After praying, developing a long-range plan, defining the vision, securing a financial forecast and a master plan, and completing a feasibility study, your church is now ready for a capital campaign. You've looked at how much work it's going to take and agreed you need to bring in a professional for this one. Now the question is, "Who should we hire?"
Choosing a fundraising management firm for your church capital campaign can be overwhelming. There are lots of options out there and the stakes seem high. You're asking people to entrust you with their hard-earned money. You want the process to be stress-free and positive for everyone involved. You want to grow a sense of connection to the church and its mission - not push people away. You want to choose a firm that will help you accomplish all of these goals in addition to helping you achieve your financial benchmarks. Below are 7 elements that the firm you select should place at the foundation of your campaign structure. Ask them questions about these in your selection process and see how they respond - you'll get a sense if they know what they are doing.
1. They Organize and Train Volunteers
Your consultant should work hands-on to establish, provide guidance to, and train multiple campaign committees. He or she should have regular contact with a small management team of church leadership (pastor and business manager). He or she should also establish an advisory steering committee to offer general oversight for the campaign. Additionally working committees are great for getting members involved and executing campaign tasks. We suggest working committees for 6 focus areas: prayer, events, thanks, youth, campaign ambassadors, and communication. Your consultant should provide training and resources for each of these teams to accomplish their part of the common goal successfully.
2. They Clearly Communication of the Vision
Consistent verbal and visual communication is fundamental to successful capital campaigns and church growth. Your consultant should work with the leadership teams to identify the church’s vision and campaign purpose before writing a concise case statement that communicates the "why" of the campaign. Campaign publications (newsletters, brochures, pledge cards, video, social media) branded with campaign logo and slogan help to create a sense of organization and spread the word about the exciting vision of the church. Your consultant should work with you to keep the messaging consistent and produce that get people excited about the campaign. He or she should also work with the events team to share campaign updates through frequent community gatherings.
3. They Build Community and Offer Stewardship Activities
Your consultant should see that the campaign is about more than just about raising funds. The campaign invites all church members to share in the vision and mission of the church. Church services, prayer, activities, youth events, small group dinners, interactions with the pastor, and consistent verbal and written communications all serve to build a sense of community around working toward a common goal. Opportunities to get involved and share opinions also increase a sense of ownership in what is happening at the church. A consultant that understands the multiple end goals of a capital campaign understands stewardship.
4. They Pray and Discern With You
You're asking church members to pray about what God is calling them to do in response to the church's need. Your consultant be the first witness to model prayer and discernment with you throughout the process. A closed-minded, standardized, cookie cutter approach to running a campaign overlooks the unique invitation of your particular church to respond to God's voice. Rigidity communicates fear. Flexibility communicates trust in God's providence. Your consultant should set the tone with the pastor and prayer team in reflecting and discerning regarding both the church’s vision and each person’s financial commitment to the capital campaign. This can be done through facilitating small group discussions, community prayer, and preaching at church services.
5. They Solicit Contributions in a Sensitive Manner
As each church is distinct, no single right way exists to solicit all donors. A successful consultant solicits contributors in a manner comfortable to church members. Your consultant should conduct research in a feasibility study and work with the steering team to determine the most appropriate way to solicit members. Prior to a Commitment Sunday weekend your consultant should insure every church member receives a personalized letter from the pastor (thank God for mail merge!), a campaign brochure, and a personal visit or phone call from a member of the campaign ambassador team. If appropriate, your consultant should also provide research for top donor potential and work with the pastor to individually solicit these members asking for their leadership early in the campaign process.
6. They Thank Contributors and Celebrate Success
All good fundraising consultants integrate appropriate celebration and thanks. Your consultant should work with the thanks team to develop a meaningful way to acknowledge gifts at every level and say "thank you". This can be a handwritten note or a small, inexpensive token of appreciation (we love prayer cards and Christmas ornaments with a photo of the church). Beyond this, volunteers on the thanks committee determine how the church will celebrate the campaign achievements.
7. They Follow-up After the Campaign
Your consultant shouldn't drop you like a hot potato after your campaign is finished (or your consulting fee payments are complete). He or she should maintain contact with the church administrator and a designated volunteer to ensure continued campaign success through the 3-5 year pledge collection process to follow up with donor reminders and thanks as appropriate. Ideally, he or she will provide ongoing training to a follow-up committee, attending meetings and giving suggestions for keeping the energy alive when needed. We support our church clients by also establishing of a planned giving program and annual campaign materials for 3 years after the campaign.
And because it's hard to just pick 7...
A final note that didn't make the top list but is important: When choosing a consultant ask yourself, "Can I see myself working closely with this person for the next 3 years?". If the answer is no... run! Your consultant should be supportive and friendly (dare I say, even fun?!) to make this a pleasant process for everyone.
We also wrote up an interview guide with example questions for a capital campaign consultant firm.
For more information about what to consider when gearing up for a capital campaign at your church download our free e-book on Stewardship Based Capital Campaigns. God bless you as you move forward in answering God's call to build the kingdom here on Earth!