Conduct Your Board Campaign First

Conduct Your Board Campaign First

The first quarter of each calendar year is the best time to run your annual Board campaign. Doing so:

  • opens the door for quarterly or monthly pledges, making larger gifts possible,
  • assures 100% participation early in the year,
  • establishes the “moral authority” for Board members asking other donors to give,
  • establishes the level of credibility necessary for other donors to take challenging requests seriously, and
  • serves as a useful “practice” campaign each year.

Here are the parts and sequence:

Set a Board Goal – the goal should be set with the participation of the Board Chair, the Fundraising Committee Chair, and the Executive Director and should be in the context of the Annual Plan and Budget. I have written about how much Board members should be expected to give, and you can find that post here.

Here’s the bottom line: Board members are expected (by the world) to be those most passionate and dedicated to the organization and its mission. Other donors will take their cue, to a certain extent, from what the Board gives. Given the size of the annual budget and the challenges ahead, you will want the Board’s financial stake in the organization to be seen as “significant”.

Set Individual Ask Amounts – the Board Chair, the Fundraising Committee Chair, and the Executive Director then review the giving history of each Board member and establish individual ask amounts. These amounts might be the same, modestly greater, or less than what they gave last year, depending on what you know or can guess of their circumstances, as long as the overall goal increases over last year.

Board Chair Makes His/Her Gift First – at a Board meeting or in a letter, the Board Chair announces the year’s goal, visibly commits his or her own personal gift to set the bar, and announces that s/he will be meeting with each Board member individually to discuss their own commitment.

Board Chair Solicits Other Board Members – one by one, the Board Chair meets with each Board member to discuss their annual gift, beginning with the member whose ask amount is largest. Each ask is for a specific amount, and may be paid out over the entire year as needed. These meetings should be conducted in a compressed time frame such that the entire Board is solicited within a period of two to three weeks.

Use a Pledge Form – using a pledge form designed for this purpose, secure a signed pledge from each Board member. Include as many options as your organization has available including automatic credit card charges, electronic funds transfers, and single payments in a specific future month. Bringing back a check works, too!

Send Reminder Notes – two weeks before each pledge payment is due, mail a reminder notice. What your Board sees from you administratively matters. If your reminders are courteous, punctual, and accurate, the Board will have confidence when recommending similar programs to donors they solicit.

Celebrate – when the goal has been reached (the goal is the dollar amount AND 100% participation) make an announcement at a Board meeting and thank everyone profusely for participating.

There are many variations on these themes. For example, instead of the Board Chair, the campaign could involve another Board member whose job it is to lead the year’s Board campaign. That position could be rotated through the Board. The solicitation team could involve a staff member or two Board members. The pledge period might be 10 months (March-December) instead of 12. You might agree that this early pledge includes admission into all organizational events and/or exemption from spring and year-end appeals. Or the campaign results could be used collectively as matching funds to encourage increases in giving from other donors.

Whatever your particular wrinkles, a Board campaign creates a relatively safe environment for Board leaders to hone their fundraising skills.

How does your organization secure annual gifts from Board members? As always, your comments, responses, and questions are welcomed here and by email at



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