The no. 1 question I get asked is a question that can’t be answered. That question is, “How much do you think we can raise in a capital campaign.” The honest truthful answer is no one knows until all the pledge cards are in months from when you are asking the question.
Yet in my industry the answer most typically given has been that you can raise from 1 1/2 to 3 times your annual operating budget. Most companies simply make up a number to sound more appealing. In truth none of us knows how much you can raise until we get deep into the planning of the campaign. Even then there are no guarantees.
I sometimes use this illustration to show how hard it is to determine how much can be raised. Suppose as pastor you are preaching an evangelistic sermon this week. Can you assure me of how many people will respond to accept Christ? Of course not! What you can assure me is that you will do your best in sermon preparation as well as praying for a harvest. Yet the results are not up to you but to how the people respond. The same applies to a capital campaign.
What factors lead into how much will be committed in your capital campaign? That is a better way to ask how much will be raised. From my experience let me list some keys that will determine how much you will raise in a capital campaign.
First and foremost, it matters how compelling the vision of the campaign is and what type of project the money will go to. Campaigns to relocate, build a new sanctuary or space for children and students always raise more money than debt reduction campaigns. Today a campaign to provide needed renovations is a harder dollar to raise than if you were building a new sanctuary. The more compelling the vision the more apt people are to give you more to support that vision. Make sure your next campaign is driven by a compelling vision.
How many campaigns you have done determines what will be raised in this campaign. Due to the cost of projects few churches can raise what they need in just one campaign. I have clients that are on their fourth and fifth campaigns. Your first campaign will always be your best in terms of results and how much you raise. Each successive campaign always raises less than the previous campaign with few exceptions.
Your donor base will determine what you can raise. Blue collar churches will simply not raise what white collar churches will. Baby Boomer led churches will raise more than Gen X or Millennial led churches. Predominantly white churches will raise more than minority churches. More than any other issue this determines what you can raise and it is one reason why I can’t answer the most oft asked question. Let me illustrate…
I drive a 2003 Toyota Camry that has over 116,000 mile on it. It is my steady eddy car. I believe it will go another 500 miles. Yet I am not about to enter it into the Indianapolis 500 race. Why? It doesn’t have under the hood the power needed to run with the big boys. It will go 500 miles just not in two hours. What is under your hood, your donor base, greatly determines what you can raise.
The reason I can’t answer the number one question is because there are so many issues to examine and think through. I didn’t even talk about the economy of your area, the age of your congregation and many other factors that weigh into the how much question. At this point the honest answer is, it depends. Any firm telling you anything different is giving you a sales answer and you should flee from that as fast as you can!
The real question is not can you raise X, Y or Z amounts but how long will it take for you to raise the needed amount. It is important to have realistic expectations and a well thought out plan of action that will give you the best chance to raise the most money possible. We can help with that!
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach