Key Questions for Recruiting Your Campaign Committee

committee meetingBy Nanette Fridman
and Jennifer Weinstock

HELP! No one will join my Campaign Committee!

Does this story sound familiar? Your board determines that it’s time for your organization to launch a large scale fundraising campaign. Through a thoughtful process, they determine that the campaign goal will be $25 million. Okay, now what?

The success of any campaign is directly related to the commitment of the campaign committee and the members’ determination to implement an effective fundraising plan. This is why the composition of the campaign committee is so primary for those planning a campaign. Without the right people around the table, the campaign will struggle and will fall entirely on the shoulders of the development professionals.

So how can you build the strongest committee? What happens when the people you ask to join the committee say no? Before starting to put together your campaign committee or if your organization is having difficulty assembling a team, ask the following questions.

1. Are you asking the right people?

  • Is the school a top philanthropic priority for them?
  • Are they passionate about your organization?
  • Are they well connected in the community?
  • Do they believe the campaign is necessary for the school’s sustainability?
  • Do they have campaign or leadership experience from your or another organization?
  • Do they already wear many hats at the school or in the community?

Hint: If you are asking someone who is already involved in many other activities in the school, help them prioritize.

2. Who is asking them?

  • The President of the Board (current or incoming), the Head of School, Past Campaign Leaders or the Development Director all may be involved in meeting with prospective campaign leaders.
  • Are they being asked by a person they can’t say “no” to?
  • Is “the ask” at an appropriate time?
  • Have they been asked in a way that conveys the planning work and thought that has gone into the campaign to date and the strong professional team in place?

Hint: You need to treat recruitment like a mini-campaign. There is a key concept that as the recruitment process goes so will the campaign. You want to recruit the prospective committee members as you would solicit a donor and be thoughtful and prepared with the right person asking at the right time with a strong case and ready for objections or concerns.

3. What are they being asked to do?

  • Do they understand the roles and responsibilities of the committee?
  • Do they have the skills and training to perform the job?
  • Do they understand the time commitment?
  • Is the role given Kavod? Is it an honor to be asked to play this role?
  • Remember, collectively the committee must participate in all campaign functions but not every person must play every role.

Hint: If the right community leader says that she will get you meetings with the top five prospects but won’t solicit, you should gladly take her offer and enlist people with other skills to join the committee.

Hint: If someone you ask offers to lend his name but says that he won’t attend any meetings or do much heavy lifting, it’s the perfect opportunity to suggest you find another role for him that fits with his availability. His name does nothing for the campaign if he won’t work on behalf of the organization.

4. Why are they saying no?

  • Is there a culture of philanthropy?
  • Do they believe the campaign will be successful?
  • Are they confident in the professional staff to support the committee?
  • Is it the wrong time for them?
  • Is the time commitment too much?
  • Are they surprised you are asking them?
  • Do they think that they are not strong fundraisers?

Hint: If you know why people are saying no, you can address the issue. If you are getting negative responses, ask why and then strategize. Try to never surprise someone with this ask. Just like with a solicitation, you need to create a cultivation plan to get your campaign committee member to say yes!

Putting together a strong committee is a bit like a puzzle. You need to lay down one piece at a time. The more pieces that you have in place, the easier it is to see what is missing. Once you get the first couple of members, enlist their help and power of persuasion to help complete your campaign committee picture.

Nanette Fridman, MPP, JD, is founder and principal of Fridman Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, financial resource development, governance and leadership coaching for nonprofits. She is the author of “On Board: What Current and Aspiring Board Members Must Know About Nonprofits & Board Service.” Nanette can be reached at

Jennifer Weinstock is the Senior Development Officer at Gann Academy in Waltham, MA and a Wexner Field Fellow. Jennifer can be reached at