When you compare stewardship firms one against another it is an apples and oranges kind of thing. Both are fruit but the similarity ends there. The same is true when you check out different stewardship firms. No two are alike. There are similarities but there are also differences.
The one commonality of stewardship firms is that we exist to help churches raise money in capital campaigns. After that it breaks down pretty quickly.
Most churches will interview around three to four different firms to determine which they think will help them raise the most money. At the end of the day that is essentially the criteria. Who will help us raise the most with the least amount of damage? A church selects a team or committee to investigate the various firms and then selects whom they want to interview. From there meetings are set up with consultants or sales representatives coming in pitching the value of each company. After about two of these presentations your team sees fruit, not an apple or an orange. Most of the time I think while we talk you simply hear, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” After a few presentations it all runs together.
Each firm attempts to establish themselves as distinctive. We attempt to show you our process is the best and that it will give you the best results. The sales side of our industry talks about being distinctive as a way of setting the company apart from the pack. If we can appear cutting edge, creative, culturally relevant or even technologically astute then we will win.
There are two areas stewardship firms attempt to “sell” you on themselves. Let me break them down and then comment on what you should be looking for.
Our results are better than their results! I once had a marketing person at another firm tell a client who had hired us that his firm’s pledge-to-budget ratio was better than ours. I wondered how he had broken into our computers to evaluate that. Of course he had no clue–it was a simple sales answer. Stewardship firms have historically used the pledge-to-budget ratio as a basis for bragging. Pledge-to-budget ratio means that if your annual budget is $500K and your campaign raises $1 million you have a two times ratio.
How much will you raise? That depends upon a host of crucial factors. Churches with a wealthier donor base can often raise more. Blue collar churches not as much. Churches in second and third campaigns may raise less than the first campaign. Relocation campaigns typically raise more than debt reduction campaigns. Three-year campaigns raise more than two-year campaigns and five-year campaigns. Five-year campaigns typically are too long and struggle to result in a the return on pledges that shorter campaigns do. The bottom line is that on this side of the campaign who really knows exactly how much you can raise?
One way we help churches answer this question is through our extensive financial analysis and feasibility process. In the end though, comparing one church to another church in terms of pledge-to-budget ratios makes as much sense as comparing an apple to an orange!
Our process is the best! Firms and their consultants often make their process, or how they raise the funds, tantamount to the 67th book of the Bible. They defend the process to the death. Some firms will tell you it’s best to have a consultant on site for the entire campaign. Some will tell you that success lies in knocking on every door. Others swear by the process of building multiple teams, involving scores of people working on some aspect of the campaign process.
So, what is best for your church? It depends. It depends upon your culture, how many campaigns you have done in the past and a host of other key issues. No one on the presentation side of things can really tell you for sure what process is best for your church. Why? Because every church is unique. Comparing your church to another church is, well, like comparing an apple to an orange. Firms that say, “Here is the process that has worked in other churches are missing that your church, while similar, is unique.
At The Charis Group we defend principles not our process! We come to you with a blank sheet of paper asking questions instead of telling you what to do. We are different but we are different not to be distinctive but to be effective.
If you are tired of the same old programmed process for doing capital campaigns then we are the firm for you! Join the team of satisfied churches that have learned the value of the Charis approach!
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach