Your church needs money.  
This isn’t a bad thing.

It’s just the reality every church faces.
Think about it:

  • You must pay your staff.
  • You have to pay for facilities, utilities, and office expenses.
  • You need money to fuel your church’s mission.


That’s not all.

At some point in the life of your church, there may be a time when you’ll need to raise a significant amount of money above and beyond your church’s annual budget.

To do this, you’ll need to organize a capital campaign.


Enter capital campaigns


I’ll be honest:

Running a capital campaign is no joke. They take a ton of time to put together.

They can take 1 to 3 years (after launch) to complete depending upon your goal.  And you’ll face many challenges to see them through to the end.


Here’s the deal: Don’t take capital campaigns lightly.

If you’re not scared of running a capital campaign, then read on. I want to walk you through the steps you’ll need to take to prepare your church.

In this post, I’m going to cover:

  • 4 things you should expect to go wrong
  • 5 ways to prepare your church for a capital campaign


Alright, let’s get started!

 

4 things you should expect to go wrong

Here’s the truth about capital campaigns:

There’s no easy button.

Take a moment to let that really sink in.

Getting excited about your vision is easy. You can clearly see where the Lord is leading your church. You’ve experienced a number of people committing their lives to Jesus. Your church has ushered in numerous new members. You’ve been able to provide life-giving support to your community.

As the leader of your church, you can see …

  • What the Lord is doing in your midst
  • Where God is leading your church
  • What your church needs to do to get there

As you dwell upon the Lord’s goodness, it’s easy to get excited.

But hang tight.

Being pumped to start a capital campaign will give your church a boost. But your church will need gospel-grit to see the capital campaign through.

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but let me wave some smelling salts beneath your nose to wake you up to the reality of what you should expect.

#1 – Lots of work

Do you need to raise $250,000?

Is your church making plans to raise $3 million?

Regardless of the amount of money you want to raise, there will be a ton of things you, your staff, and your church will need to do—and it will probably be more work than you originally anticipated

For example, if you’re constructing a new building or renovating your current facilities, here’s a list of what to expect:

  • Permits
  • Design
  • Demolition
  • Marketing
  • Plans
  • Special Events
  • Delays
  • Construction
  • Drama
  • Volunteers

Within each of these categories exists a tremendous amount of details, which will require a huge amount of time to complete.

I don’t want to bore you with the details now. But you get the gist.

#2 – Takes longer


Starting a capital campaign takes an enormous amount of time.

In general, capital campaigns usually take 1 to 3 years to complete.

Know what else?

This amount of time doesn’t include getting ready to launch, which can take months or longer depending on the size and scope of your campaign.

It’s easy to gloss over this timeframe, but it can take hundreds (maybe more) of hours to prepare and launch your capital campaign. For example, will you need your church to help to renovate your facilities or to prepare a new building? If so, know that this type of work requires many hands chipping in to help out.

#3 – Costs more

It’s easy for your capital campaign to cost more than you expect.

Even if you have a team of experts and well-planned estimates, hidden costs can easily creep into your plans. For instance, church leaders often overlook costs associated with hiring expert support, creating the marketing materials you need, and inflation, if you’re running a campaign that will take a few years.

What’s more, if the duration of your capital campaign lasts more than one year, something unexpected is bound to come up. That’s just the nature of life and ministry.  

#4 – Plans will change

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

This quote, often attributed to Mike Tyson, rings true for capital campaigns too.

Below, we’re going to walk through the steps you’ll need to take to prepare your church for a capital campaign.

But here’s what you need to know about your well-crafted plan:

It will change.

Your plans will get punched in the face by something.

From delays in construction to layoffs in your community, there are a variety of factors—both big and small—that will influence the duration of your capital campaign.

What’s the moral of the story?

Create a plan, but be prepared to make a pivot.

Alright, with these landmines uncovered, let’s jump into getting your church ready for a capital campaign.

5 ways to prepare your church for a capital campaign

Are you ready to get started?

Hang tight.

We need to have a long talk before you rally your church. There’s a tremendous amount of time, work, and prayer involved before your entire church should even hear one word about your fundraising goals.

This isn’t a smokescreen I’m blowing, either.

Your capital campaign will not be successful just because you need to raise money. You have to prepare yourself, your church, and get the timing right before you can go public with your plans.

To prepare your church, here are five steps you’ll need to take:

1. Know your “why”
2. Build a team
3. Complete a feasibility study
4. Set your fundraising goal
5. Plan your capital campaign

Alright, now you can get started.

#1 – Know your “why”

Before you take a step, you need to know where you’re going—at least in general.

This is definitely the case with capital campaigns.

Before making a plan, building a team, or getting anyone excited, you’ll need to know why your church should run a capital campaign.

