Questions and Answers
A capital campaign is a special, occasional effort designed to attract above average gifts within a specified time frame for a specific project or purpose outside of what can realistically be addressed through the ordinary operating income of the church.
Studies have shown that hiring a consultant will result in raising at least one-half times your church gift income more than doing a campaign on your own. Plus, you’ll save hundreds of hours of time that someone from the church would otherwise have to spend organizing and operating the campaign yourselves. So, unless the consultants’ fee and other expenses associated with their work will exceed the cost of your time and the income you’d lose by not hiring a consultant, hiring counsel is a smart and worthwhile investment.
It depends on what you are wanting to raise and how well you want to do in your campaign. If you are looking to raise less than 1 times you annual giving for a project that primarily involves debt reduction, less than 1.5 times your annual giving for a project that primarily involves plant maintenance, or less than 2 times your annual giving for a project that primarily involves new building or renovation, you can probably get by with more of a “consultative approach” with minimal (10 to 15 days) of on-site support from a consultant. This is especially true if you’re okay with doing more of the work yourselves and raising at least one-half times your annual giving less than you could otherwise expect from a more hands on approach. If you are looking to raise more than this however, and minimize the work of volunteers and church staff, you should hire someone who will agree to come to the church at least every other week for 2 to 4 days per visit for a total of 30 to 40 days over a 5 to 6 month period minimally to allow adequate time for the completion of key tasks and the cultivation and procurement of all but especially key gifts. In short, you need someone who will not only direct but will drive your campaign – someone who agree to coordinate and attend all meetings and major events and personally handle consultant critical tasks such as the development of various organization and orientation materials, printed, promotional and proposal materials, and the training of all campaign leaders and volunteers. Of course you could have someone come to the church for more time than this – even weekly if you wish - but this hasn’t proven to enhance results.
Campaign costs, inclusive of consultant fees, usually amount to less than five to ten cents per dollar raised. So while campaigns are not necessarily inexpensive they are extremely cost effective raising more money, faster and at a lower cost than any other form of fundraising.
You can realistically expect to minimally raise at least 1.5 times your annual giving for a project that primarily involves debt reduction, at least 2 times your annual giving for a project that primarily involves plant maintenance, and at least 2.5 times giving for a project that primarily involves new building or renovation with a professionally and correctly driven campaign. And you can do even better (or worse) than this depending on the level of service you get (see "What level of service should we look for and expect?" above), the length of the campaign and how you ask for gifts.
The more people that are actively involved in the campaign as volunteers the better. That’s because with more volunteers, you can reach out to people more personally. It’ll make everyone’s job just a little easier. There will be more and broader ownership for the project and campaign which will translate into more and better gifts from both your volunteers and the people they will ultimately invite to participate and give. Plus, with more volunteers you’ll build and strengthen relationships within your church which will create a greater sense of unity and community, which will continue to benefit you well beyond the campaign.
Most campaigns, depending on how you plan to operate and who you choose to guide you, require very little of the church pastor’s or staff time. The pastor of the church is usually asked to help by recruiting key leadership, assist in the solicitation of some key gifts, and to speak at various campaign meetings and events. Church staff is asked to do far less because most professionally-directed campaigns have their own campaign director and secretary who handle most of the details associated with the campaign.
A well-done campaign will take approximately five-to-six months to complete. That includes one to two months for campaign preparation and four months for campaign implementation, exclusive of the time it takes for a feasibility study if you plan one. This timeframe is long enough to allow adequate time for the recruitment of volunteers and the solicitation of key gifts. It also is not too long to cause people to lose enthusiasm for the effort or for the campaign itself to lose momentum. If you plan on doing a fundraising feasibility study in advance of your campaign, add two months to this schedule. And, if you plan to hire professional counsel to assist you, which you should do, add an additional two months to allow enough time for the search and selection process.
Campaign preparation work can be done at any time, but the active campaign – when you will announce the effort, hold various major meetings, conduct various cultivation events and ask for gifts – should be done when most of your gift prospects are in town and regularly attending church.
Allow four months for the campaign itself (from formal announcement of the effort to announcement of results). This will provide adequate time for volunteer recruitment and major gift development, one-to-two months for campaign preparation, one-to-two months for a feasibility study, if you plan one, and one-to-two months for searching for and selecting a consultant.
