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Notes from the Capital Campaign Trail

Notes from the Capital Campaign Trail

Pros and cons of hiring a consultant vs. going it alone

Worship facilities construction is big business these days. With the growth of congregations far and near comes the need to constantly build or build anew to accommodate thriving membership rosters and ministries.

Sometimes, pastors relate how they offered the fundraising task up to God in prayer and the money just came. Other times, they relate how maybe God wanted his people to work in tandem in an ongoing effort until they realized the money.

But either way, there is a definite choice to be made: to hire an outside fundraising company to consult on the money-seeking task or to internally construct a stewardship pledge for funds.

According to those intimately familiar with the capital campaign business, it’s not always a bad idea to go it alone, yet it’s important to know when to ask for help.

Talking from the Stump
Pastor Mike Ashcraft with Port City Community Church in Wilmington, North Carolina reports that his church ran its own capital campaign for its most recent project. In May 2008, Port City will finalize a 90,000- square-foot facility with a 1,500-seat auditorium, a 25,000- square-foot children’s and youth ministry wing, a coffee bar, a large gathering area, and two floors of administrative offices. So far, Ashcraft reports that his church is 64% through the capital campaign with 75% of its monies collected.

Port City undertook a capital campaign with a fundraising company two years prior to starting is own internal campaign, and he describes the advantage his church realized in going it alone the second time. “With our own campaign we weren’t so scripted. It’s coming from the heart,” he says.

Ashcraft advises other church staff considering going it alone to first know the culture and personality of their church, much like financial advisors must learn about the financial personalities of new clients. “Is [your culture and personality] financially conservative or risky? What’s the pain threshold?” he asks. “We have a high tolerance.”

From Port City’s perspective, Ashcraft says it’s also important to understand your motives and your goals. “We based our campaign on what we believed God was leading us to do and not necessarily a number based on our budget,” he shares. “We weren’t as much concerned with a successful campaign as we were with trying to help people understand God’s provision and learn to live generously. The amount of money was simply a result of achieving the goal and not the goal itself.”

So how did Port City craft its effective go it alone campaign? They created a “Next Steps” theme that is series branded. “We do branding as a church culture, we have lots of seekers, and we stress accountability in our small groupsthe idea that ‘living generously helps them in their walk,’” he explains.

Another pastor, Randy Butler with Salem Evangelical Church in Salem, Oregon, reports that he initially liked the idea of doing a capital campaign solo for the bonding between himself and the people of Salem Evangelical. Yet when his church tried to go it alone, he says they toiled for some time without ever breaking ground on the building project.

Salem Evangelical’s new facilities include a 20,000-square-foot sanctuary with classrooms and another 8,000 square feet of offices.

“We raised approximately $300,000 alone and another $800,000 with [Atlanta, Georgia-based] Generis,” Butler reports. In his experience, he found the tools the professional fundraiser brought to the table to be invaluable.

“They brought resources and were a neutral party. They constructed a simple presentation that combined logic and emotion,” Butler adds.

Professionally Crafted Campaigns
To find out how professional capital campaign companies help get the job done, Worship Facilities took a look at Dallas, Texas-based RSI Church Stewardship Group and Atlanta, Georgia-based Generis Partners Inc. Both companies provide stewardship and fundraising counsel to faith-based organizations.

RSI President Doug Turner states the major elements of any successful capital campaign: “A capital stewardship campaign needs the following: a clear and compelling vision; strong, respected, and committed leaders; the right timing; [and] effective, wide-reaching communication.”

John Weinstein, stewardship strategist with Generis, says it’s important to craft a campaign that’s one with the church. “A campaign that fits the church is the result of a committed, competent, and listening consultant,” he notes.

According to Turner, there are some major advantages to seeking out professional stewardship counsel. “Your pastoral staff is fully occupied, right now, without a capital campaign,” he says. And he also says that professional counsel can match the gifts and talents of staff to campaign activities, thereby maximizing participants’ efforts.

Weinstein describes the benefits of an outside partner who will come in and team up with a church: “The objective experience and proven expertise of a fundraising professional who shares the church’s desire to grow the church body, and not just build the church building, adds [significant] focus on mission and ministry that clarifies the stewardship and fundraising goals.”

Professional consultants can also provide a buffer. “Counsel brings discipline and a layer of protection to your senior pastor, delivering hard messages to volunteers and leaders,” Turner contends. “Counsel will protect volunteers, using their time and energy efficiently and only when needed.”

Another big plus to having some help is that outside counsel is objective. “The campaign will be on a predetermined timeline, concluding in a celebration,” Turner reports.

Getting it right the first time can be important, too. According to Turner, the greatest hurdle to a successful capital campaign is a failed capital campaign. “The perceived inability to garner capital support for ministry is like a scar that is slow to heal,” he posits, stating that professional counsel has the ability to help shape a campaign for success even before it begins.

Weinstein too believes that churches can invest in success with professionals. “Don Linscott, one of the most experienced and successful church consultants in our field, has said, ‘The most expensive money is the money you do not raise.’”

On the bright side, Turner believes that every capital campaign can be successful with the right ingredients. “Capital campaigns do not need gimmicks or pressure,” he says. “In my experience, the power of prayer is far more powerful than the use of any gimmick.”

To sum up, here are the predominant words of wisdom from both camps. Effective capital campaigns begin with well-crafted themes free of pressure and gimmicks and fortified by plenty of prayer.

While snake oil may work on the political trail, it’s not necessary for campaigns to build God’s facilities.

“Let God do the work,” as Ashcraft states, and the final tally will most definitely suffice.

Calvary Chapel
(954) 977-9673 www.calvaryftl.org

Generis Partners Inc.
Stewardship & fundraising counsel
(800) 233-0561 www.generis.com

Port City Community Church
(910) 796-0355 www.portcitychurch.org

RSI Church Stewardship Group
Fundraising consulting/partnership for faith-based organizations
(800) 527-6824 www.rsichurch.viscern.com

Salem Evangelical Church
(503) 581-0102 www.salemec.com

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