As a college student majoring in Music at Arizona State University I was a part of the Choral Union which presented Handel’s Messiah at Christmastime.
I sold tickets to people at my church, loaded everyone into the church’s bus and drove them to the auditorium through streets clogged with the cars of Christmas shoppers. By the time I unloaded my concertgoers at the main entrance and parked the bus at the far, far end of the parking lot, I was too late to join my fellow tenors as they marched onto the stage. So, I decided to enter through the lobby, make my way down a side aisle and climb onto the stage to take my place in the choir.
Congregations can take years to get up the gumption to seriously consider a capital campaign, even when ministry needs in their church home are obvious. Tight operating budgets and fewer folks in the pews often foster these misgivings, along with fear of failure. Leaders may feel overwhelmed, not knowing how to begin a campaign effort, let alone end one successfully.
Certainly an important outcome of a successful campaign is raising enough donations to successfully pay for desired projects. Here are three other outcomes of a robust capital campaign process, as I’ve witnessed as an Episcopal Church Foundation capital campaign consultant:
In my previous career, Fran (my coworker) and I were developing products and services to help obese people lose weight, and had prepared to meet with a woman named Susan to learn about how well the health negatives of obesity were understood. Susan was a large woman, and happily quoted all the standard health reasons we had prepared to hear – nothing new to learn. As we were finishing, Fran asked about where Susan’s kids were today. Susan began tearing up. When she regained her composure, she said: “They went to King’s Island (local amusement park) with friends – I just wish I was able to fit on the rides with my kids.” This started a much deeper conversation where we learned what really drove her desires, and the help she needed to accomplish them.
One purpose of the Kick-Off Celebration in a capital campaign is to create a memorable event in the life of a congregation. Such an event requires hard work by many people of the congregation. Special invitations are mailed to parishioners and if the RSVP is not returned, individuals are called to encourage them to attend.
During this period of preparation, the Advance Phase of the campaign is conducted that requires Gift Worker training and calling on people to make a major pledge to the campaign. The Gift Workers make personal calls on members of the congregation with a brochure that has been carefully prepared. At the Kick-Off dinner a dramatic announcement is made to reveal that between 50% and 80% of the campaign has pledged toward the goal. Often the announcement is welcomed with great applause and hope that the campaign goal can be reached.
There is a scary sense of the unknown at the start of a period of congregational discernment, whether for a potential capital campaign or for strategic visioning. I have to admit, as a facilitator the anticipation is part of the thrill – like when the safety bar clamps shut on a roller coaster and you know the ride is about to begin. Oh, what will the listening, prayer and Holy Spirit will reveal?
At St. John’s Episcopal Church in Canandaigua, New York, an obvious need to renovate the former rectory building turned out to be secondary to the congregation’s spiritual need to experience and share worship and music with the community. Organ replacement and stained glass window preservation moved to the top of the priority list. A successful capital campaign to address those issues is now being followed by new ministry possibilities for the old house.
Throughout my career as a fundraiser, most people outside the profession seem to think that fundraising is about asking for money. Of course, money is part of the consideration, but it isn’t really what the conversation is about.
In the fundraising context, I like to think of the giving and receiving of money as a kind of sacrament – it is the outward and visible sign of a spiritual covenant between donor and recipient. This covenant is based on shared values, goals, and trust, and it signifies the coming together of donor and recipient in support of a purpose much larger than any one person or organization.
This is part two of a two part blog in which I address a question I hear frequently: “But, what will happen to our annual stewardship pledging if we hold a capital campaign? Won’t it go down? We can’t afford to have our annual stewardship pledging decrease!” This fear is common among so many congregations because, often, adequate time has not been spent talking and educating about the different ways we can give to the church.
In part one, I addressed annual stewardship. In part two, I will address capital giving and planned giving.
