Find the Right Board Giving Goal for Your Capital Campaign
What percentage of your campaign goal should your board members give to your capital campaign? Twenty-five percent? Forty percent? Ten percent?
Again and again, I’ve seen board members stumble over this question. They want to do what’s right; but really, they have no idea what’s appropriate or more importantly, what’s possible.
But I’ve come up with a nifty way to give your board the information they need to have a comfortable and constructive conversation that’ll help them come up with a collective board giving goal that’s right for the campaign.
Board Giving Can’t Be Calculated With a Standard Math Equation
First, let’s put a myth to rest. There is no standard percentage of a campaign goal that your board should give.
For example, a board where most members are wealthy can and should give a bigger share of the campaign goal than a board where the members aren’t rich. That’s just simple common sense.
If at a board meeting, you just pose the question, “How much should our board give to our campaign?” you’ll get a blank stare and everyone will squirm uncomfortably. They won’t know how to approach the question because they’ve got nothing to go on.
But we’ve come up with a simple six-step process to help your board figure out a board giving goal that is both appropriate and possible.
6 Steps to Help Your Board Figure Out its Collective Giving Goal
For your board to have a productive discussion about setting a goal, they need to know what board members might give. But they need to get that information without divulging private information about each other’s giving capacity.
Here’s a simple, six-step strategy to help your board figure out the right collective goal.
Step 1: Drop a hint to help prepare the board for the campaign giving goal discussion.
Add “Set the Board’s Collective Campaign Giving Goal” to the agenda for your next board meeting.
Step 2: Ask for the largest gifts first.
Before your board meeting, your campaign chair should have solicitation meetings with those people on the board who will likely make the highest level gifts. If three or four of the largest board gifts have been secured before the meeting, they will provide a strong basis from which the board can wrestle with the goal.
Step 3: Explain the process for assessing the board’s giving goal.
At the board meeting, introduce the discussion, let the board know what preparation you have done to help assess the goal and tell them what has been raised so far from just a few people.
Post a rating system. It might be something like this, depending on the size of the campaign and levels of gifts.
A. $300,000 or more
B. $150,000 to $299,999
C. $75,000 to $149,999
D. $30,000 to $74,000
E. $15,000 to $29,999
F. $3000 to $14,999
G. $750 to $2999
Step 4: Have each board member indicate their own giving range (anonymously).
On an index card or piece of paper, ask each board member indicate the giving range they might consider pledging over the pledge period of the campaign. Keep these anonymous—no one should add their name to their card.
Be sure to let board members know the number of years over which their pledges can be paid. Of course, the dollar amounts will be determined based in part on the campaign goal. But if yours is a cross-class board, be sure to include a low-level category that makes giving accessible for everyone.
Step 5: Calculate the high to low gift ranges.
Collect the cards at the meeting. Take them outside of the board room and tally the high and low ranges. Add the gifts that have already been committed and estimate ranges for any missing board members.
Doing this will give you a high and low dollar range that comes from the board members themselves. Post the range on a large sheet of newsprint or project it on a large screen where everyone in the room can see it.
Step 6: Set your board giving goal through this participatory process.
Using this information, the board chair should conduct an open discussion about where in the range the board would like to set its giving goal. Sometimes boards aim high; sometimes they are more conservative.
No matter what the results of the discussion, it is important that the board arrive at a goal they can agree on through a participatory process.
Bonus: Set a participation goal in addition to a board giving goal. (Optional)
Your board also might resolve to commit to 100 percent board giving in the campaign. An open discussion about the importance of full participation helps everyone become more comfortable with the process and makes it more likely that everyone will, in fact, participate.
Board Giving Relays a Powerful Message
Whether your board decides to give 20 percent of the campaign goal or 60 percent, as long as that amount represents personally meaningful gifts from each of your board members, you will have a great start to your campaign.
The power of strong board commitment, whether high dollar or low, sends a strong message to everyone else who will be asked to give to your campaign.
There's a special webinar on June 8 at 3:00 p.m. ET. To learn more about how to improve your board members’ fundraising follow through, sign up for a new webinar I’m presenting with Andy Robinson: Stop Nagging Your Board: 12 Strategies to Improve Fundraising Follow-Through
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.