September 22, 2018

Discernment Creates Buy-In

The Discernment phase of a capital campaign is as important as either the Feasibility Study or the Solicitation phase. During Discernment, information is shared, questions are raised, discussion happens, and a consensus for a vision for the future is crafted by the entire community. The fact that everyone is personally invited to participate, and everyone is listened to not only creates a vision for the community, but it also inspires individuals to buy into the vision and feel it is their own.

Discernment is complete when these three things have been achieved:

1) a list of projects around which there seems to be a consensus;
2) hard costs attached to each project; and
3) a broad and deep awareness on the part of the congregation that these projects are part of the vision.

The last one means that if I were to say to a parishioner not in leadership, “I understand your parish is considering a capital campaign,” the person would answer, “Yes. I was part of those discussions, and these are the things we want to accomplish.”

The most important word in the parishioner’s reply is the “we.” The leadership may start with urgent needs, but discernment turns those needs from “things the Vestry want us to do” into “things we want to do.”

I have seen people moved by their participation in Discernment to offer what turns out to be the lead gift for the capital campaign.

Discernment done well is a firm foundation for a successful capital campaign.

The original text of this article has been edited to reflect ECF's current programs.