You’ll have to identify a need or capture a vision for future expansion.

Your “why” can be a number of things, including:

  • Purchasing a new building
  • Buying land
  • New construction
  • Renovation
  • Local or global missions
  • Ministry expansion
  • Paying off debt

There are many more things you can include in your capital campaign, but these big categories are common reasons why churches launch capital campaigns. In other words, there are many secondary and tertiary goals you can include, but you’ll need to identify one overarching reason why your church needs a capital campaign.

At this point, you don’t need to know all of the details.

As a church leader, you just need to know why.

The “why” behind starting a capital campaign will serve as the fuel you need to keep running. Holding onto this inspiration will propel you to keep pushing on after months and possibly years of hard work.

After you’ve identified your “why,” it’s time to start building a team.

#2 – Build a team

Pastor, I need you to hear this:

Organizing a capital campaign isn't something you should do alone.

Practically speaking, the work involved is too much for one man or woman to handle. To successfully fund your campaign, you’ll need to build a team around you.

Before you pad your roster, it’s best to have representatives from three groups.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s label these groups:

  • Church members
  • Staff
  • Church leadership

Starting with your church, it’s ideal to have a portion of your capital campaign team comprised of members from your church. When referring to church members, I’m not talking about your church’s leadership—e.g., deacons, elders, board. What I’m referring to are church members who do not hold an official leadership position.

By inviting church members to join your team, you’re opening up ownership of your capital campaign. Creating ownership of this project will be a boost to morale, and it also lets your church know that the capital campaign wasn’t devised in secret meetings behind closed doors. It’s open to the public and for everyone to participate in!

As for your staff, yes, it’s a good idea to ensure your accountant or treasurer is included. Having the overseer of your church’s finances on hand is essential to making sure you’re keeping a close eye on the financial aspects of the campaign.

What’ s more, if you lead a larger staff, consider inviting a few additional staff members to join the team. For larger staffs, including other staff members will create a similar benefit to your church members—it creates a sense of ownership and participation.

The next group of people you want to invite into your capital committee is from your church’s leadership. For your church, this can be deacons, elders, or a board—whoever your church has commissioned to serve as leaders.

From this group, you don't have to invite everyone to participate. This is a common mistake you want to avoid.

Depending on the size of your church’s leadership, aim to have 1/3 of your capital committee represented by your leadership.

Also, if you’re raising money for a specific ministry, don’t forget to ensure that representatives from this ministry have a place at the table. Again, this is about creating participation and ownership of the capital campaign, which will build momentum as you move along.

Finally, one group I didn’t mention is expert counsel.

As you’ll see below, you’ll need to tap into special skill sets and experiences to run a successful capital campaign. If your church doesn't possess the skill set you need or you just want to tap into the seasoned experience of someone else, consider paying an expert to help you plan or review your work.

Hiring an expert will cost you money. But think of this as an investment—not an expense.

There’s one last thing we need to talk about concerning your team:

Build a team of specialists and generalists.

As you’re building your team, you’ll naturally invite people who are not knowledgeable about running a capital campaign, and this is okay. If you build your team correctly, you’ll have representatives who have experience with this sort of thing, and you’ll have members who don’t.

When you’re identifying who should participate in your capital committee, you want to make sure that you have members who are knowledgeable.

Men or women who have experience raising money, working through permits and government regulations, or leading construction or renovation projects will be a tremendous blessing.

Having someone with experience in finance, raising money, and project experience with the work you’re pursuing will make all of the difference in the world.

#3 – Complete a feasibility study

You’re ready to pursue a new expansion or renovate your facilities. But is your church prepared to make such a move? This is where a feasibility study comes into play.

Before diving into the details, let’s answer one important question:

“What’s a feasibility study?”

In short, a feasibility study is an assessment you make to see whether your project (capital campaign) can be successful. During this time, you’ll need to figure out if the timing is right, if your fundraising goal is realistic, and if your church is willing to get behind your campaign.

Before starting your feasibility study, keep this one thing in mind:

The scope of this study depends upon the extent of your capital campaign.

For instance, if you want to launch a capital campaign that’s small in comparison to your annual giving, then you may not have to spend a ton of time on this step. However, if you want to prepare your church for a multi-million dollar campaign that will last a few years, this step may take more time to see if your church is willing to follow your lead.

There are many factors you’ll need to consider, and it’s best to work with someone experienced to make sure you accumulate relevant information. But here’s a list of questions for you to consider:

  • What staff, leaders, and church members are ready to help?
  • Do you have enough internal resources to run this campaign?
  • How long and difficult will it be for you to obtain necessary permits?
  • Are your staff, leadership, and influential church members behind this campaign?
  • Will your team and other influencers serve as ambassadors?
  • Will your church financially support the capital campaign?
  • Are your plans and fundraising goals realistic?
  • When should you launch your capital campaign?
  • Does any feedback you’re receiving change your plans?

