Staffing for a Capital Campaign: How to Prepare

Growing your fundraising staff for a capital campaign is the norm for most nonprofits.

After all, you’re planning a campaign to jolt your organization beyond its current capacity, a campaign that will raise 5 times (or more) the amount you raise through your annual fundraising. And keep in mind that these campaigns don’t occur frequently. 41% of surveyed nonprofits conducting campaigns haven’t done so in six or more years. For 24% of them, it’s been over a decade since their last campaign (2023 State of Capital Campaigns Benchmark Report).

So you might not be fully equipped in your current state to tackle a large, special campaign. A bigger fund development team is often necessary to help you make that stretch to your next level of impact and avoid making mistakes along the way.

If you’re considering or planning a capital campaign—what should you know about campaign staffing? Let’s take a look.

Hiring for a Capital Campaign: 6 Steps

Although only 7% of nonprofits report staffing as a key campaign challenge, selecting the right person will be important. The success of your campaign is important and you’ve got to get the right team in place.

To find the best candidates for the job and set your organization up for long-term success, you should take an organized approach. Follow these steps:

  1. Determine your needs. Take stock of your development team’s current state. Ask staff to track their activities and to-do lists over the course of a week. Use these insights to determine what realistically can/can’t get done and what an ideal workload looks like for each member of your team. Knowing that your development work will drastically intensify when the campaign is in full swing, estimate how much more you need to grow your team to meet those needs. This may be a good opportunity to reconsider current responsibilities and shift staff roles to make them more efficient and effective. Then, look carefully at what positions you might add. Some organizations add a campaign director or manager. Others find that they are well-staffed at the management level but that additional support staff will add greater efficiency.
  2. Determine your priorities. Take a close look at your insights from Step 1. What are the most important things that are or aren’t getting done? Can tasks be reshuffled to boost overall productivity? For example, would it make more sense to hire additional gift officers or a single fundraising coordinator who can take over those logistical tasks and free the rest of the team’s time for more fundraising? Every nonprofit’s staffing plan will vary, but campaigns give you the chance to improve the way you and your staff work.
  3. Secure buy-in early. If you are planning to increase your staff for the campaign, you will have to get approvals from your board and executive staff. If you are working with a campaign consultant, they can help put the staff increases in the context of other campaigns. The conversations about staffing should happen during the early phases of planning your campaign in order to build the expectation that the current development staff will not be able to carry out the campaign without increasing its capacity.
  4. Budget appropriately. As you secure buy-in for hiring, consider the campaign budget and how it fits into your larger campaign plan. Explain to leaders and the board that it is a common practice to fold hiring expenses into your overall campaign goal. The organization’s increased capacity following the budget’s projected timeframe (often 3-4 years) may be able to cover some or all of the new staff members in an expanded operating budget after the campaign is over.
  5. Create job descriptions. Develop descriptions for both new and adjusted roles. Clarify the expected duration of the role and any specific KPIs that team member performance will be measured with. Make sure everyone understands his or her responsibilities, particularly as they relate to the capital campaign. This step will help create a smooth and cooperative work flow, even during the busiest days of your campaign. Determine compensation and benefits details for any new positions, as well.
  6. Start promoting and interviewing. Finally, start promoting your open positions on the channels you’d typically use to recruit new team members.

Understanding this process ahead of time will allow you to develop a more thorough and realistic campaign plan and timeline. With a well-organized team of the right size, you’ll be equipped once the quiet phase of your campaign begins in earnest.

Whether you ultimately retain your entire campaign staff or not, your organization will be in a much stronger position to continue fundraising effectively in the future.

As you head into a campaign, remember that preparedness and organization are key. You need to foster a team that’s well-equipped to handle and learn from the campaign experience without being stretched too thin.


About the Author

Andrea Kihlstedt

Andrea Kihlstedt

Andrea is the author of Capital Campaigns: Strategies that Work, now in its 4th edition, as well as How to Raise $1 Million (or More) in 10 Bite Sized Steps, in addition to other books. Andrea has been leading successful capital campaigns for more than 30 years. To learn how Capital Campaign Pro can support you through a capital campaign, visit capitalcampaignpro.com.

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