September 4, 2014

A Debt Campaign is Never About---Debt!

Part 2 of a series on debt retirement.

In my last blog, I wrote about important questions to ask when considering the impact of debt on your operating budget. The current rule of thumb is that debt services should comprise no more than about 25% of your budget. As yourself:
  • Has your parish’s debt had a negative impact in any way on the church’s ability to meet current operational needs? 
  • Has the church been forced to cut back or restrict ministry resources in order to -service the debt? 
  • Could the money currently being spent to service a debt obligation be re-appropriated to new ministries that could inspire and encourage your church and possibly attract new families? 
When you reach a decision to move forward with a capital campaign to retire debt, its imperative to articulate how your ministry and mission will be impacted by a successful campaign. Will retiring debt allow you to increase outreach to your local community? Will retiring debt allow you to increase your priest’s time? Will retiring debt allow you to foster a healthier youth program?

When thinking about your case for a campaign, “Please consider making a contribution of $ __to help us pay off our organization’s debt” is bound to be an unpopular approach, but focusing on the mission keeps people focused on why your organization exists in the first place. 

Sue Fornabai, ECF Capital Campaign Consultant, tells a story about a successful debt retirement capital campaign:

“There is a very historical Church that has a diary discussing how during the Civil War Era both North and South "ladies" sat in the same pews. Well, you can imagine how the very beautiful sanctuary has stood as a symbol of God's love thru snow and sun over many years. 

“The bell tower crumbled and significant need was required to make the Church safer for the parishioners. The immediate need for repair was evident and debt was taken. 

“Then, after the repair was completed, fundraising began. The present day parishioners were very willing to repair and sustain what they had been given by previous generations and felt it was their responsibility to "pay it forward" to insure the beautiful sanctuary will be here for future generations!”

Why does your parish exist? For what purpose? When thinking about retiring debt, connecting mission and ministry to your campaign is vital for campaign success.