There never is a perfect time to do a campaign. We’ve done campaigns during tough economic times, at times of war, at times when there has been intense competition for funds and more. There has always been and will always be conflicts. But if you wait to until all the lights are green before you “go” you’ll never get very far. In short, if you have needs that are valid, you must realize that they won’t go away and that the best thing you can do is take some steps toward addressing them today. Keep in mind too, that campaigns typically extend over three or more years of time when the challenges of today tend to change. So even if some people can’t participate or participate to the extent that they otherwise might or would like, that’s not to say they won’t be able to participate in few months or years’ time. It’s also important to note that in slower economic times, interest rates and building costs tend to be more reasonable. So if you’re considering any type of construction project, these lower costs make it a good time to proceed.
A feasibility study isn’t always needed for a successful campaign. It really depends on your project and how much you’re trying or needing to raise. For example, if you are looking to raise funds primarily for plant maintenance projects or to reduce or retire debt and need to only raise one to one-and-a-half times your annual church giving, you wouldn’t necessarily need a feasibility study to assure your campaign’s success because it’s a very realistic sum to expect. The same would hold true for a building or renovation project where a church is looking to raise up to two to two and half times its income or less. This should be relatively simple relative to the church’s income. That being said, a feasibility study is always helpful and always will help you to raise more than you otherwise might without one. That’s because a well-done study will help identify people’s key questions and concerns. It’ll help to identify who the key leaders and donors could and should be and what might motivate people to get involved and to give more. In short, it’s may not always be necessary, but it’s a smart first step that will pay for itself many times over if you put the information gathered to good use. How long does a feasibility study take and what does it cost? A feasibility study only takes less than 2 months to complete and costs are a fraction of the cost of a capital campaign.
Regular giving to the church will be positively rather than negatively affected during and after the campaign because people are asked to consider gifts “over and above” what they regularly give to the church. People often feel a new and renewed enthusiasm for church because of the campaign’s success and their working together for a common purpose. As a result, regular giving should go up, not down. This also can be assured if you annually ask people to consider increasing their regular church gifts. And, the campaign’s effect on regular giving can be particularly positive when the pledge fulfillment period ends because many, if asked, will redirect what they are in the habit of giving to the campaign to their regular giving instead.
You can combine your capital campaign with your annual stewardship efforts, but unless you are looking to raise less than one times your annual income, we wouldn’t recommend it. That may not be what most churches want to hear but it’s an absolute fact that by separating them, you’ll do better both with your capital campaign and your stewardship appeal. But we can help you either way.
Searching the web for “church capital campaign specialists” is good way to start your search for qualified consultants. So is asking other churches that have recently done successful campaigns about “who” they used. Select a few consultants who work solely with churches, and ideally those that only do church capital campaigns. Request information from them and ask that it be arranged in a particular format showing background information on the firm, their typical or suggested approach to church capital campaigns, the services they provide, the costs involved and a list of clients and/or references. Review the materials and select two to three consultants to interview who are experienced in church capital campaigns and organize and operate their campaigns in the way that has proven to produce the best results for churches. Contact these consultants to see when they are available for interviews. Bring these dates back to your selection committee if you have one (and you should) and pick one or two consecutive days for interviews. Interview no more than two people a day so no one is in the often forgotten middle position. Allow at least an hour and fifteen minutes for each interview and an hour and a half between interviews to allow adequate time for firms to present their proposed services to you and allow enough time between interviews to keep your selection committee fresh. Then make your selection within 48 hours of the final interviews while the information presented is fresh. Approach the search and selection process as you would the hiring of any key staff person, because this is similar to that and you are making what often amounts to a multi-million dollar decision.
Ask to meet with the project supervisor first and the proposed consultant that would serve you in a second, separate visit if you’d like. This is important for several reasons. First, you want to meet the person who will supervise and provide back-up support to the consultant you ultimately work with. Second, you want to buy into the “process” before the “people” the firm employs. Third, you want the project supervisor to choose from their available consultants who would be the best fit for you, which is best done through personally meeting and getting to know you. And finally, the firms that get the best results and have the best consultants are ones whose consultants aren’t always readily available because they are both in demand, which is good, and they are already involved in a very hands-on way in serving other churches.
Achieving the best results in a church capital campaign requires proper pre-campaign planning. It involves utilizing a firm and approach that has proven to serve churches the best: a firm that specializes in and, ideally, solely provides capital campaign services for churches, provides the highest level of individual attention and hands on support needed without waste, utilizes a campaign timetable that is spread out over a minimum of five-to-six months, and employs a very volunteer involved and personal outreach oriented approach where specific, sacrificial gifts are personally asked for and received sequentially, starting with the largest gifts first, in the most successively successful ways possible by members of your church.