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Is Your Board Asking these Uncomfortable Questions Before Launching a Campaign?

This article was written by JeeYoung Dobbs. She is no longer with Ostara, but we want to preserve this piece so that you can learn from her and from the work she did while part of the Ostara team.

Have you ever been in a room with a board as they are wrestle with the decision to launch a big campaign fundraising effort?

I find you can tell a lot about how the campaign will unfold based on their discussion. Board members are the leaders of the organization and campaign ambassadors. Their attitude about the campaign sets the tone from the start for staff, volunteers, donors, and the community.

A campaign means shouldering additional responsibilities across an organization. I get curious about the campaign’s ability to reach a successful conclusion when I hear things like:

“Can the staff raise the campaign goal?” 

“How can we find new donors to support the campaign?” 

“We have a lot going on in our organization. Can we outsource the campaign to a committee or consultants?” 

Read: Campaign Fundraising is not your jobRead: We don’t think our long-time donors will step up with significant gifts.Read: We aren’t willing to make this campaign our top organizational priority.

These questions can reflect an unwillingness to change or expand their commitments beyond the standard board role.You can help your board better understand their role in a campaign and set a strong example for other volunteers and community members by considering a set of strategic questions. Every board should grapple with the answers to these questions before voting to move forward with a campaign, which is often a significant investment of resources. 

  1. How would this campaign further our strategic goals and mission?

  2. How will this campaign transform our community with lasting change? 

  3. Are we willing to individually and collectively stretch for this campaign in terms of time, talent, and treasure? 

  4. What tactical steps will we take to make sure the campaign is our top organizational priority?

  5. Are we willing to make investments in staff and organizational capacity to support this campaign?

  6. Are we willing to share the opportunity to support the campaign among our current donors and network of friends, family, and colleagues?

  7. If we vote not to move forward with this campaign, what would happen?  

If a board decides to move forward with a campaign, there’s one more question to consider: are we willing to put in the very real, often frustrating, but ultimately rewarding work to accomplish our goal?These questions should make staff and board members feel uncomfortable. A campaign is an extraordinary phase in the life of an organization. A campaign requires major evolution in how board and staff think about and approach fundraising. This change can be difficult but can ultimately lead to a higher caliber of annual fundraising thanks to the investments and expertise devoted to the effort. More importantly, a successful campaign can truly change lives for the better, transforming organizations to meet the complex needs of our communities.

We are here for you and we will walk with you as you navigate this situation. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you would like to discuss how to shift your fundraising event plans, how to respond to funder inquiries about programs and services, how to manage remote work for your teams, or to navigate fears with donors or volunteers. We’re here to connect.


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