Law of Lateral Recruitment

March 2, 2012



Written By: Bruce

By Bruce Berglund

One of the key things that we look at when doing a feasibility study for a capital campaign is the strength of the board.  One of the ways we measure that strength is by analyzing the board’s ability to “give and get.”

While it’s critical that an organization heading into a capital campaign has a team of volunteers ready to ask, it’s also important that those volunteers have access to ask for major gifts.

Why can’t anyone ask for a six- or seven-figure gift?

Well, anyone can in theory, but the Law of Lateral Recruitment means that usually, people only ask people of their same or similar socio-economic level, or people who are their peers in some other way.


It’s rare that a vice principal at an elementary school will ask CEOs from Fortune 500 companies to donate… unless they all attend the same church or have kids who play together.  A middle-class, stay-at-home mom probably won’t recruit a major donor either… unless she has some other relationship to that donor.  People generally don’t ask above their own socio-economic level unless they have a separate strong connection.

With that being the case, you need a variety of volunteers with varying connections in the community in order to get your message out to as many people as possible during your capital campaign.

If you’re thinking about a capital campaign, or wondering why your campaign isn’t moving as fast as you’d like, take a hard look at your board and volunteers.  Knowing they’re unlikely to “ask up,” who do you need to recruit to your board?


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