One last thing:

With your feasibility study, be diligent to interview a variety of church members.

From early adopters to someone who may never support your campaign, interview a diverse percentage of your church members to get a feel for how well your campaign will be supported.

#4 – Set your fundraising goal

You know what you need to raise money for.

You have a team in place.

You’ve checked the pulse of your church to see if your campaign can succeed.

Now it’s time to set your fundraising goal.

In general, there are three things you need to do:

1. Identify your fundraising goals
2. Uncover hidden costs
3. Create suggested donations

When you identify your fundraising goals, you’ll need to clarify the one big purpose—“why” you’re raising funds. With this goal, work with your team to identify everything you need to do to accomplish your mission. It’s essential to determine everything you can—even items of smaller monetary value (you’ll be surprised at how quickly things can add up).

What is more, clarify any secondary goals you have. From funding local and global missions to launching a new ministry, take the time to add up every expense associated with the goals you want to accomplish.

To uncover hidden costs, there are three big things you’ll need to consider:

  • Marketing costs
  • Inflation
  • Attrition

To run your capital campaign, you’ll have a variety of marketing costs. At a minimum, you’ll need to account for creating, designing, and printing promotional material. For more massive campaigns, these costs can add up quickly. Also, be sure to include expenses associated with events and contract workers.

Regarding inflation, this isn’t something you need to worry about if your capital campaign is only one-year long. However, for campaigns that will take 2 to 3 years, you’ll need to consider how much inflation will influence your fundraising goals.

Finally, based on the growth of your church, do you anticipate adding new church members, staying the same, or possibly losing a few members? Before launching your campaign, take the time to clean up your church’s membership roll and take into consideration attrition to make sure you know how many members you have now and likely will have in the near future, which leads us to my next point.

For your capital campaign, it’s a good idea to create suggested donations. In other words, provide your church members with recommended amounts they can give on a monthly basis during your capital campaign.

Providing suggestions is one powerful way to raise more money. When studying the influence of suggested donations, one study discovered an increase in contributions of 12 percent. Another study found that setting high suggested donations can increase the amount of money donated, whereas small suggested donations may increase the number of people who donate.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to suggested donations. Many factors will determine what will work best for you. Work with your team to identify the best practice for suggested donations within your capital campaign.

#5 – Plan your capital campaign

After you set your fundraising goal, it’s now time for you and your team to plan your capital campaign.

For your plan, there are three big items you need to plan:

  • Work timeline
  • Marketing timeline
  • Launch date

 

For your work timeline, think about when you need to start your project and how long it will take. As for your project, it can be new construction, renovations, or launching a new ministry. Regardless of your goal, make it measurable, with a precise start date, significant milestones, and an end date.

As I mentioned above, if you’re running an extensive campaign over a few years with a lot of moving parts and items outside of your control, hold onto your milestones and end date loosely. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to hit these dates, but I’m suggesting that they can be delayed for a variety of reasons. So be prepared for these moments and pivot accordingly.

When you create your marketing timeline, you need to clarify the following:

  • Launch date
  • Marketing materials needed
  • Ongoing promotions

The launch date of your capital campaign is crucial. If you get the timing wrong, then you can cause your entire campaign to fail from the beginning.

According to the fundraising experts at Generis, it’s best to launch your capital campaign in the fall or the spring. However, there are caveats to this suggestion. For example, in the fall, you want to launch your campaign a few weeks after families get settled down with their kids starting school but before Thanksgiving.

As for the spring, you need to be aware of the weather in your area as well as Easter. If your church’s attendance drops during the winter months, then you’ll want to launch your campaign when your attendance normalizes. However, it’s best to launch your campaign before your church’s Easter promotion begins.  

Finally, you’ll need to plan for ongoing promotions.

During your launch, you’ll need to share about your capital campaign over and over again. After your initial launch, you’ll need to provide ongoing awareness, and for multi-year campaigns, you’ll also need to plan for different concentrated promotions.

Are you ready to prepare your church for a capital campaign?

We covered a lot of ground in this post.

To review, here are the five steps you need to take to prepare your church for a capital campaign:

1. Know your “why”
2. Build a team
3. Complete a feasibility study
4. Set your fundraising goal
5. Plan your capital campaign

You need to take these steps one after the other. Start with knowing your “why,” and don’t leap forward three steps, and then take one step back. If you do, then you’ll set up your capital campaign for failure from the beginning.

If you’re still wondering whether you should move forward, I’d encourage you to seek the Lord in prayer and to receive counsel from trusted friends. Getting input from God and others is the best way to start anything new—especially a potential capital campaign.

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