Every church that holds successive back to back capital campaigns will be impacted by The Law of Diminishing Returns. Few firms will tell you this but it is a reality that the best capital campaign will be your first campaign. In my experience you have one great campaign per project or per decade.
The Law of Diminishing Returns means all successive campaigns will almost always raise less than the first campaign. Second, third, or more capital campaigns rarely raise as much as the last due to this law. There are exceptions to this law but they are few and far between.
Why does this law impact successive campaigns? Here are the major reasons why.
- It is hard to duplicate the excitement of the first campaign. Most first campaigns are for a project. It is simply easier to get people excited about what is new.
- Most second and successive campaigns are debt reduction campaigns. I always say there are only two checks you like to write when you buy a new car. The first to get out of the lot with your new car and the last final payment. Everything else is a drag upon your budget as the new car smell eventually wears off.
- Few churches experience the kind of donor growth that leads to outperforming the first campaign. Too often we have told members that if we build it they will come. The reality is that most churches experience a slower growth than anticipated. This means they are going back to essentially the same donor pool two to three years later.
- The reality is that the few always give the majority. 15% of a typical churches donors give 50% of that churches annual budget. In campaigns half that number gives 50% of what is pledged. The other half gives on average 30% to 40% of the rest. So, again, two or three years later you are going back to the same group asking them to dig deeper.
- The majority of your leaders give first out of asset and then out of income. Your leaders will step up once and make tremendous sacrifices like selling the camper or bass boat to see the project built. For the next campaign there is no camper to sell and whatever they commit comes straight from their already stressed personal budgets.
- Successive campaigns suffer from a lack of momentum. The more campaigns you hold the wearier your members become. The same holds true for your staff and leaders. Ultimately you become the tired and the tapped. You are tired of campaigns and tapped out of additional money.
In my twenty years in this industry I have known very few churches that were not impacted by this law. So what can you do? Here are my recommendations.
- State from the start that raising the needed funds might take successive campaigns. The question is not can you raise X, Y or Z? The question is how long it will take to raise that amount. Tell members upfront that it will probably take more than one campaign.
- Set realistic targets for successive campaigns. Unless you have exploded in growth or led Bill Gates to join your church you need to be realistic about what can be raised in a successive campaign. A realistic target is more attainable and will give you momentum into the future.
- Realize that some money is better than no money. Capital campaigns raise additional funds beyond your operating budget. So any money a campaign raises relieves the burden on your operating budget.
- Keep focused upon the prize! While casting a vision for debt reduction is harder it can be done. By keeping members focused upon the reasons for the project and thus the successive campaigns you are more likely to keep the additional dollars flowing until you pay off the debt or pay for the project.
- Get creative. Too often we never think outside the box. Do you have an estate plan you share with your members? Do you have land that can be utilized for other revenue producing ministries like Senior Care? For instance we are helping churches develop unused land for Senior Care facilities that can greatly increase revenue and thus pay off debt. It might be time to think outside the box.
One final word. Successive campaigns are sometimes more difficult to pull off than a first campaign. It takes skill to know how to put the pieces together properly giving a church the best chance for a successful successive campaign. This is one of our specialties. Contact us today to find out how we can make your next campaign more successful.
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach