Growing churches will at some point need to ask their community to give “above and beyond” normal giving to support the needs of the church. More than just “fundraising,” these campaigns are often “faithraising” experiences in which the church focuses on the bigger vision of what God is calling the church to do. Often, churches will turn to capital campaign consultants to help guide them through these experiences. These trusted outsiders provide guidance, experience, encouragement and accountability for these historical moments in the life your church.
We’re in the middle of the “public phase” of a campaign at Liquid Church called SATUR8TE. This is the third major campaign like this that I’ve had the honor to be a part of. I love it. Our coach is George Franco from INJOY Stewardship and we think the world of him! Although he provides excellent support, there are some things that consultants don’t tell you … not out of malice but because there is so much to cover, such as:
• You’ll repeat yourself … a lot! Our teaching pastor repeated the core message of our campaign 19 times before it was finally released in the last public message. We worked on the core messaging for months and then talked with leaders and core donors multiple times. We were prepared to repeat ourselves. Campaigns like this require leaders to communicate the same thing over and over in a number of different ways. Choose your campaign focus wisely because you’ll be living with this content for an extended amount of time. (The public phase is just the beginning. You’ll be talking about these areas for years as you keep people excited for the mission!)
• The strategy isn’t magical. It’s a lot of work. We’ve been planning for our campaign over the last two years. We talked with multiple firms that help with this sort of thing. We interviewed other churches who have been through it. I wanted to make sure we understood the dynamics at play that make campaigns “successful.” A lot was riding on our campaign, so I wanted to go in with eyes wide open. Most churches and campaign companies follow a similar pattern or strategy in communicating a campaign like this. It generally falls into this sort of timeline:
—Leadership: sorting out the core elements of the campaign with staff and core leaders
—Core Donors: a series of meetings with the small percentage of donors that represent a disproportionate amount of our revenues to get them in on the ground floor
—Volunteers & Other Donors: talk with all the other donors and people who donate time to your church to get them fired up for the mission
—Public: a series of Sunday services aimed at everyone else to bring them along
—Pledge Weekend: a time when you ask everyone to let you know how they will respond to the vision
—Follow Up: an extended time of vision casting and following up with everyone who has pledged to give to the campaign
It’s actually not that complex but each of those steps is a tremendous amount of work. Doing them well is an all-consuming process. It requires an “all hands on deck” approach to ensure everyone is pointing in the right direction.
• Lots of churches don’t meet their pledges. Go talk with a bunch of churches who have completed their campaigns and you’ll see an unsettling trend … lots of churches have great initial pledges come in but they don’t collect on all those good intentions. It seems like people are fired up to be part of a campaign on the front end but then lose steam over time. The problem is lots of churches make financial commitments on the back of these campaigns and end up taking on debt to make their plans come through. Ensure your campaign consultant is on the hook to help you through the follow-up process. Make sure there is a clear plan of attack for how you are going to keep people interested in the vision long after the pledge weekend.
• It’ll take longer and cost more. You can’t do this overnight. It’s going to cost you a bunch of money to do well. The “public phase” of our campaign is six weeks long. We spent six months getting ready for it. We spent hundreds (maybe thousands) of team hours in preparation for all the various elements. We set a budget at the beginning of the campaign for all the support material and events, and we spent most of it before we were 1/3 of the way through. We needed to reassess what it was really going to take and increase our spending. It costs a lot of money to communicate clearly and raise these sorts of resources.
• It’ll strain your team unity. At the beginning of our campaign, our coach, George, met with our staff and charged us to protect our unity through this process, and I’ve valued that input many times. Can I speak honestly? We’re talking about a lot of money. You’ll decide to focus on a few areas at your church and that imbalance may make some leaders feel left out. Your team will have extra events to run, people to meet with, materials to produce, videos to edit … on top of their normal work. People will be stressed and might be tempted to get short with one another. Your church is taking new spiritual ground and the enemy doesn’t want it to happen. There are tremendous forces pulling your team apart during this sort of campaign. Intentionally work hard to pull everyone back together. Work toward unity.
• Weekend attendance will take a hit. We heard this from a number of the churches we talked with before we launched and it’s happening to us. We put the “public phase” in a time when we normally see increasing attendance growth in our campuses … but we’re seeing the opposite trend during this campaign. It’s a part of the cost of launching this sort of initiative. Some people will simply opt-out of all this “vision” talk and simply not come. Make sure to plan a strong “recall” campaign after the “public phase” to encourage people to come back. Ensure your team looks for people who might be falling through the cracks because they are put off with the “money talk” that is associated with these campaigns. It’s OK … people will come back!
Thinking a capital campaign is in your future? [Check out INJOY’s Capital Campaign University … it’s a two -ay intensive packed full of everything you need to know.]