Thinking you know what you don’t know is assumption which will lead you to disaster in a capital campaign. Recently a church sent a request for a proposal from us. In the initial document to us they stated, “we feel we have a good grasp on our strengths and weaknesses as a church – in reality and as perceived by our staff and congregation. We are not naïve nor do we have on rose-colored glasses, yet we also have confidence that we know where our people stand. We don’t feel the need to perform countless hours of focus groups, although we know we need to gather some data and thoughts necessary to perform the campaign effectively.” My first response when I read those lines was, why are you looking for help if you think you know what you know?
The same church asked earlier in the document this question, “Of the churches that fall short, in your opinion, what are the most common factors that lead to not meeting a goal?” One of my answers was,
Thinking they know what they don’t know!
I have had multiple pastors and church leaders tell me everyone was on board with the campaign and ready to go. Early in my career I would take them at their word, they meant it! We would then proceed with the campaign only to find out everyone was not on board. The campaign results were far below what was hoped for. Nearly every issue that derailed the ultimate success of those campaigns could have been found out and dealt with BEFOREHAND if we had only talked to the leaders of the church.
We never hold a capital campaign without first doing a feasibility study! The truth is you don’t know everything you need to know. Gail Perry is a professional fund raising expert that I follow. She posted the following points about feasibility studies…
Through a process of one-on-one interviews with major donors, primary staff members, and key
volunteers, your campaign consultant will be able to answer all of these questions:
1. Is your case for support as clear and effective as it can be?
2. How much money will the organization actually be able to raise – is your goal realistic, or does it need
to be revised?
3. Does the organization have the staff, board , volunteers and more that’s required to run a successful
4. What does a realistic timetable look like for this campaign?
5. Who will you be able to tap as your campaign’s leaders and donors?
6. How do others, particularly potential donors, view the organization?
She then summarized why an outside consultant is better at answering the above questions as she states, “So why is an outside consultant so important? Because your donors will feel more comfortable talking “off the record” to her about issues that concern them. Your consultant will present the feasibility results as sets of data, without identifying who said what. This anonymity gives donors permission to be completely honest, not just about why an organization excites them, but also about any concerns that they have.”
I love how she begins the whole discussion by saying, “Why go to the expense of hiring a consultant to do a feasibility study? Because you need to be careful. The stakes are high. Nothing looks worse for a nonprofit organization than a capital campaign that falls far short of its goal.”
When success is not an option why risk not knowing what might lie ahead? Don’t assume you know everything, it could derail your campaign!
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach