Training Your Board for a Capital Campaign: 6 Tips

As you gear up for a capital campaign, it’s crucial to ensure your board members are not just “on board” but are well-prepared for and enthusiastic about their roles in the campaign. 

Well-trained board members can be a game-changer for capital campaigns. Rather than being timid, anxious, and hesitant, they will be courageous, excited, and confident leaders who set the tone for growing your organization’s capacity. 

Here are six effective tips to train your board members as you prepare for your capital campaign. Trainings should touch on the three critical areas: understanding capital campaigns and board responsibilities, defining the roles board members might play, and learning how to assist in asking for gifts.


1. Introduce key capital campaign concepts. 

Begin your trainings with a clear, engaging session on what a capital campaign is, emphasizing its importance and how it differs from regular fundraising. Review the phases of a campaign and the idea that in capital campaigns, 50% of the funding will come from fewer than 20 donors.  

This basic campaign training should help board members answer their questions about what’s ahead:

  • What is the likelihood our campaign will succeed?
  • Where will the lead gifts come from?
  • What will be expected from individual board members?
  • Will the campaign cannibalize our annual fundraising?
  • How long will the campaign take?

Use real-life examples, perhaps from similar organizations or past campaigns your group has undertaken. You might invite someone from an organization in your community that has completed a successful campaign to share what they learned.  

But as the campaign draws closer, you can engage a professional fundraising firm or consulting agency to do a campaign training for your board.  Both in-person and online trainings can work well. 

Any campaign training should highlight board responsibilities, stressing the importance of leadership, advocacy, and financial support. 


2. Plan interactive workshops that are fun and engaging. 

Board trainings should draw board members into discussion and exploration rather than simply providing information through lectures.  

Training doesn’t have to be dry. Consider bringing in a guest speaker with campaign experience to share stories and answer questions, making the process more relatable and less intimidating. 

Additionally, you can use games, quizzes, and interactive activities to make learning about capital campaigns engaging and fun. For example, to make a general campaign training interactive, you might create a “Campaign Quiz” that highlights key campaign concepts and then invite group discussion of each question. Small groups of board members can be assigned questions to discuss and then they can present their answers to the larger group. Tools like that can make this learning engaging and active. 


3. Try this simple and effective exercise to identify board roles in a campaign. 

In your training plan, you should develop an exercise to get board members to explore the roles they might choose to play in the campaign. You can use a portion of a board meeting for an exercise like this, or you can include it in a separate training.

Start by introducing the steps in the fundraising cycle: 

  • Identify prospects.
  • Educate and cultivate.
  • Ask for gifts.
  • Thank and recognize donors.
  • Involve donors more deeply.


Use a flip chart page for each of these topics, putting one heading on each page. Post them on a wall so they are easy to reach. 

In small groups, get people to brainstorm the things they might do to offer support in each area. Then add those activities to the appropriate flip chart page. Once all the pages have been filled out, ask each board member to put their name next to the activities they would be willing to help with. The staff will then create a list for each board member of the ways they have agreed to help. Be sure to let board members know that not every board member must ask for gifts, but every board member should help in ways they are best suited to in order to support the campaign.

This training activity is easy to do and very effective. Your board members will learn that asking is only a small part of the fundraising process and that whether or not they are comfortable as askers, they will all have important roles to play.


4. Train your board members to ask for gifts. 

Some of your board members will be active solicitors. And you should make sure they are trained to do a great job. Equip them with the skills they need to ask for gifts in a way that’s respectful and effective. You will find several models for training people to ask for gifts. 

As with many things in life, the more people practice, the better they get. So, we believe that you should provide opportunities for your board members to practice as much as possible. Often, early asks made of people who are friendly to your organization can be considered practice! Simply let the donor know that you are still practicing and would like feedback after the solicitation is done.  

Casting the early solicitations as practice creates a safe space to try it out and receive feedback. Encourage board members to share their apprehensions and experiences, creating a supportive learning environment.


5. Teach them how to use technology and social media. 

With the rise of virtual meetings and digital platforms, board members should be comfortable using technology to engage with donors and promote the campaign. Offer training sessions on leveraging social media, managing virtual donor meetings, and using donor management systems effectively.


6. Schedule lots of trainings. 

Instead of one-off training sessions, integrate short, regular training segments into your existing board meetings. This approach keeps the campaign top of mind, allows for ongoing learning, and provides opportunities to address questions and challenges as they arise. This method can also help maintain momentum and ensure board members are up to date on campaign progress and strategies.

Trainings work best when the concepts learned are used in short order. So, rather than having one long training weeks or months before your campaign and assuming that’s all you need, your training process will be more effective if you plan lots of short trainings on concepts that board members will need immediately.

For example, in the planning phase of your campaign, you will work on developing a case for support. This will be a great time to design a special exercise at a board meeting on why board members care. 

Ask every board member to take a few minutes and write down five reasons they think the upcoming campaign is important, focusing on the impact of what the campaign will make possible. When everyone has finished writing, ask each person to share one of the items they wrote down. Go around the table until all the ideas have been captured. Capture the items on a flipchart.  

Once all the items are captured on one flip chart page, ask the group to decide which three items on the list are the most important. Those items are likely the key elements in your case for support. And this exercise will help board members internalize why the campaign matters to them. This exercise can easily be adapted for a virtual meeting using the whiteboard function in Zoom. 

You can devise simple participatory exercises like this to conduct at board meetings during other phases of the campaign as well. 


Board training for a capital campaign is not just about transferring knowledge; it’s about engaging and empowering your board members to take active, meaningful roles in the campaign. By making training participatory, fun, and ongoing, you lay the groundwork for a successful capital campaign driven by a committed, enthusiastic board. Remember, a well-prepared board is your campaign’s best asset.


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