“You guys are all the same.” That comment was made to me once by a pastor who had gone through interviewing various stewardship firms. I hear that a lot and in fact if you interview more than one company we may all blend together. Yet there are differences and those differences can mean all the world when you are deciding upon a stewardship partner. Not long ago a church told me, “We really like you but the other firm has a great website.” My reply was, “Will their website run your campaign? Will it give you the counsel and advice you need?” We won the contract because in the end the church saw the value we would bring to the table. Choosing a good stewardship firm is not as easy as who has the best web site.
How should you go about choosing the best partner for you and your church? Here are some key thoughts for your consideration…
1. Work at it. Expect finding the right partner to take work on your part. Emailing twenty five questions to ten firms might be easy but it will tell you virtually nothing about what you will truly get in a consultant. Every firm simply uses cut and paste boiler plate answers to your boiler plate RFP’s. If you have decided that you need a firms help and have accepted that it will cost your church money why would you not invest the time to get it right?
2. Talk to other churches. Yours is not the first church to hold capital stewardship campaigns. Talk to churches in your denomination or region that you know have built recently. Ask them what they did to raise funds and what companies they used. Ask them about their overall experiences. Ask them what they would do over again. Gain knowledge from their experience.
3. Call on the firm’s references. References are key. I know each firm sends you their best references. Even though that is true you can still learn valuable things from these churches. So what if they are cherry picked by the firm? Ask probing questions of the church. Don’t just talk to one person at the church ask the person the stewardship firm gave you to talk to who else at the church you could talk to. After you talk thoroughly with that church then ask the firm for more references.
4. Read everything about the firm. Every firm has a website. Using that as a starting point you can tell a lot about the company. Go beyond the fluff and look for their strategies and concepts. Do they have blogs such as this one that tells a story not only about what they do but how they think. If their website ads value to your understanding then the chances are greater that the same will be true if they are your partner.
5. Decide what you are looking for in a firm. Are you more interested in a program or a partner? Do you want a standard campaign or something creative? What in your mind best fits the needs of your congregation? What are your expectations? Deciding ahead of time what you are looking for will help not only you but the potential firms you might engage.
6. Talk to your potential consultant. After working through the first five steps you are now ready to ask questions. It is not until you have done the first five that you will even know what to ask. A few other things to consider. Never talk to a salesman. Salesmen give you sales answers in hopes of winning a contract. Consultants tell you what you need to know not what you might want to hear. Always ask who your consultant for the entire length of the campaign would be. Refuse to talk to anyone but that person. Always remember that you are hiring the consultant not the company.
7. Meet with them in person. I know we have the technology to do all kinds of things. Yet I often wonder if Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln could get elected in our sound bite driven world. You cannot tell over the telephone or online if the consultant you are interviewing is a fit for you. All companies pick up the cost of traveling to your site to make presentations. The only way to truly know if the person in question is a right fit for you is by meeting them in person.
8. Pray! I am amazed at how often we revert to worldly standards to make decisions in a church. While all of the above are important steps without the spiritual dynamic can you really make a good decision? Good information gives us better clarity to pray. The church is a spiritual entity so make the process of choosing a partner a spiritual process.
I believe these steps can better help you choose the right partner for your church. I readily admit that we are not the right fit for all churches. Perhaps we are not the fit for yours. However with careful thought and continual pray I do believe God will lead you to the right person. I just pray it is us!
Mark Brooks- The Stewardship Coach
Founder and President, The Charis Group and Charis Giving Solutions