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How to Champion Your Capital Campaign

How to Champion Your Capital Campaign

Looking to start a campaign. These trends in economy and culture are modifying effective strategies.

Successful capital campaigns are the foundation of funding church facilities. And while many elements of the process have remained constant over the years, others have evolved to keep up with the changes in the economy and in the ways in which people worship. 

For example, with the frequency of church attendance declining over the years, spreading the campaign message from the pulpit during main weekly services, over a period of several weeks, takes on a more important role, according Lamar Slay, president of Partners in Church Consulting, a Southlake, Texas-based capital campaign, strategic planning and marketing consultant for churches.

With twice or three-times-monthly attendance (as opposed to weekly) more common these days, "you really have to say things two or three Sundays in a row in order to make sure the entire church hears your message," Slay says. 

Of course, the pulpit is not the only medium through which to communicate about your campaign. With advances in electronic and digital media technology, people have come to expect more in the way of visual presentationsincluding 3 dimensional models via computer and detailed graphic representations of the building they are being asked to help fund.

At the same time, avoid the temptation to get too bogged down in the nuts-and-bolts of facilities, Slay advises.

"Pastors have to teach their people that a campaign is not about a building it is about vision," Slay says, adding, "They have to realize that a building only exists to help accomplish the vision God has given. If it weren't for vision, there would be no need for the building."

Along the same lines, "People will donate to a need, but they will sacrifice to a vision," says Dr. Robert Hallett, founder and president of TLC Ministries Inc., a capital campaign consultant based in New Castle, Indiana. "If you don't have vision, you are just treading water."

Small-Group Vision-Sharing
Lifegate Church, a 3,000-plus-member church in Omaha, Nebraska, recently conducted a two-year campaign to raise approximately $4 million to pay off a mortgage loan and undertake a complete renovation of a building about ten miles away for a new satellite campus, Lifegate Pavilion.

Working with Slay as a consultant, the campaign was successful in several ways.  In addition to hitting about 90 percent of its goal, the campaign also resulted in a 13 percent increase in unrestricted giving in the year immediately following kickoff, according to Jim Deese, Lifegate's executive pastor for administration.

"People in the capital campaign world say that regular giving will typically increase when you begin a campaign," says Deese. He attributes much of this phenomenon to the excitement that accompanies the kickoff of a campaign, as well as the way it focuses the attention of a congregation on vision for their church.

Deese recommends using a consultant in implementing capital campaigns and notes that it is important to focus on finding one sensitive to the culture of your church and its leadership team.

For this campaign, Slay and Lifegate leadership decided against bringing in a big-name speaker and kicking the campaign off with a large, high-energy rally. They opted instead for a series of "dessert nights," where Senior Pastor Les Beauchamp and other church leaders, on a nearly nightly basis over a three-week period, joined groups of congregation members at individual homes for an evening of coffee, treats and vision sharing.

Role of the Pastor
"Different things work for different churches," notes Deese. This low-key, small-group approach was especially effective in a large church such as Lifegate, he notes, where oftentimes many members of the congregation don't get to know the senior pastor personally.

"Ultimately, of course, the Lord was the major factor" behind the success of Lifegate's capital campaign, adds Deese. "But there were also some things we were responsible for that helped set it up to go well."

Meanwhile, inspiration generated through the example set by a lead pastor has been instrumental in a successful $4.2 million campaign at Northplace Church in Sachse, Texas. The campaign was focused on construction of a new building to accommodate the 2,000-person-and growing congregation.

Lead Pastor Bryan Jarrett's long history of giving has included donating a year's salary to a capital campaign when he was pastor at another church.

"[Jarrett] has always been the one to step up and make a very sacrificial gift in every campaign," says Slay, who also served as consultant to the Northplace campaign. "He has taught their people stewardship by personal example, as well as from the pulpit."

"Bryan leads by example, and he understands that he must be willing to make sacrifices in his own life if he is going to ask those in the congregation to do the same," says Administrative Pastor Shane Gore.

"And when you have a leader setting the pace like that," Gore adds, "you are guaranteed success in a campaign, because people follow that kind of leadership."

Lending Connections
From the perspective of the financing community, "We’ve seen a number of churches go to one- or two-year comprehensive campaigns, where members will pledge a fixed amount that theoretically entails contributions for both the general fund and a building fund," reports Scott Rolfs, managing director and group head of the Investment Banking/Religion and Education unit for Milwaukee-based Zeigler.

The idea behind these campaigns is that they are shorter in duration, he notes, "and thus, in an uncertain economy, they provide some comfort for people who are not confident when it comes to pledging income two to three years out."

With your capital campaign, you're putting together the equity portion of the funding for your project. But what's the market like when it comes to borrowing some money for the balance?

The environment for church loans is very good for well-thought-out projects, according to Rolfs.

The lending market has come back from the days of the Great Recession, he notes, "But what hasn’t returned is a willingness by lenders to fund deals on faith' or on a build it and they will come' basis, as some were doing during the credit bubble from 2004 through 2008". 

"Churches need to have a track record of success with their capital campaigns before being able to secure funding," he adds.

Those capital campaigns do indeed play large roles in getting loans, according to Dan Mikes, executive vice president/division manager of the Religious Institution Banking division.

"Launching a capital pledge campaign prior to borrowing is important, because most churches do not have a recent history of excess cash flow at a level sufficient to service the debt they are requesting," Mikes says.

Mikes says that a capital campaign provides evidence that a ministry has the ability to boost cash flow to meet the debt burden that goes with a loan. At the same time, "An up-and-running campaign also suggests that some portion of the requested debt will be pre-paid within the next couple of years." 



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