Capital Campaign Leadership

Capital Campaign Leadership, this definition certainly applies to the leadership needed for a successful capital campaign. For a nonprofit organization, whether it is an educational institution, a hospital foundation, a community library, a YMCA, performing arts center or any of the many other types of groups that depend largely on private support for their continuity and growth, inspirational leadership is imperative!

This leadership is not confined to one person, or one campaign role. It is needed from at least three, or perhaps more, positions within a typical campaign organization. Let’s briefly discuss the roles of leaders whose time, effort, energy and enthusiasm will take your organization to the fundraising goal you want to reach.

First, there is the leader of the organization. This could be the president, executive director, or chief executive officer. Whatever the distinct title may be, the person referred to as the leader who is responsible for successful operation of the organization. This person is most capable of articulating the institutional goals, needs, and vision for the future. While this person may not be, and probably would not be, the campaign chairman, this leader must be prepared to cultivate and educate the campaign committee, donors, and prospective donors. They must inspire these other people to give financially and to support the organization in other ways, as well.

Secondly, in many organizations, there will be a person responsible for on-going fundraising and advancement. This staff leader is often titled director of development, vice president for advancement, foundation director, or chief development officer. This position is accountable for donor relations, fundraising through annual appeals, planned giving, and major gifts, special events and maintenance of donor records.

In the capital campaign, the staff fundraising leader supports the entire campaign effort with record keeping, meeting preparations, scheduling, materials preparations – all the myriad, and to some, mundane, work that makes a campaign a success. While this leader’s description may sound somewhat passive, routine and without prominence, this leader also has a role to play in promoting the effort, making presentations, being ‘the expert witness’ on solicitation visits and being upbeat and energetic in promoting the campaign. This leader, too, inspires committee members while supporting their efforts.

Lastly, in this discussion at least, is the campaign chair – the leader who utilizes the input and efforts of the two leaders already discussed along with that of the members of his or her campaign committee, board members, and interested and involved supporters. Such assimilation of talent and ideas, mixed with rock-solid campaign leadership, pave the way for successful efforts. This person leads by example, working diligently and energetically to carry out the campaign plan, encourage and inspire the campaign troops, keep the campaign on schedule, prod the laggards, celebrate the successes and move the effort toward attaining that goal that others might have thought to be unattainable.

Capital Campaign leadership is not a “one-man band.” Although some might say the campaign chair is the “primero uno” in this regard, the truth is that there are a number of players, and each must play his or her part. Even beyond the few core members mentioned here, there are concentric circles of additional volunteers, board members, and staff. The campaign chair may stand at the center of that system, but the wise and successful campaign chair shares this leadership role with others, delegates responsibility, follows up, and shares successes as they unfold.

As fundraising campaign counsel, it is my privilege and good fortune to be able to work with, and try to coordinate and facilitate the efforts of, all three of these leaders. Together, we work to build a growing network of leaders and supporters that reaches well into the outer limits of the community we seek to serve. When these three key players commit to giving more of themselves than they are asking from others, who can turn them down?

Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is among the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada.  If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to