A well-run capital campaign is an essential part of putting together the funds necessary to get a building off the ground in an efficient and cost-effective manner. And while there may be a difference or two in the way various individuals approach running them, the basics of the church capital campaign—a pastoral vision effectively communicated to all members of the church, a clear mission statement, making a convincing case, calling the congregation to action, effective follow-up—remain largely the same.
During the Great Recession, a number of parishioners grew much more conservative when it came to how much they would pledge to any kind of project, slowing down the pace of capital campaigns in the church community.
But in this post-recession era, “With the economy showing some signs of improvement, some churches are venturing back into physical plant expansion mode, and some traditional three-year capital pledge campaigns are being orchestrated,” reports Dan Mikes, executive vice president and manager of Religious Institution Banking for San Ramon, Calif.-based Bank of the West.
Activity is picking up for some niche players in the church fundraising business.
“Churches have the same wants, but seem to be aggressively searching for help, more glad to have found us,” says Catalyst Faithworks Founder Stephen Lee in Kennesaw, Ga. The company specializes in providing templates and printed materials for fundraising campaigns by churches, non-profit ministries and Christian schools, both in conjunction with consultants and working directly with church leadership.
At the same time, “It seems like more fundraisers are focusing on offering one-year programs to enhance general giving and retire debt,” Mikes reports.
A professionally orchestrated church capital campaign utilizing consultants remains the most attractive mode of fundraising to members of the lending community, he notes.
“The outcome of a professionally run campaign has historically been more predictable, with receipts averaging around 90% of pledges,” Mikes says. “Lenders know that an internally orchestrated campaign can be [carried out] in any number of ways. Consequently, the results are much less predictable.”
Getting off the ground
Building credibility is the most important component of today’s church capital campaign, according to Dr. Robert S. Hallett, founder and president of TLC Ministries Inc., a New Castle, Ind.-based church fundraising/capital campaign consultant.
Hallett reports that TLC has not followed current trends of trying to “go virtual,” where campaign consultants rely on utilizing technology such as webcasts, webinars, and Skype as a means of being “on-site” at churches. Neither does it place an undue emphasis on promotional materials, nor have its consultants play the role of “coaching from the shadows.”
“Those are significant trends these days—but we don’t do them,” Hallett says.
“Virtual” campaigns, as well as “coach-in-the-shadows” campaigns, “assume that the only function the consultant is fulfilling is administrative,” says Hallett. “And when you go with promotional materials, you have to remember that they are merely a secondary means of communicating.”
The best-run church capital campaigns are those “that have someone up front leading,” Hallett says. “Because when you go to raise money, credibility is king—and the way to have credibility is to have a visible leader working within the format of the normal church structure, and under the oversight of the senior pastor.”
One of TLC’s clients is Delphi United Methodist Church (UMC), a 500-plus-member church with an average attendance of 370, located in Delphi, Ind. They began a capital campaign for a new church facility in Oct. 2009, with final commitments made in March 2010.
The campaign raised just shy of $2 million—four times its annual income—according to Senior Pastor Todd Ladd. The church relocated from a downtown Delphi location to a site outside of town, due to a growing congregation, handicap accessibility issues, and a new, four-lane roadway underway near its new site, Ladd reports, which will give the church more visibility.
This was Ladd’s first capital campaign. He is a believer in using consultants in church capital campaigns, depending upon the size of the campaign and the church’s annual income. “A campaign rests on the senior pastor, but it involves many more people to be successful,” he says. During a church capital campaign effort, “A consultant really becomes a short-term staff person who provides a road map to raising the needed capital to move the kingdom forward.”
A partnership with a good consultant can be an essential element to maximizing fundraising efforts, Ladd continues. “But the trick is you need the right consultant for your church, for you as the senior pastor, and for the project you want to complete,” he says.
However, if a church only needs to raise an amount less than or equal to its annual income to complete a project, hiring a consultant may not be the best use of its money, Ladd says. “But if you need to raise significant funds—unless you have done capital campaigns before and you have unlimited time—you will need a guide on this new path,” he advises.
Tread carefully in selecting the right consultant, Ladd continues, adding, “Involve your leadership team, and let them be a part of the decision-making process.”
What are some other tips on getting the best results from a capital campaign?
“Start with prayer, continue with prayer, and finish with prayer,” says Ladd. “Listen to and follow the consultant in all aspects of the campaign, from start to finish to following up. If you have a good capital campaign consultant you can trust, use their wisdom to the benefit of the kingdom.”