Five Common Campaign Questions

January 24, 2014

It’s that time of the year for churches. Those who are looking to move, renovate, build, or fund ministries are getting into full swing in capital campaigns…or generosity initiatives…or vision campaigns…or whatever you want to call it. No matter the name I seem to get similar questions each time I walk through this process with a client. So I decided to document five common campaign questions I’m hearing once again. 
 
1. Why does the process take so long?
 
A typical campaign that I’m seeing right now will take at least six months from the time that we have the first meeting until commitment day. Some churches can fast track it and some churches might take a year, but six months seems to be about average. The most important aspect of the timeline is that we really do need that much time to inform everyone of what’s happening. There might be new renovation/relocation plans, new ministry plans, an expanded vision for the church or many other factors that go into the process. With that much to communicate plus the fact that a regular attender to your church now attends on average twice a month,  it makes it imperative that a church takes the time to explain and cast vision. I recently visited with a church that was thinking of doing a campaign to raise a million dollars. They decided that their church had heard enough about the renovation plans so they gave their members a two week notice on pledging to give towards the renovation. You can probably guess what my advice was, but they went forward on their own. The result? A commitment of 80k. Now they are stuck and can’t move forward. They were too impatient with their communication and paid the price. A campaign is a critical time in a church’s life, it’s too important to rush through. 

 
2. Why do we have to sign pledge cards
 
I’m hearing this one more and more often. “If this giving is between us and God, why do we have to tell the church what we’re giving.” For two reasons. One, if the church will be financing the project, a bank will require signed pledges to base the financing amount. Second, the church will need to have a good idea of what they can afford, and what the cash flow will look like through the giving phase. Those two things can’t happen with anonymous pledges. You aren’t signing a loan note so no one will be garnishing your wages to fulfill your pledge. My question would be, if you’re willing to make a pledge to God, can’t you write it down?
 
3. How much will we raise?
 
That’s why you hire an expert like me to tell you…I don’t know. Ok that’s not the entire truth. I can usually give a church a range that we feel comfortable can be achieved based on prior giving data, but past that I don’t know the hearts of your people. But I can help lead your church through prayer activities and lay out some specific financial goals to reach to give your church the best possible outcome. Also throughout the campaign we will often get a better idea once some of the higher capacity donors tell us what they will be giving. Now I recognize that one sacrificial gift is not more important to God than another, God sees the heart. But realistically we know that the gifts from our major givers are going to get us closer to the goal quicker. That is why we have specific strategies for every portion of the church, no matter of the capacity to give. 
 
4. What is the difference between a 2 and 3 year campaign
 
Easy, one year! Of course it’s not as simple as that. There are good reasons for 1,2, and 3 year campaigns. The shorter campaigns can be just as successful financially as 3 year campaigns if there are members of the church with high capacity to give. If they have the capacity and willingness, then a shorter campaign may be best. Most of my work this season is in more traditional and rural churches. There are fewer high capacity givers, a higher percentage of members on fixed incomes, and more members who give out of income, not assets. For these churches I would recommend a 3 year giving phase. 
 
5. How can I give to the campaign?
 
A critical question that seems easy to answer, but can be complicated. Many think that they will give out of regular income, and maybe give up some things in their life that they would normally spend money on. And that’s great! But we also need to keep in mind that there are other ways to give that may be better for both the giver and the church. Do you have stocks that have gained value recently? If the stock is given to the church before being sold, the church will receive more money, and the giver will not have to pay taxes on the gains. The same can be said for land, cars, retirement accounts, etc. A question I’m also asking now(thanks to a colleagues suggestion) is to think of the top three possessions you own. Not a mortgage, not a car with a payment, something you own. What would it look like to sell that item for a higher purpose? I recently had a pastor sell a motorcycle that was very special to him, in order to give to his church. I can’t wait for him to share that story of sacrifice with his people! The important point is that there is more than one way to give to your church. 
 
To those who are in a campaign season what questions are you hearing that you are continually answering? For those who are thinking about the process, what would be your big questions? 
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