Elevate Philanthropy ™
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Building a High-Performing Campaign Team

Perhaps your organization has just completed a strategic planning process. You have the vision, the goals, the KPIs, and the OKRs to take your nonprofit to the next level in serving the needs of your constituents. Now you need the resources to make the vision a reality, and the Board has turned to you to make it happen.

A Chief Development Officer must be a skilled fundraiser, but in many instances, they are also called upon to be the campaign quarterback, rallying the team behind the goals and coordinating everyone’s efforts with precision.

Embarking on a campaign is a natural opportunity to assess your current team and advocate for resources, realign responsibilities or make strategic hires, and build team cohesion so that everyone can play their part effectively.

Use campaign goals to assess staffing needs

Use your goals and benchmarks to determine the right hires for your team.

For example, consider these possible scenarios:

Goal Key Questions Staffing Considerations
Increase annual fundraising revenue by XX% Can we increase the average gift size of existing annual fund donors? Adding annual fund officers
Can we scale fundraising communications to increase first-time annual fund donors? Adding mar/comm positions
Double first-time major gift donors Does our pipeline have the capacity to support this growth? Adding prospect researchers
Do we have a significant number of potential donors whose inclination and interest need to be qualified? Adding major gift/discovery officers
Do we have the capacity to steward these first-time donors? Adding mar/comm, stewardship, or advancement services positions
Diversify individual donor demographics Can we staff regional events or tap volunteers to host? Adding event staff

Adding volunteer management positions

Do our giving circles appeal to donors of different age groups? Adding leadership gift officers

Adding stewardship positions


Keep in mind that additional staffing alone won’t be sufficient to helping you achieve your goals. Your data entry, reporting, and communication processes all need to be able to scale with the increased fundraising activity.

Conducting these self-assessments can be challenging. A third-party development assessment can provide objective recommendations to help you better understand the gaps in your staffing structure in preparation for the campaign.

Realign tasks and responsibilities

Often there is an assumption that an organization will have to “staff up” and increase the number of FTEs in the development office to support increased fundraising during a campaign. This may turn out to be true, but evaluating how existing staff members are spending their time will also help determine if they are focused on the right types of activities.

  • Are things like event planning, donor research, or volunteer management preventing your major gift officers from getting in front of prospects for meetings?
  • Are you or members of your team asked to participate in too many institutional committees or initiatives that aren’t directly supporting fundraising?

Knowing how you can realign tasks and responsibilities to maximize focus will give you a clearer picture of the needs you have and the resourcing you will need to advocate for. In some instances, interim staffing can help bridge the gap between meeting immediate needs and building a high-performing campaign team.

Also consider how volunteers can augment the work of a development team during the campaign. Volunteers can also do something paid staff cannot – send a powerful signal to other potential donors about supporting the organization. Determine your strategy for leveraging your volunteers and how this will influence staffing needs.

  • Do you have active and engaged Board members who are willing to participate in donor cultivation and solicitation meetings?
  • Will volunteers host campaign receptions?

Hire and retain high performers

Through the assessment process, you may uncover areas of strength or weakness that need to be addressed before significant campaign progress can be made. Early in the campaign planning timeline is a great time to make strategic hires, as hiring can take up to six months, especially for senior-level fundraising professionals.

Demand for skilled, experienced fundraisers is high, so it can also be worth considering candidates with transferrable skills who are outside the industry. Research shows that mission alignment and passion for the cause you serve is important in the hiring process, but it isn’t sufficient to drive retention. Instead, job satisfaction and alignment with skills and competencies, along with a competitive salary and benefits, are key to attracting and retaining high-performing team members.

And, just like retaining donors is more cost-effective than acquiring new ones, retaining staff over the course of the campaign is most cost-effective for the organization in the long term. Still, 84% of nonprofits surveyed in a recent study don’t have a formal talent strategy. Use the campaign planning process to create a staffing retention plan for your development team.

Build cohesion and develop your team

Outside of dollars raised, what are the other key goals of your campaign? Well-executed campaigns not only raise funds, but also advance a culture of philanthropy where giving is celebrated and donors are strategic partners in advancing the mission.

Creating a culture of philanthropy starts with your development staff. Every member of the team should understand how they play a role in campaign success and, ultimately, what campaign success means for the future of the organization. It’s natural to celebrate development officers or volunteers who secure big gifts, but it’s just as important for non-frontline staff to see themselves and their work as critical to the achievements and milestones of the campaign.

Create time for all of your staff to hear from and understand the constituents your organization is serving. Host town halls where all members of the staff can learn about the campaign priorities and understand how they advance the mission and support the vision of the organization.

Think about the key performance indicators that you will track in order to achieve the goals of your campaign and how they translate to individual members of your team. Clearly communicated performance evaluation processes, metrics, and goals for staff will help you coach and develop talent from within the organization and prevent turnover. For major gift officers, incorporate goals beyond just total dollars raised and set metrics based on portfolio composition. Develop talent from within by providing mentorship and professional development opportunities throughout the course of the campaign.

Wrapping up

By thoughtfully building your campaign team, you will position your organization for success and lay the foundation for continued growth. Philanthropy is a people-centric profession; indeed, philanthropy means goodwill to the human race. As such, nonprofit fundraising leaders must recognize that their people are one of the pillars of campaign success and invest time and resources accordingly.