Capital Campaigns, Uncategorized

Campaign Volunteer Leadership: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

By Renee Fitzgerald


I was fortunate to host a panel discussion at the USD Governance Symposium last week with three incredible panelists:

  • Jay Hill, CEO, Library Foundation ($185 million capital campaign)
  • Dr. Tim O’Malley, VP External Relationship ($300 million capital campaign)
  • Don Stump, CEO, North County Lifeline (launching a campaign)


My panel of experts agreed that two of the key attributes of a good campaign volunteer leader are:

  1. Being passionate about the organization and the campaign
  2. A healthy fear of failing (which will lead them to making the campaign a success)


I asked the panel to share ho they effectively engage volunteers to fundraise and reach out to their networks to ask for donations:

  • Model it: Partner up a staff member with a volunteer leader for a solicitation. It allows the volunteer leader to be part of a successful ask and encourage them to conduct one on their own
  • Create a social gathering for volunteers to invite their friends to come learn about the organization or campaign
  • Utilize a draw to get people to an event. Jay invited the Mayor or Padres players to attend donor events
  • At committee or board meetings, have board members pull out their phones to scroll through their contacts to brainstorm ideas of people to cultivate for the campaign/organization


To coach and encourage volunteer leaders, illustrate what is working and what is not. Tim suggests having volunteers share stories of their successes and failures. It will help other volunteers think: “it’s okay”, “that’s a good idea” or “I can do that.” He also suggests role playing solicitations at committee meetings to train volunteers how to have successful conversations with donors.


Continue to build up your pipeline of volunteer leaders. During a campaign, your volunteer leaders will cycle in and out. This is not a bad thing. You will continually need fresh ideas and energy. Don suggests that you treat volunteers like family by hosting annual get-togethers like a family picnic or spaghetti dinner.


Remember to thank and recognize your volunteer leaders throughout the campaign.  Here are a few ideas for volunteer leadership stewardship from our panel:

  • When the board has 100% giving participation for the campaign, host a party to celebrate this accomplishment.
  • List their names on a plaque and display it publicly to thank them
  • Have donors sign a beam that goes into the building
  • Host a hard hat lunch in the half-constructed building


Keep up the moral through the whole campaign. To do, the panelist suggest:

  • Celebrate your successes! There is a burst of excitement every time a gift comes in and it serves as encouragement to go after the next donation.
  • Report the data to show progress – know that some areas to the campaign will see more success than others.
  • Bring in inspirational speakers to encourage your volunteer leaders. Ideas: volunteer leaders who have successfully finished a campaign; the individuals that the project the campaign will fund will positively impact them.


Above all, Jay says: “Never Give Up!”





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