I recently joined a nonprofit board, the Needham Education Foundation. At the new board member welcome and orientation meeting, I was speaking with someone familiar with nonprofits and fundraising – he had served as an executive director for a small nonprofit. His questions about my work were relatively specific and focused on what added benefit a nonprofit would gain from working with our firm. While there are a lot of ways I could have answered this question, I thought back to a client’s development committee meeting I had participated in that morning and I was able to offer a one word answer, momentum.
Of course, the answer could have included experience, accountability, perspective, continuity, or many other words that describe the breadth and depth of our offerings, but for many campaigns – capital or annual – one of the understated and highly beneficial aspects of our counsel is momentum.
Why campaigns fail to reach their goals
Excitement and energy abound at the beginning of a campaign (for the moment we will focus on capital campaigns – call or email me if you want to learn how we can help you develop and maintain momentum in your annual campaign). The idea of a new or improved building will encourage many people to raise their hands at the thought of helping to create a vision and make it a reality. Sure it will be a lot of work, but we’ll have a new building, right?
But as months go by, and the twelve-person committee becomes four or five, it begins to feel like a lot of work for something that may or may not come to fruition. Doubts creep in and the life choices that had put the campaign on the front burner for even the most dedicated volunteers begin to be questioned.
What many people don’t know is that a campaign is very much like a marathon –long, filled with hills and valleys, and many of your fellow runners (read “volunteer committee members”) will drop out before the end – unless they truly understand the undertaking and find ways to become prepared, coached, and inspired along the way.
How do you go about maintaining momentum during a campaign?
Here are some ideas to keep your momentum going through the finish line:
- Have a regular meeting each and every week. If only two people show up or call in, you are still keeping up the continuity and moving forward with roles and responsibilities. Keep minutes – and set the expectation that everyone reads the minutes – so that the next meeting is not repetitive. It may be beneficial to those missing, but it is deflating to the original participants to know that their time was wasted and not valued.
- Attending in person is better than calling in. There are many times (maybe even entire summers) when meeting in person is not an option, but having face-to-face time creates deeper relationships within the committee (which becomes more important in tougher times), increases accountability, and when meeting in the building to be replaced, renovated or improved, it serves as a continual reminder to everyone as to why they are participating.
- Put someone in charge of hosting the meeting who is not the committee chair – whether staff or volunteer. Why? Because the committee chair is taking on enough responsibility, this is an easy delegation and chairs cannot take on all of the work. And, because it will ensure two people show up at the meeting.
- When you see the committee has reduced itself through attrition, consider ways to increase the committee with additional volunteers. In other words, if five people have not come to a meeting in three months, don’t expect their behavior to change. Instead, consider who might be interested in joining the group now that you are a collection of dedicated volunteers who have achieved X, Y & Z towards your shared goal.
We hope these ideas help you create a stronger development committee for your campaign. If, instead, they feel like more work than you could ever manage on your own, email me today to talk about how we can help your campaign retain momentum and help you achieve your fundraising goal.