Anatomy of a successful capital campaign committee meeting
Capital campaigns require input from many stakeholders, both internal and external. This means they also require plenty of clear communication and collaboration. Like it or not, if you’re planning or conducting a campaign soon, meetings will likely become a big part of your life for the foreseeable future.
The nature of capital campaign committee structures
One of the strategies that make capital campaigns successful is that they are designed to involve many volunteers over the life of the campaign through ad-hoc committees. By recruiting not just skilled staff but also key prospects and external stakeholders, these committees and their meetings can serve double duty: driving the campaign forward logistically and unlocking further engagement and generosity from all those involved.
Capital campaign committees are designed to have a beginning, middle, and end. Some committee members may only attend a few meetings, while others may participate through an entire phase of the campaign. These overlapping committees typically begin with a feasibility study committee and then a campaign planning meeting. Next comes a lead gift committee and a campaign cabinet or steering committee, followed by a range of additional ad-hoc groups assembled to tackle other needs as they arise in the quiet, kickoff, and public phases of the campaign.
The success of each of these capital campaign committees depends in large part on the effectiveness of the meetings, in which they take part. If people enjoy participating in meetings and find them to be productive, they may want to become even more invested in and give generously to your capital campaign.
While running productive and engaging meetings always matters, this is especially true for capital campaign committees. To set up your capital campaign for success, it’s worth exploring how you can make the most of your committee meetings.
4 elements of a successful capital campaign meeting
Every meeting hosted as part of your capital campaign will look different depending on where you are at in the process, which specific committee is meeting, and what they’re aiming to accomplish. After all, a capital campaign can involve wildly different tasks—ranging from reviewing big-picture development progress down to choosing a color scheme for your public phase marketing materials.
To make sure your capital campaign is a success, consider these key committee meeting elements and our recommendations for improving them:
1. Planning and preparation
When it comes to running successful capital campaign meetings, it pays to plan ahead. If you’re wondering where to get begin, consider starting by spending some time creating a full committee meeting schedule. This process entails plotting out a standard timing and cadence for each meeting that the committee will have, such as once a month for three months or bi-weekly for the entire length of your campaign. This builds a standard structure into the process from the start.
Next, you may want to define a few campaign meeting essentials, including:
- The purpose of the meeting
- Your priorities for what it needs to cover
- What updates on the campaign should be made during the meeting (and which ones can be shared via email)
- Who should be there (and who doesn’t need to be there)
- The meeting’s intended outcomes or next steps
- The best facilitation process or structure for accomplishing the purpose at hand
Other key considerations for successfully planning out your capital campaign committee meetings to consider:
- Determining whether your meeting will include prospective donors, and thinking ahead about how you’ll actively engage them.
- Always developing a meeting agenda, sharing it with attendees beforehand, and explicitly asking them to review it and note any questions or comments.
- If you find yourself putting a meeting on the books purely to share information rather than to discuss something, gather input, and/or make decisions, send an email instead.
2. Kicking off the conversation
Context is king, especially when it comes to capital campaign committee meetings. To ensure everyone is on the same wavelength and ready to contribute, be sure to take these best practices into account:
- Start your meetings by getting people talking and focused. One way to accomplish this is to try a simple round-robin discussion, answering questions like, “What’s something you want to be sure we address today?” Just remember to set a hard time limit on the kickoff portion of the meeting to avoid having it overtake the entire conversation.
- Confirm that everyone is on the same page by restating the meeting’s purpose, expected outcomes, agenda items, and the roles that individuals will play (such as facilitator or note-taker).
- Take a moment to recap where you’re currently at in your campaign timeline and how this particular committee fits into the overarching plan.
- Review any specific policies in place, especially for longer meetings where members’ attention spans are more likely to dip or wander. These can include hard stops, time limits for presentations, or expectations against multitasking.
3. Meeting participation
Think back to the last not-so-productive meeting. It might have been due to the awkwardness of a room full of crickets, the chaos of people speaking over or past one another, or a myriad of other meeting dynamics. To avoid derailing the progress of your capital campaign efforts, consider how you can structure your meetings to foster productive collaboration, conversation, and coordination.
To ensure your success, think about following a specific meeting model or structure that’s best suited to the meeting’s purpose and your goals. Here are some common examples:
- Structured stand-ups for reporting on progress
- Listing and prioritizing brainstormed ideas
- Small group breakouts for problem-solving
- Q&A sessions to review new plans and decisions
- Open discussions (best suited for smaller, shorter meetings)
Other key factors to keep top of mind to maximize participation in your capital campaign committee meetings include:
- Determining the meeting’s structure in advance, maintaining close track of time, and keeping discussions focused by noting tangents for follow-up in the future.
- Asking participants who will be reporting progress or giving presentations to have their materials prepared in advance and to share them with other participants. That way, everyone can follow along.
4. Wrapping up and next steps
Once you’ve concluded a capital campaign committee meeting, it’s tempting to celebrate your progress and focus your energies on preparing for the next part in the process. However, to set yourself and your capital campaign up for success, consider spending some time recapping the discussion and ensuring everyone knows what the next step in the process entails. You can do this by:
- Summarizing the key points and priorities brought up during the meeting.
- Restating next steps and assigning ownership for them.
- Briefly outlining your current stage in the overarching capital campaign timeline and how the next steps will propel you in the process.
- Sending a summary and/or list of the next steps after the meeting so that attendees have it all down on paper.
- Specifying who will do what, who they will report it to (or where they’ll document it), and by when.
You will know that your capital campaign committee meetings have been well designed if the people who serve on the committee are happy to serve again or, as happens sometimes, the committee doesn’t want to disband at all!
The success of your meetings can be judged by tracking attendance and participation. If people stop attending or seem unwilling to participate, there’s a decent chance it’s because the campaign meetings are poorly designed.
One last tip: If you’re hiring a capital campaign consultant or coach, be sure to ask about their approach to meetings, which can reveal a lot about the potential value they can offer. Remember that the quality of your meetings can have long-lasting impacts for the duration of your capital campaign. Everyone who will be hosting or participating in them should understand this and work together to ensure meetings are as smooth and productive as possible.