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Tips & Guides

How to Recruit (and Retain) Team Captains

Behind every great peer-to-peer campaign are the team captains that make it a success. Follow these four steps to identify and cultivate strong relationships with new team captains and grow your fundraising impact.

Team captains are your campaign’s most valuable champions. While they may be a smaller percentage of your fundraising participants, their influence is immeasurable. Sure, when you look at the numbers, the benefit of having teams on a P2P campaign is crystal clear:

  • Teams raise upwards of 80% of donation revenue on P2P campaigns
  • On your average walk campaign, teams are responsible for 93 cents of every dollar raised (Blackbaud 2019)

But team captains? Not only are they working their magic on those donations, but they’re becoming your organization’s biggest advocates. The team member they inspired to join two years ago? Look at them now, captaining their own team. Your organization has a new recurring donor? Guess who first introduced them to your work.

Your team captains create a ripple effect. And while statistics may not capture the power of what your team captains can do, your campaign can harness it. Read on for four steps to help you begin cultivating strong, meaningful relationships with new team captains that will keep them returning, year after year.

Step 1: Identify potential leaders

The first step in recruiting team captains is to take stock of who is already in your corner. The likelihood of recruiting someone off the street with zero connection to your organization is slim. So be smart about it–your time is precious. Instead of cold calling, cultivate the relationships you have.

Let’s take a look at who they might be:

Previous participants

If you’ve held this event before, you likely have some stellar team captains on your list. That’s great! They should be among your first to recruit. But don’t forget to look beyond those with the "captain" title – take time to identify some of your most engaged and high-performing participants. Who was posting those enthusiastic updates or recruiting the most donors? Who joined the event with clear passion and purpose? Look beyond the dollars raised to see who was bringing the good vibes. Add them to your list.


Next up, assess your organization’s volunteers. These are people you know are willing to share their time and effort with you–because they’ve done it before! This is a great audience to target for general recruitment, but first, see if you can identify those folks who have been volunteering consistently, going above and beyond, or who may have a special connection to the organization. Add their names to the list.

Board members

Then, look to your board members. You know they already value your organization’s mission and have a commitment to share their time. Who are the most engaged among them? The most tech-savvy? The most prepared to share a meaningful call to action with their network? Don’t underestimate their reach–and add them too!

Targeting these audiences should help you build a strong list of potential team captains, but don’t stop there! Ask your fellow staff members to consider:

  • Is there someone who is a direct beneficiary of your organization's services that may want to get involved?
  • Is there a close friend or family member impacted by your organization?
  • Are they aware of an enthusiastic donor that might be looking to grow their impact?

Your colleagues can help you identify team captains in unexpected places. Maybe your communications team sees the same person liking, sharing, and commenting on your organization’s social feed–that’s a relationship within your circle, even if you haven’t cultivated it yet.

Step 2: Personalize your ask

Now you’ve got a list of names–that’s great! Your next step is probably one of the most important, because how you approach your future team captains should come with a personal touch. Time may be of the essence, but a generic BCC email will only get you so far.

Know your audience

Look at your list. Do you recognize all the names? You might not, and that’s okay. Identify which staff member at your organization knows each person best and work with them to prepare a personalized message. When you reach out to these individuals–whether by phone, email, or in-person for that really special ask–think about how you’ll speak to their “why.” What do you know about them that’s brought them to your organization? What is it that drives their connection to your cause?

Lead with appreciation

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to making your ask; what matters most is that the person you’re approaching feels like they aren’t just a name on a list. Whether you’re reaching out to a former team captain or a new recruit, acknowledge what they’ve already done for your organization. Let them know you recognize their leadership and passion, that you see them as one of your organization's MVPs. Your confidence in them speaks volumes.

Step 3: Pave their way with useful resources

You’re asking your future team captains to be taking on a commitment that will require some time, effort, and leadership on their part. Be cognizant of this–it’s your role to do everything you can to make it easy for them to participate. Start by getting them onboarded early so you can share resources that will have them feeling prepared to recruit.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Clearly communicate the campaign’s goals and outline expectations for team captains - and be sure to share important dates or deadlines!
  • Hold a virtual or in-person kickoff meeting to welcome them to campaign, guide them through registration, and allow captains to connect and learn from each other.
  • Provide them with tools and templates that make their job easier, such as recruitment messages they can modify or a fundraising toolkit they can share with their team members.

Most importantly, you should have a game plan in place for how you’ll keep in touch with your team captains. Consider designating a point person who will regularly check-in with team captains and be a reliable and easy-to-reach point of contact during the campaign.

Pro tip: Your campaign’s Messages center can help you easily stay in touch with your team captains to share resources. Save yourself some time by drafting messages in advance or use some of our built-in content templates to guide you.

Step 4: Express gratitude, in more ways than one

We know you care about stewarding your donors, but don’t forget to steward your fundraisers too! A peer-to-peer campaign’s success can hinge on the leadership of its team captains, so be attentive to their needs throughout the campaign and thank them–sincerely!

What does that look like? It looks like acknowledging their hard work:

  • Did they successfully register and customize their page with a personal message and photo? Shoot them a quick email to tell them it looks great, and thank them again for setting a good example.
  • Did they recruit a new team member this year? Congratulate them on expanding their team and let them know you’re there as a resource to help orient new recruits.
  • Do they have feedback to share about the event? They see a side of the campaign that you don’t, so thank them for sharing and listen carefully to what they have to suggest.
  • When the campaign wraps up, consider sending a handwritten note or personal email to each team captain that recognizes their unique contribution. Maybe you highlight some of the long-standing team captains on social media and give their teams a shout-out for surpassing their goals.

You’re not out to smother your team captains with mindless thank-yous. Be genuine, be thoughtful, and be attentive to their personal communication style. Not everyone wants a spotlight, but you should make sure your team captains should feel seen and appreciated, every step of the way. It's what will keep them coming back year after year.

Relationship building is worth the effort

Recruiting team captains takes time, but it’s time well spent that will have its own ripple effect beyond the boundaries of your campaign.

Cultivating relationships with this thoughtful approach allows you to gain the trust and respect of your organization’s most engaged supporters. They’ll feel like they are “in the game” with you and making a difference – because they truly are!

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Published on March 20, 2023

by Caitlyn Schuchhardt

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