Do You Honor the 8 Essential Practices for Capital Campaign Committees?
Birds of a feather flock together… but when it comes to your capital campaign, they’ll only flock well with successful leadership. Your capital campaign committee chairs must be well-organized and maintain excellent communication.
It’s easy to lose sight of the simple, basic practices that make systems work well when the goals are very big; but it turns out that the bigger and more complex the goals, the more important rigorous attention to essential practices of organization and communication.
I was reminded of this recently when I served on a committee for a big project, and the committee chair didn’t use practices I find so basic that I no longer think about them—that is, until they’re not there.
Real-World Committee Chair Mistakes… and Consequences
The committee was chaired by a very well-intentioned woman, but perhaps she was just busy or maybe she didn’t understand the importance of her role.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the mistakes that were made by the committee chair and their unfortunate consequences:
- She didn’t schedule meetings far enough in advance. As a result, meeting attendance wasn’t good.
- She didn’t follow up meetings with clear, simple notes that listed what people had agreed to do. Therefore, many items that needed to get done were lost in the shuffle and not accomplished at all.
- She didn’t routinely copy all of the committee members on committee correspondence. Thus, no one was sure whether tasks had been completed or done at all.
- She responded to emails several days after they were sent. Consequently, committee members often emailed among themselves trying to figure out what was going on.
- She blind copied some committee members while corresponding with others. The result was that committee members became suspicious about her intentions.
- She didn’t acknowledge committee members when they stepped in and did some of the work. As a result, rather than feeling appreciated, they felt that they may have overstepped their authority.
You can imagine what happened to the committee—it fell apart.
Individual members were flummoxed. They wanted to work on the project, but didn’t know how to get around the committee chair.
The Turning Point…
Finally, a committee member spoke with the chair. He commended her for her willingness to chair the committee and commiserate with her about how busy she was. Then he suggested that she bring in a staff member to handle all of the administrative work of the committee.
It didn’t take long before the group started to function well. Factions unified. Tasks were tracked and got done. Committee members came to meetings. People were excited to move the project forward.
8 Best Practices for Capital Campaign Committees
Here’s a simple list of best practices to remember as you enter and wade through your campaign:
Schedule meetings well in advance. Regular meeting times work well.
Send a simple email agenda before every meeting.
Keep a list of who agrees to do what, and send it out to the entire committee after each meeting.
Copy all committee members of committee correspondence so they can track what’s happening.
Unless there is an extraordinary situation, DON’T use the bcc function on emails.
Respond to emails promptly—within a day if at all possible.
Highlight and appreciate any and all work done by committee members.
If you can’t do these administrative jobs well, ask someone else to do them.
Even with the best intentions in the world, if you aren’t rigorous about these essential committee practices, your campaign will not be successful because you’ll lose the energy, enthusiasm and excitement of your committee members.
One of my favorite descriptions of a capital campaign is this:
One little meeting after another—all amounting to something big!
So keep these eight best practices close—they will lead you to success.
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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.