Is Your Church or Faith Based Organization Ready for a Capital Campaign?
At sometime in the life of almost every church or faith-based organization, a capital campaign will become necessary. Proper planning and preparation are critical to the success of the campaign.
The key ingredients of any successful campaign are:
- A compelling case for support;
- Church Leadership fully committed to the campaign;
- Excellent volunteer leadership;
- A strong infrastructure;
- A pool of well-informed and qualified donors;
- A realistic goal;
The case for support is the basis for a capital campaign; it is your church’s story! The case tells your members who your church is, what you plan to build and why they should support this project. A compelling case must be made for the role of your church in the changing and saving of lives, the fact that you are a valued part of your community, and how supporting the church benefits the church and its members. The case includes the project budget, a scale of gifts needed to ensure success, and opportunities for donors to participate at various levels. The need for leadership gifts must be spelled out in the case. If you have never written a case for support, it is wise to seek counsel from a fundraising consultant or experienced professional who can help you draft your case. The case is first presented in a preliminary form during the planning study (more about this later) and then refined into a final case for support from which all your campaign materials including brochures, video or power point presentation, and other materials will be prepared.
The Church Leadership pastor(s), parish council, elders, board of directors or other leadership group—is the guiding force of the church! They give life to the church and guide its movement throughout the campaign. The role of the leadership cannot be stressed enough during the campaign. They will be the first ones asked to make a financial commitment to the campaign. Without 100% commitment of the leadership, it will be nearly impossible to gain support from the church members. The amount of the gift from each member in a leadership position is not as important as the fact that all have supported this campaign, and at a meaningful level for each leader. Church leaders will also be involved in serving on the campaign cabinet and soliciting donations from others, especially leadership level gifts whenever possible. The role of the senior pastor will be critical in casting the vision for the campaign at the congregation level, at small group information meetings and face-to-face with prospective lead and major gift prospects.
Campaign volunteers are the lifeblood of the campaign; each has a role to play and must be the best caliber person to play that role! You should never have just your leadership be the Campaign Cabinet. You will want to recruit about five or six church leaders to serve on the Cabinet, but it is important to recruit other church members to serve as well. The larger your Cabinet, the wider you can cast your net among church members. A typical Campaign Cabinet will have about twenty to twenty five people. Depending on the size of your congregation, dozens or even hundreds of volunteers will be involved in the campaign. It is critical to select the right person for each volunteer role. It is important to determine the divisions of your campaign first, prepare a position description for each chairperson, and then recruit the best person for the job. For example, you will generally have a Leadership Gifts Division, a Major Gifts Division, a Congregation Division, possibly an Organization Division (to contact clubs and groups within the church like Men’s Clubs, Altar Guilds, Sunday School classes, etc.), a Foundation Division (if your project is one that is eligible for foundation grants), a Business & Vendor Division, a Youth Division, and other committees that will not actively be soliciting donations but have a vital role to play—the Prayer Committee, PR Committee, and the Events Committee. It will be crucial to get volunteers in place that can give at the level at which they will be asking others to give, and to find the right people who will have the connections needed to reach the people in the division they are chairing.
Like the man who built his house upon a rock, a strong infrastructure is the foundation on which your campaign will be built. Included in the infrastructure are staffing,technology, a strong annual giving program and a history of serving your community. While the Leadership and Campaign Cabinet will be guiding the campaign, a staff person will be needed to support these volunteers. A reliable and well-maintained donor software system that can handle pledge payments, personalized letters and campaign reports must be in place. The donor software system will make it possible to identify lead and major gift prospects as well as recruit volunteers for the campaign. Of course, if you are known to be serving the community with ministries such as a food bank and providing community meeting rooms, it will be much easier to generate interest in and excitement about your campaign in the community outside your church.
A pool of qualified donors among your membership is critical. To develop a list of lead and major donor prospects for your campaign, it will be necessary to review the list of your members to determine current level of support. While this is a sensitive issue in most churches, it is important to remember that those who already support the church with significant annual contributions will be the most likely to support this project. If you have a good donor software system in place, you can easily pull a list of the top 10% of your donors to begin your prospect list. Also look at your loyal members, people who attend church and contribute on a regular basis, even if not at a leadership level. Often these people have never given large donations simply because they have not been asked to do so! Screening sessions (brainstorming with campaign leadership) may also help uncover potential lead and major donors as well as help you develop the best strategies to approach lead and major gift prospects.
A realistic goal is the last in our list of essential ingredients for a successful campaign. In most cases, a preliminary goal is established in the case for support and then tested through a planning (or feasibility) study. In a study, an outside firm will come in and first guide your church through an internal assessment to determine if all the essential ingredients are in place, and then do a congregational assessment of the membership's willingness to support this project and this goal. A planning study is almost always recommended before launching a capital campaign. No one wants to be like the man who ran out of money while building his tower and had all his neighbors laugh at him. You want to take the time to test your case for support, determine if there are sufficient qualified prospective donors, assess the congregation’s reactions to the campaign and the preliminary goal, as well as find out if there are church leaders and members willing to serve on the Campaign Cabinet. The Planning Study is a critical element in the campaign. If the results of the study indicate that you are ready to do a campaign, great! If the study indicates that you are not ready for a campaign, the consultant will provide recommendations on what to do before you launch the campaign! Recommendations might include strengthening your leadership, increasing internal public relations efforts, initiating a strong annual stewardship appeal, purchasing a donor software system, or hiring staff. But once all the pieces are in place, your church will be ready to launch a successful campaign.
Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE and Sue Kreeger, CFRE are President/CEO and Senior Consulting Associate, respectively, with CAPITAL VENTURE, a fundraising consulting firm with offices in Nevada and Pennsylvania. CAPITAL VENTURE provides a full range of consulting services, including planning studies and capital campaigns, for churches and other nonprofit organizations nationally.
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