Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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 raise at least one-and-a-half to three-and-a-half times your church's annual offerings or contribution income in a well run and received campaign. One-and-a-half to two times income is typical if you are primarily raising funds for intangible projects or projects that are perceived to be non-progressive as would be the case with endowment, plant maintenance or debt retirement. Better results can be expected for tangible and perceived to be more progressive projects such as new building, expansion or renovation. Your ability to dramatically exceed these averages, which can be done, is largely dependent on the ability to attract a few key lead gifts which will provide up to a third to forty percent of your goal.
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 also makes everyone’s job 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’s time. The pastor of the church is usually asked to help by recruiting key leadership, assisting in the solicitation of key gifts and speaking 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 4 to 6 months to complete 1 to 2 months for campaign preparation and 3 to 4 months for campaign implementation, exclusive of the time it takes for a feasibility study if you plan or would like one done. This is long enough to allow adequate time for the recruitment of volunteers and the solicitation of key major gifts, as well as everyone else’s gifts. It’s also not too long where it would cause people to lose enthusiasm for the effort and for the campaign itself to lose momentum.
If you plan on doing a fundraising feasibility study in advance of your campaign, add 2 months to this schedule. And if you plan to hire professional counsel to assist you, which you should, add an additional 2 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 meetings, conduct various cultivation events and ask for gifts – should be done when a majority of your prospects for gifts are in town, or around and regularly attending church.
Allow 3 to 4 months for the campaign itself (from formal announcement of the effort to announcement of results) which will provide adequate time for volunteer recruitment and major gift development, 1 to 2 months for campaign preparation, 1 to 2 months for a feasibility study if you plan one and 1 to 2 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 money 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.
A feasibility study only takes 1 to 2 months to complete. 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. That’s because we will ask people to consider gifts “over and above” what they regularly give to the church. Regular church giving should be enhanced by people’s new and renewed enthusiasm for church as a result of the campaign’s success and their working together for a common purpose. As a result, regular giving should go up not down which can be also be assured if you ask people annually 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 will redirect what they are in the habit of giving to the campaign, if asked, 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 with both your capital campaign and your annual stewardship appeal.
Searching the web for “church fundraising 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 work and organize and operate their campaigns in the way that has proven to produce the best results for churches (see question 19).
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 to an hour and a half for each interview because it takes that long for firms to present. And 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 amounts to, in most cases, a multi-million dollar decision for your church.
Achieving the best results in a church capital campaign requires proper pre-campaign planning. It also involves utilizing a firm and approach that has proven to serve churches the best – a firm that specializes 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 four 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.