Do you know the 6 unrealistic expectations that can doom your campaign? Unrealistic expectations set back many churches as they begin the process of developing their project and also setting up a campaign to raise the needed funds. Many times a church will unknowingly make promises to the congregation in hopes of securing their support for moving forward. Almost without exception those promises are based upon unrealistic expectations. When you fail to meet expectations you lose credibility with your donor base. While they might not leave the church over the issue it will impact future decisions. One of my major goals and major challenges is to help congregations set realistic expectations to assure a successful capital campaign.
To have a successful campaign you need to avoid unrealistic expectations. In my nearly 20 years of working in the stewardship industry I have found 6 common areas of unrealistic expectations. Here is my list…
Common Areas of Unrealistic Expectations
- Believing that a capital campaign will raise more than is possible. Almost always churches over estimate their capacity for giving to a campaign. Recently I met with a church that needed to raise 10 times what their annual giving was. I had to tell them that unless Bill Gates had joined they probably could not raise what they thought they could.
- Believing that if you build a building attendance will dramatically increase. “After we relocate we will increase attendance by 50%.” That is what a pastor told me a few weeks ago. When he said that I remembered another pastor who promised similar results to “sell” his congregation on a new worship center. They grew the first year by 10% and leveled off there. That is when the trouble started. That pastor ultimately felt led to go to another church. In my book, “Stewardship Myths,” I call this the Field of Dreams Myth. It is not if you build it they WILL come. It is if you build it they MIGHT come. Be careful you do not oversell the potential growth of a new building.
- Believing that budget receipts will drastically increase as a result of increased attendance. I have often heard church leaders “sell” the congregation on an expensive project by telling them that those that join AFTER the building is built will help pay for that building. First, see the above point that increased attendance is not always a guarantee. Then realize that new attendees seldom give at the rate of your existing members. George Barna once said in a conference I attended that it takes three years to get a new donor up to speed. So again, be careful not to oversell future donors that you don’t already have.
- Believing that a project will not take as long as it does. It will take you longer than you think, so start earlier than you think you should. There are so many hurdles you have to overcome. From permits, to plans to getting financing it is going to take you time. The more time you give yourself the better you will be able to navigate through the hurdles that keep coming up.
- Believing that the cost will not be as high as it is. It will not only take longer to build you can count on it costing more than you think! The cost of your project can and will creep upwards higher and higher with each passing month of planning. It will always cost more than the first estimated guess. So be careful on what you project at the start of communicating the plans to your congregation.
- Believing that everyone sees the issue as you do. Most pastors are totally ignorant of how their people really feel about issues at the church. Your members seldom tell you honestly how they feel. Don’t assume everyone is on board. It is easy to get a vote in the sanctuary but it is the parking lot vote that can kill your project before it ever gets off the ground. This is one key reason we never do a capital campaign without a feasibility study. Don’t think everyone is on board. Find out where they are and then you will know how to communicate in such a way to get them on board.
One of the key reasons to pick a campaign partner is that we can help you manage expectations. An unrealistic expectation can and will lead to your campaign getting derailed often before it ever starts.
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach