Joel Osteen once asked me, “Why can’t I just ask the people to give next Sunday?” We were sitting at his dining room table on a Monday morning discussing how to help him raise the funds he needed to retrofit Houston’s Compaq Center. The price tag for that was around $100 million dollars! We had been working for weeks on a plan to raise that amount of money. Yet Joel felt that people were excited about the move and that he could simply on one Sunday make an appeal and raise the money needed. That is simply not how raising large dollars happens.
Granted he has a crowd that is different than almost all of us. Yet I find that many pastors have a similar view when it comes to raising funds. They often confuse excitement over the project to equate to performance in giving and that does not always happen. There are many factors that go into successfully raising capital dollars. I call them Rules of Thumb. Here is my list…
Five Rule of Thumbs in Raising Capital Funds
Rule of Thumb Number One: More Money Means More Time – The larger the amount you need to raise the longer you will need to give to the process. When it comes to a campaign to raise funds here is my rule of thumb for what type of campaign your church might need…
- If your need is more than one times your annual operating budget you need to consider a full-fledged capital campaign. Think two to three years.
- If your need is around half what your annual operating budget is you “might” be able to hold a short capital campaign to raise that amount. Think 12 to 18 months.
- If your need is 10% to 30% of your annual operating budget you can do that in a shorter time span. Think 3 to 6 months.
- If your need is around 10% you can do that in a one-time offering. Think 1 to 3 months.
Success comes through time and preparation. While there might be times of crisis that you pass the plate to raise funds at the last minute the amount you raise will be far less than the kind you need to do capital projects.
Rule of Thumb Number Two: Need Drives Ask – Raise money for what you truly feel you need. I always say, “State your need and then build a case to support raising funds to meet that need.” Don’t let price dictate what you feel is the best for your church! You only have one shot at getting this right so go big or go home! Aim for the fence. Home runs gets fans out of their seats. Single and doubles only gets applause.
Rule of Thumb Number Three: Big Vision Gets Big Dollars. Whatever the project or what you are raising funds for you MUST visioneer this. Pastor, what difference will this make? How will this better equip your church to reach more people? Why is this imperative? Before you can get a dollar you have to make a case for that dollar. Always make the appeal about people not about a building or retiring debt.
Rule of Thumb Number Four: Leaders First. Never announce any major plan or offering without first informing, inspiring and challenging your leaders both ministry and giving leaders. As much as 90% of what will be given will come from this group. It is crucial to have your leaders on board AHEAD of announcing to the congregation whatever plans you have. They then can be your vision carriers into the parking lot and diners on Sunday afternoon.
Rule of Thumb Number Five: All In – Finally, this rule of thumb is crucial as it states, “What all of us can do together is greater than what a few of us can do!” Your top donors will give the majority of the money. However you want full ownership. So while a gift of a few dollars might seem inconsequential ALL dollars add up. You have to help everyone see the need that this is an all hands on deck everyone manning the oars kind of call to action!
We talked Joel into working a plan and process instead of simply making a Sunday appeal. The results are that his church now meets in the former Compaq Center in the heart of Houston. Success came through planning and work. The same principles that helped Joel can and will help you. Let’s get started today helping you raise funds for your capital needs.
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach