July 14, 2016

Fear Not the Capital Campaign

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.”

The process begins by engaging the congregation in exploring its identity, value, and calling. Putting aside the money part, conversations can occur in small groups or big gatherings to discern how much the parish means to people in terms of worship, opportunities to serve God by serving others, and nurturing children and adults to grow deeper in their faith. The conversations are opportunities to explain what projects or ministries are being considered by leadership to strengthen the church’s impact into the future, and to listen for new ideas. 

The result is a vision that explains WHY the projects are worthy of support. This is the basis for inspirational communication - not just about fixing the old boiler, but about maintaining a community that welcomes all people to experience the saving grace of Jesus Christ. It’s not about paying off the debt - it’s about freeing resources to provide ministry to the next generation. That’s inspirational! 

If the resulting list of projects is obviously too large to undertake all at once, fear not! Consider the logical order that may be needed, such as sealing the undercroft before totally renovating it for classrooms. Rather than seeing only an intimidating list of needs, the congregation is developing a long-range plan for future ministry growth. 

The Feasibility Study part of the process allows the congregation to determine its priorities for moving forward. The Study will result in recommendations for how much can be raised, and so much more, such as the timing for solicitation, who the campaign leadership should be, and who is willing to volunteer to help.

All of this is wrapped in the most powerful, courage-building tool available: prayer. At the end of the campaign, ECF’s goal is that the congregation has been strengthened spiritually as well as financially and strategically. 

Let’s give God the final Word, through His prophet Isaiah (41:10, NIV):

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

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