Last weekend, as I do several times per year, I was standing in front of a group of parishioners at an Episcopal church introducing the process ECF uses to guide a faith community in deciding if a capital campaign is in their future. As the rain poured down outside the window behind me and my PowerPoint presentation shined into the dim room, a man in the back row asked a question I hear from someone at almost every church I visit: “But, what will happen to our annual stewardship pledging if we hold a capital campaign? Won’t it go down? We can’t afford to have our annual stewardship pledging decrease!” This fear is common among so many congregations because, often, adequate time has not been spent talking and educating about the different ways we can give to the church.
The short answer to his questions is, if we (the campaign leadership from your parish supported by me, your ECF capital campaign consultant) do our jobs right, the total given through annual stewardship pledges will not decrease over the course of a capital campaign.
The question I am often asked when I am making a presentation to prospective clients is usually related to making “The Ask”. “The Ask” is the moment when one parishioner invites another parishioner to join them in giving to a fundraising appeal. Whether Capital Campaign, Annual Giving, or Planned Giving, this question is a common concern raised in parishes. While I am not surprised at the question I do enjoy answering it. I usually start by saying “I know I am biased because I do this for a living but this is actually one of my favorite parts”. With ECF’s 3 phase methodology for a Capital Campaign, when you do the first two phases right (Discernment and Feasibility), an ask is just coming together in fellowship to celebrate all of the work that has lead up to this moment.
It is in this moment that I see a sense of relief in most of those in the room. There are sometimes those who may still be skeptical.
This month we offer five resources to help your congregation with conducting a successful capital campaign. Please share this digest with your parish leadership and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices’ to receive Vestry Papers and the monthly digest.
“Doesn’t having a capital campaign negatively impact annual stewardship?” This question is one of the most frequently asked by churches anticipating a capital drive.
And “No!” is the most frequently given answer when ECF Capital Campaign consultants respond! In fact, we have found that annual stewardship usually goes up in tandem with capital fundraising.
“That is certainly our experience at Church of the Advent,” reports Nancy Junk, Senior Warden of this small southeast Florida congregation. “Our annual operating fund is up more than 7% since we launched our building campaign in August of 2015,” she notes.
In 2009, the Property Commission of Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, was again raising red flags about the condition of the church’s aged boiler. “It could blow any minute, and that could cause a fire… etc.”
There were many other needs at this historic downtown church – needs that were, in fundraising terms, sexier, meaning more alluring to potential donors. These included the beloved organ, which would NOT blow at any given minute. Getting into and around the church was a physical challenge for anyone physically challenged.
It had been at least twenty years since a capital campaign was conducted. Leadership decided that’s what was needed. The Episcopal Church Foundation was engaged to help.
Ever thought of a capital campaign as a form of 'evangelism'? No, a campaign is not just about money, it's about cultivating new and existing relationships that nurture the vitality and growth of your congregation. A capital campaign offers a variety of creative ways for parishioners to interact both inside and outside the parish. Building relationships is as important for the future of your church as receiving monetary gifts in a campaign. Here are three groups you should intentionally reach out to in your capital campaign.
In my corporate work, I used to facilitate a workshop called the M.A.G.I.C .of Customer Relations, which emphasized communications and relationships as two of the keys to delivering exceptional customer service. Early in the program we pondered a quote by Virginia Satir, the American social worker and author who is widely regarded as the pioneer of family therapy. According to Ms. Satir, “Once a human being has arrived on this earth, communication is the largest single factor determining what kinds of relationships he makes with others and what happens to him in the world about him.”
If you’ve never done it before, asking someone to contribute their money for a cause, however good, can seem scary or uncomfortable. As a philanthropy and fundraising professional, I’ve made numerous “asks” and written countless grant proposals. And yet, the first time I faced the challenge of making a face-to-face, personal request for financial support of a project to which I was deeply and passionately committed – my own parish’s capital campaign – I was incredibly nervous.
Something I quickly learned when I began working with Episcopal churches was that often, we do not think of ourselves as “nonprofits” or “charities.”
