One of the greatest mistakes that churches and pastors make is thinking that after the commitment phase of a campaign is over that the campaign is over. The reality is that you have crossed one finish line only to find yourself standing at the start line of another race. It is the race that really counts. Having a fist full of pledge cards is nice but you have to count what counts, cash! You have to turn those commitments into real donations to fuel the dreams of ministry you have.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been pulled into a campaign in the final closing months. Sometimes the church had gone with another firm and were now going with us for their second or third campaign. At other times the church had gone it on their own and realized that they needed help. So often I am the bearer of bad news as I have to tell the leaders that they are going to be far off from the pledge amount. This has been my experience on $25 million dollar campaigns and $2 million dollar campaigns. From large churches to small follow up is one of the most neglected aspects of the campaign.
How can you avoid this mistake? Here are some thoughts.
First engage a stewardship firm that stresses the importance of follow up. How will you know if they truly do that or are just saying that to get your business? Ask their references how often they have heard from the firm in the three years of the partnership. How often were they in contact with them? Were they ever on site? Too many firms after getting your money disappear until it is time for another campaign. We at The Charis Group pride ourselves on our follow up program.
One value of having a good stewardship partner is that we keep you focused on follow up. We continually keep in touch with our clients assessing their giving and making recommendations. They know where they are in the process and what they need to do to reach the pledge total. If for nothing else we are an accountability partner so that they do not neglect the campaign.
Realize that a campaign is a process not a point in time. Too many churches think that after the commitments are in the campaign is over. It is just starting. You have keep at it or you will fall far short of the amount of the pledge. Commitments do not automatically come in. You have to have a plan and work your plan to see a successful conclusion.
Keep the vision central throughout. The reason your members make a commitment to the campaign is because the vision is so compelling. In the same way they will be motivated to keep that commitment. In creative non-threatening ways you need to keep stressing the vision and thus the importance to continue to give to that vision. Too many churches go silent on the reason why people made commitments and then wonder what went wrong at the end. If you never talk about the campaign and its vision don’t be surprised if you miss your goal at the end.
I am a runner. While I race much less these days there was a time that almost every weekend I was in a local race. From 5K’s to marathons, to crazy ultra races at night I have pretty much done it all. A 5K pace is all out and intense. A marathon pace is much slower and determined. Each race has its own pace. You cannot run the marathon with a 5K pace. You have to have the right pace for each race in order to hit your goals. The same is true in capital campaigns.
We have erred to think that a campaign is the intensive part leading up to a commitment. That might take three to six months. It is intensive and sometimes exhaustive. At the end we naturally want a break. While some time is needed you have to realize that you are still in a campaign for the next year, two or three depending upon the length you set. The intensive part of a campaign is like the mile run. The follow up period is like a marathon. Each is a race with its own rhythm and pace.
Mark Brooks- The Stewardship Coach
Founder and President, The Charis Group and Charis Giving Solutions