitation so they can learn from it. You might serve as a coach. Or you might ask your consultant to help with that. Or perhaps you have a very experienced board solicitor who would be good in that role.
Whatever you do, don’t assume that your board members know what they are doing. Chance are high that they don’t. To really get them in gear, host a lively, non-threatening board workshop designed just for them. Read more about that here.
Andrea Kihlstedt is an innovative leader and expert in capital campaign fundraising. She wrote "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th ed)," often referred to as the “bible” of capital campaign fundraising. She founded Capital Campaign Masters and co-founded Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online capital campaign resource and platform.