While their exact words might vary, congregational leaders seem to ascribe to a view that churches are fundamentally different:
Nonprofits are secular organizations out in the community providing food or healthcare to people who have fallen on hard times, providing enriching cultural activities to our residents, or providing educational programming for children. Nonprofits are the recipients of our Christmas offering and are partners on our annual day of service, but WE are different.
Angels in the Bible often say, “Fear not!” as they are about to deliver some awesome news from God. In my role as a capital campaign consultant for the Episcopal Church Foundation, I also have found, “Do not be afraid,” is a needed preface to many conversations.
It is natural to be a bit fearful, or at least skeptical, of the unknown results of a major undertaking like a capital campaign, especially if a congregation has not conducted one for several years, or ever. I can offer assurance that, “92% of the capital campaigns assisted by the Episcopal Church Foundation meet or exceed their campaign goal.”
Yet the lingering fear of failure can loom large as reflected in concerns such as:
“We can't possibly raise as much as we need.”
“You say we can raise 2 to 3 times our annual giving? We barely cover our budget in pledges, how can we expect people to give more?”
“We don't have wealthy parishioners like we used to.”
“Our needs aren't sexy. No one cares about boilers and the mortgage.”
This is when I must echo angels in response: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news about a process that will guide you to success.”
One of the blessings of working with different congregations on their capital campaigns is the opportunity to hear the amazing stories of the commitment and generosity of the saints whose passion for the Gospel brought these communities into being, built the buildings they now meet in, provided the pews they now sit in, and birthed the ministries that still continue.
St Peter's Episcopal Church in Honolulu traces its roots to a group of Christians of Hakka Chinese ancestry who immigrated to Hawai`i in the 1870’s. In 1914, the congregation built the church in which they now worship.
In 1908 the Sunday school of the Church of the Holy Apostles in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania sent a generous donation to Hilo to build an Episcopal church and construction was complete in time for Christmas services that year. Out of gratitude the congregation renamed itself Church of the Holy Apostles.
St. Francis began in 1927 as the Willow Glen Mission of Trinity Church in San Jose. The Mission’s founders remodeled a former butcher shop and established a Sunday School. In 1941, celebration of the Eucharist began after creation of a chapel inside the building.
One of the most oft-cited reasons for hiring a campaign consultant is the desire of a parish campaign team to test the feasibility of raising the dollars needed for the projects being proposed. It’s a great reason! The ECF model offers the answers to five key questions during the feasibility phase of a campaign:
Does the community understand the need for the campaign?
Do they agree with it?
Will they work to support it?
Will they contribute financially?
If so, how much?
There is a little bit more to the feasibility process in my experience than these strictly dollars-and-cents issues, though. The study process provides the opportunity to really refine your campaign’s message and to structure a campaign process that will help further build a sense of community and cultivate new and emerging leaders in the congregation.
Do they understand and agree?
During feasibility interviews and via confidential questionnaires, congregants can provide candid feedback to the outside consultant without worry that they might be misunderstood or judged by their fellow parishioners or clergy. Reviewing the issues and concerns that arise during this process enables a campaign team to address questions from the beginning in a positive way, letting prospective donors know they have been heard and that their opinions and input are included in the final projects presented. This also helps a congregation decide not to pursue a project for which there is low support or, perhaps, engage in additional communications efforts so that there is greater awareness and understanding of the need for that particular project.
Sometimes a study shows that there are not sufficient funds available to support the overall goal of a campaign. This outcome can result in prioritizing the goals and even scheduling them out over time. An Episcopal school with which I worked had $4 million in goals, but only $1.5 million likely once we conducted the study. They devised a 10-year program in three phases and developed a communications plan to support it. They exceeded their first phase goal by $500,000; they exceeded their phase two goal by nearly double the amount sought; and they concluded the third phase of the campaign two years ahead of schedule! Not being able to raise the full amount at the start does not mean defeat. It often leads to a plan that results in even larger goals being realized over time.
Will they work to support it?