Campaign Leadership Starts with the Board, not with “Others”

| by Bert Armstrong

Last week, Urban Ministries of Wake County announced the pending retirement of its beloved long-time Executive Director, Anne Burk, and welcomed Dr. Peter Morris to the helm as the new leader of this nonprofit ministry in Wake County.  Armstrong McGuire was honored to conduct the search and provide support during a very important transition.

Urban Ministries was our firm’s first capital campaign client.  I will never forget the first “prospecting session” with members of the board of directors and their collective statements to us that “we are not a fundraising board; we can’t give a lot of money; and we don’t know anyone with money.”

It’s a refrain we have often heard over the past nine years in working with nonprofit board members who think they must count on others to lead their campaigns, make the big asks, and give the big gifts.  Our response has always been that without philanthropic leadership from the board, there will be no “others” interested in participating in their campaign.

The first and most important campaign gifts come from board members and others who know the organization best.  Their gifts may not always be the biggest and their sphere of influence may not be with the most affluent philanthropists, but their leadership makes an important statement to the “others” who need assurance that contributions they might consider will be stewarded by people who are deeply invested in the success of the organization.

Board members at Urban Ministries deserve a lot of credit.  As their campaign progressed, members stepped forward to give great leadership, making philanthropic investments that demonstrated their commitment to the ministry.  Because they led, many others joined in and the campaign exceeded its original goal.  Because they stretched their giving and believed passionately in the vision of a better community, their Open Door Clinic, food pantry and service center are vital parts of the safety net Wake County has established for the homeless and disadvantaged among us.

Hats off to the great leaders who have served Urban Ministries through the years.  And hats off to every board member who believes strongly enough in their organization to demonstrate philanthropic leadership at whatever level they are able.  Join the conversation and tell us about a board you know that is leading by example.

Bert Armstrong is a co-founder and principal of Armstrong McGuire & Associates. 


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