The Monday morning after your next capital campaign you will understand what I call the new trend of average. For years stewardship firms have touted that the average amount a church can raise in a capital stewardship campaign is one and a half to three times their annual operating budget. Frankly no one ever studied whether that was true or not. Stewardship companies are long on promises and short on results.
The truth has always been that raising more than one times your operating budget depends upon significant five and six figure commitments. If your church is filled with blue collar workers or school teachers you never had a chance for that kind of average to begin with. Our empirical data over nearly twenty years shows that around 15% of your members gives 50% annually to your church. Half of that number will give half of what is given to your capital campaign. So, does Bill Gates go to your church? No, well then you might need to revise your expectations.
You can still raise significant dollars in capital campaigns just not as much as in the past. Few firms will tell you that. Come on guys, firms read my posts, let’s man up and tell the truth. The times have changed and so have the trends or averages that capital campaigns are seeing. Average is around one times your annual operating budget.
Why is the average lower today than in the past? Here are some major reasons why.
The economy is fragile and donors have less confidence in the future. Like it or not but your donors, particularly those that give five and six figure gifts, pay attention to the economy. The Crash of 2008 and the subsequent Great Recession have made a lasting negative impact upon donors.
Your top giving group is aging fast. Baby Boomers are your largest donor group by dollar amount and they are nearing or entering into retirement. With the volatility of the Stock Market that calls into question the safety of their 401K’s they are more hesitant to make large contributions. They are simply not sure they can grow their nest egg back.
The Silent Generation is, silent. Statistically those of this key generation that are still left give more than any other group. Yet they have almost moved off the stage completely. The few that are left worry they will outlive their money. Thus anything they commit to a capital campaign will be significantly less than twenty years ago. Their Boomer children are watching and this fear of outliving retirement funds impacts them as well.
Projects are costing more and take more than one capital campaign to pay off. Most churches need three to five campaigns of some type to pay for the facility they build. You can count on your first campaign to be your best. The remaining campaigns are impacted by what I call The Law of Diminishing Returns. That law reveals that donors give the bass boat for the first campaign and have no other assets to give for the second. If they pledge to successive campaigns it is out of income not assets. Finally after two campaigns you have a church filled with the tired and the tapped. They are tired of campaigns and tapped out!
The Church is getting smaller by the day rather than larger. Super Mega churches grab the headlines but the harsh reality is that attendance at church continues to decline. Fewer people means fewer dollars. This impacts your successive campaigns since without growth you are essentially drilling into the same well simply deeper.
I know, I am full of good news. Yet it is important to have someone tell you straight the realities you will face. A few churches can and will break the average. However, again it will be through significant gifts. Do you have that kind of donor base?
The question you should be asking yourself is not how much can you raise but how long will it take you to raise what you need? That is where good expertise comes in. Stewardship firms can help you navigate through these challenging times. My question is, do you want a firm that blows smoke at you or one that tells you the truth?
When you get tired of the smoke give us a call!
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach