Drive Campaign Success by Building Your Board’s Culture of Philanthropy

Board Training

Your organization is on the precipice of exciting and transformational growth! This may mean purchasing a new building, doubling the size of your endowment or funding a new program to further your mission. Growth of this magnitude will more than likely require funds above and beyond annual fundraising dollars, leading you and your board to contemplate a capital funds campaign – which, for many, is uncharted territory, but one that does not need to be feared.

Where to begin?

You know what requires funding and how much is needed, but how do you get there? Before your campaign launches, during the initial planning phase it is critical to evaluate fundraising operations and implement best practices where needed. Our focus today: developing a culture of philanthropy among your board of trustees. It should come as no surprise that a successful campaign is dependent on the initial buy-in from those closest to your organization: your board members.

If your board has 100% participation at leadership giving levels and your trustees are willing to ask for gifts and identify new prospects, congratulations! You are ten steps ahead of the game. More often than not, however, trustees must develop an understanding of the philanthropic landscape, why people give and the importance of giving (their own giving included).

These are the building blocks to developing a culture of philanthropy among your board as you prepare for a campaign:

1. Find passionate board members
2. Set a minimum annual gift requirement for board members
3. Identify clear expectations on your board members role in your campaign
4. Use your boards network to your advantage

Have patience – this process takes time. We recommend you start by implementing the best practices detailed below.

1. Find passionate board members. 

Before you can build culture of philanthropy among your board, it’s important that your nonprofit is choosing board members that have intense interest in your mission. The more passionate your board is, the more dive they’ll have to set a fundraising president and work with you to reach your capital campaign goals.

Nonprofits have several ways they can find board members. From looking at your exiting donor pool to taking recommendations from existing board members to locating talented people with a strong connection to your cause, you’ll have to use a combination of strategies to find people that fit your organization. When considering someone for a spot on your board, ask about their past philanthropic behavior and what they believe will be expected from them in the role. If a persons expectations are close to what you already have in mind, setting a standard won’t be as difficult.

Finding board members can be tricky, but having a strong leadership is what will set your capital campaign up for success. You can learn more about building your leadership team, with helpful tips from Snowball.

With a solid foundation of dedicated board members, you’ll have a much easier time setting up the expectations we talk about in the next section.

2. Set a minimum annual gift requirement for board members.

Does your board have a minimum gift requirement? If the answer is no, you will want to consider adding a base-level gift requirement to your board policies. Trustees are fiduciaries whose jobs are to provide oversight and input into your organization’s financials, leadership, programs, and more. A personal financial investment is the act of a trustee acknowledging his or her responsibility for the financial well-being of your organization.

This should not be confused with a “give-and-get” policy, which we believe does not work. Ideally, board members are vetted because of their giving history and/or giving potential to your organization. Tasking board members with a one-size-fits-all “give-and-get” policy to solicit a set amount in funds from others combined with their own gift, dilutes accountability to your organization, encourages giving at the minimum gift requirement and gets in the way of individual requests for a larger gift. Leaving money on the table is not an option, especially when laying the groundwork for a major campaign.

So, what base-level gift is appropriate for your board?

The minimum gift requirement will vary by institution, and requires board approval. Nevertheless, it should fall within your organization’s leadership or major gift level. With a minimum gift requirement in place, soliciting trustees will still necessitate individual requests with targeted and specific amounts. This step ensures each trustee is giving at a level commensurate with his or her capacity and not defaulting to the minimum requirement.

3. Identify clear expectations on your board members role in your campaign.

How else can a culture of philanthropy be established among board members? Instruction.

Trustees must understand their role as fundraisers on behalf of your organization. This expectation of fundraising should be incorporated into board policies, built into your onboarding program and included as a key conversation when candidates are nominated to the board. For most, fundraising does not come naturally, so adequate instruction in fundraising best practices and leadership development are necessary.

Below are a few topics to keep in mind when considering an instruction program:

  • Gain an understanding of the philanthropic landscape and why people give
  • Review fundraising best practices
  • Clarify board members’ roles in fundraising for your organization
  • Explain the relationship between the development staff and board members
  • Explain the role of trustees within the context of a major campaign

Make sure that both you and your board are the same page when it comes to what’s expected of them. Board members that understand their position are much more likely to meet (if not exceed) your expectations in the long run.

4. Use your board’s network to your advantage.

Once your board understands how to ask, they need to know who to ask. Long-time benefactors should always be included on your prospect list. However, prospect lists should be renewed on a regular basis, adding new names daily.

A critical and yet often overlooked area of opportunity is your board’s network. It is easy to forget the sheer bandwidth of each of our connections. Qualified prospects are certain to exist in one or several of a board member’s circles: business, religious/faith community, alma mater, health club, affinity group(s), clients, neighbors, and more! It is important to communicate the value in tapping into your trustees’ individual networks to expand your campaign prospect pipeline and prevent donor fatigue.

How can you start this process? An essential step would be to meet with board members one-on-one to review prospect lists before meeting as a group to explore connections further.


Time, patience, and practice are key.

If fundraising and giving were never established expectations among board members, developing a culture of philanthropy will take time, patience, and practice. Implementing these strategies will help to take the temperature of your current board members, expand your prospect pipeline, and identify who is prepared for a campaign and who might be well-suited for campaign leadership.

To read more on how to prepare for a capital campaign, download our white paper Thinking of a Campaign? Read this First…

-Sarah Andrews, Assistant Vice President

Email info@averillsolutions.com and find us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Visit our testimonials page to see what our not-for-profit partners have to say about us.

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