Inconvenient truths are killing many churches chances for a successful capital campaign. As I started this blog I thought of that famous or infamous documentary by Al Gore entitled, “An Inconvenient Truth.” I thought I would Google the meaning of inconvenient truth. Be careful what you Google! I did find this definition that I thought was insightful…
An inconvenient truth is the one which you dare not disclose even to the closest. But as you try hard to conceal the same, you continue to suffer for fear of getting it disclosed. It is like trying to hold back a beach ball under water. You get tired of the effort and eventually fail to keep the ball under water or drown yourself in your attempt to conceal.
The above quote could well describe many firms in my industry when it comes to being honest and open with potential clients. Am I being negative or critical? Yes! I am tired of the salesmen of my industry not being above board and honest about what the changes of society and church mean for capital campaigns. They either refuse to accept the changes we have seen or worse knowingly ignore what for them is an inconvenient truth.
Here are my inconvenient truths that it is time we live up to:
What worked in 1980 will not work in the 21st century. My industry is stuck in the last century. We are doing what we always did because we have always done it that way. Times have changed but our campaigns have not. This is never more true than the next inconvenient truth that,
Teams don’t raise dollars great vision does. The old model was that the more people you involved in some work aspect of a campaign the more dollars you would raise. This has never been proven with empirical data. If it ever was true in this day where your members are busy almost seven nights a week, why do you think they would give another night to your campaign? Today there are two commodities we in the church world must face up to, money and time. Don’t waste your member’s time on meaningless teams!
The few will give the majority of the dollars to your capital campaign. Tell me where your top donors are in terms of your project and I can tell you if your campaign will be successful. Through empirical data we have shown that the few always give the majority. 50% of what is given in your campaign will be given from about 5% to 15% of your donors. 90% will be given by 25% to 30% of your donors. So, let’s focus our time and attention on those who are willing and equipped to support your campaign.
You don’t really know what your donors are thinking. What truly do your leading donors think about your project? If your reply is, “I think our leaders are on board,” you could be in trouble. Questions in the minds of donors causes them to push back. It is why we spend so much time on the front end of campaigns doing feasibility studies. If non-profit fund raisers know the importance of feasibility studies why in the Christian realm are firms not doing this? I am calling upon all stewardship firms to implement some kind of feasibility study process to find out ahead of time what issues need to be addressed BEFORE the campaign starts.
The economy will impact your capital campaign. Today’s donors are worried about the fragile economy we live in. Those that can give you significant funds are worried the Market will tank again. Their ability to give is not the same as it was in the early 2000’s. On top of this many fear outliving their money and thus they are hesitate to drain the nest egg for your campaign. Today the reality is pledging is less and the amount pledging is less as well. Success can still be achieve but we need to realize yesterday’s results are, yesterday.
Pledge to budget ratios are irrelevant. Of all the stupid, disingenuous claims my industry makes this is at the top. First, comparing your church to any other church is an apples to orange comparison. Secondly, those churches that see three to four times their annual yearly operating budget raised in capital campaigns are always driven by six figure and multiple five figure commitments. Do you have that kind of wealth? Yes we do see many of our churches raise three, four or more times their operating budget. Yet it is ALWAYS large gifts that produce that. So, when a stewardship firm brags about their pledge to budget ratio they are not telling you the truth nor are they sharing data that helps you know who to pick. This is one of the most egregious fallacies firms used to hood wink you into choosing them. It is time my industry tells the truth!
We work with and for the Bride of Christ! It is past time we stewardship firms get honest and real and tell the truth. It might be inconvenient to hear but it is the truth!
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach