Finding The Right Fundraising Campaign Chair


A lot is required to execute a successful campaign and meet a fundraising goal, but one of the most important ingredients is having the right campaign chair. Campaigns succeed (or fail) based primarily on the strength of their leadership, so having the correct type of leader is critical.


Some would argue it’s one of the most observed, least understood subjects. A book search of the word leadership on will result in over 80,000 entries, which may come down to the fact that leadership is not easily understood or defined. Leadership can mean different things to different people, and all efforts by scholars and leadership practitioners to date have yet to yield a universally accepted definition. Further, leadership is not management. There is no such word as “manageship,” and this blog is not an attempt to make it a neologism. Rather, there is manager, management, or manage.  Conversely, there is no such word as “leaderment.” Rather, there is leader, leadership, or lead.


Two major types of leadership are: transactional and transformational. The former is classified in literature as a style with a narrow focus on the specific tasks carried out in an organisation. Transactional leadership is the action of a leader to motivate a follower by providing a reward for expected performance. Leaders of this type provide a direct guidance approach to subordinates in the connection of daily actions to job rewards. The transactional leader is concerned with work standards, who is doing what, and, again, connects the specific task to a specific goal. 


Transformational leaders, on the other hand, think holistically and concern themselves not only with short-term issues, but long-term ones as well. To further buttress the transformational leadership type, the transformational leader is deeming to have characteristics not exhibited by the transactional leader. The transformational leader displays charisma, inspirational leadership, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration.  The charismatic leader articulates the vision and mission of the organization and is a strong influence. Followers flock to the charismatic leader who can instil pride and command respect.

The inspirational leader has the ability to have followers reach stretch goals and to achieve more than they themselves thought capable. The intellectual stimulation component pushes followers to think beyond the current or old way of doing things, valuing the opinions of others regardless of title or position. It entails mentoring and coaching on an individual level.  The objective in all this for the transformational leader rests in the ingredient at the apex of the transformational model – the leader’s relentless pursuit of change.


We often hear of the transformational gift to an organisation. The gift that will literally transform the organisation given its size and the resources it will bring. Many campaigns are meant to be transformational. They are bold, they inspire, they seek unprecedented new heights of giving to an organisation — campaigns allow an organisation to transform. Given the objective of an organisation’s campaign, it is important that campaign leadership (i.e. the campaign chair) is the type of leader who will inspire:
Staff (a sense of pride is felt by staff members knowing they are working to support the campaign chair),

  • Volunteers (volunteers rally around their volunteer leader),
  • Donors and potential donors (there is respect for the financial commitment the campaign chair has made to the campaign), and
  • Community leadership (respect the organisation’s campaign objectives because the campaign leadership is respected in the community.

In fact, other organisations may have a sense of envy that such a well-respected member of the community is leading the organisation’s fundraising campaign.
It is important for the campaign chair to lean towards a transformational type of leader and not a transactional leader. Transformational type leaders are not hard to spot, but it is important to do your due diligence so you are getting a transformational leader with some humility as the leader with an over-inflated ego can be very difficult to work with. Further, a transformational leader type will be sincere in accepting the role of campaign chair regarding their commitment to achieving results, but not for purposes of inflating a CV.  Serving as campaign chair is hard work and requires a commitment of seeing things through, especially during those times when a campaign is struggling to get over the last hump before the downhill slide to the campaign’s goal.


In identifying transformational leaders to chair a campaign, the individual would:

  • Be of high reputation in local, regional, or national communities,
  • Be a person of confidence, charisma, and excellent interpersonal skills,
  • Be a strategic thinker with the ability to implement plans and follow through with them,
  • Have experience in setting and achieving goals and accomplishing them within set time frames, and
  • Lead by example with their personal gift and level of involvement.


Finally, in selecting a campaign chair, transparency upfront in the recruitment process is paramount. The campaign chair should fully understand what they’re being asked to do. The campaign chair would be expected to:

  • Make a leadership contribution,
  • Assist with recruiting and soliciting volunteer campaign committee members,
  • Take a supported lead in asking and stewarding the top campaign prospects, and
  • Act as a public spokesperson for the campaign.

Therefore, the person must have the interest, desire, and time for the task. In other words, securing a campaign chair who looks great on paper and ticks all the boxes of community awareness (etc.), but doesn’t commit the time or a gift would signal a rather disingenuous campaign. There are processes to help with securing the right campaign chair, and AskRIGHT can help.