Raising Capital Dollars in the 21st Century

We’ve always done it that way before. Those are the seven deadliest words in church life. They are also the words that I often hear from those in my industry and from many church leaders when it comes to raising capital. I have a Brooks mantra that applies to this saying. The mantra says, if you keep doing what you have always done you will not get what you always got.

In perhaps no other area of church life are we stuck in the past than when it comes to raising over-and-above, capital dollars. We are continuing to utilize 20th century strategies for the 21st century times we live in. Then, we wonder why our campaigns are not as successful as they once were. It’s past time to put the process of how we raise capital funds under the magnifying glass. As I culminate my series on raising capital dollars, I intend to do just that with this edition entitled Raising Capital Dollars in the 21st Century.

In 2006, I founded The Charis Group in part because I wanted to revolutionize the stewardship industry. What stewardship firms specialized in was building a program that was managed and run by a church’s laity. That worked well back in the day. Today, your typical layperson is busy doing something literally every night of the week. Who has time to serve on a committee?

After a few years of working in the stewardship industry, I started asking why. I looked at every element of a capital campaign and, like a three-year-old, I asked, “Why do we do this?” The answer I received more often than not was because we’ve always done it that way before! The more my former employer dug in to defend 1980 methods, the more I began to see the need for a better way. Times have changed, and how we do capital campaigns must change as well. Because using 20th century methods is a waste of time, talents, and resources.

If you are about to start raising funds for a project, you need to know how to avoid wasting time with a capital campaign. “Wait,” you say. “Shouldn’t you be trying to convince readers to have a capital campaign? Yet here you are talking about wasting time with a capital campaign?” Am I crazy? That might depend upon who you ask! Some in my industry think I am crazy. I can assure you that I am not crazy, but I try to think differently from others in an effort to be more effective. After over 20 years of working with churches all across America, from the largest to some of the smallest, I can tell you that…

Most churches waste their time with a capital campaign!

Don’t get me wrong. Capital campaigns can be effective tools for raising additional money for churches. The fault is not in capital campaigns. The fault is in how we go about capital campaigns. We are going about it wrongly and thus, in the end, wind up wasting the church’s time. Here are two of the major mistakes churches are making that you must avoid.

They are trying what worked in the past without realizing we live in a new day. Hello, COVID-19 changed all that! Even before COVID, society had changed and will continue to change. Our message, The Word of God, is eternal and changeless. How we communicate that message has changed. Has your approach, or the approach of the capital stewardship company you are talking to, changed? The question you should be asking is, “Does the campaign process we are running match the culture, character, and make-up of our 21st century church?” If the answer is no, you are wasting your time!

They focus on the wrong people. A capital campaign is not about increasing givers. It is not about making those that are not giving much now to your church give more. Don’t confuse a campaign to raise funds with a campaign to increase giving and givers. They are not one and the same. It is time we realize that the few will always give the majority. Our extensive financial analysis of church giving from over twenty years shows, on average, 15% of a church’s donor base gives half of all the money given to the operating budget. The following chart shows a sampling of what our data revealed.

Looking at giving data, we have found that half of those that give half will give half of what is given to your capital campaign. Amazingly, the other half of the 15% of a church’s top donors give 30% to 40% of what is given!

Yet, most churches spend their time in a campaign chasing those that are not currently giving much, if anything, to your church. Putting non-givers on some busy work committees will not miraculously turn them into generous donors. While every gift is important, focus your time on the greatest chance for success, your leaders. The question you need to be asking yourself is, “Are we focused upon the right group that can help us achieve our targets in this campaign?” If the answer is no, you are wasting your time!

While I am on my soapbox, let me share a few more points of importance as we think about raising capital dollars today.

  • In the 21st century, capital campaigns are not dead, but they are different. Key thought: make sure your approach to raising funds resonates with present-day realities.
  • Teams and programs don’t raise money, vision does! Key thought: focus on a vision that is compelling, and people will joyfully give.
  • Time and money are the commodities of our day. Key thought: don’t waste members’ time with needless programs and they will reward you with their dollars!
  • Simplicity and clarity are the new normal. Key thought: make your message clear and concise and people will be more prone to read it and respond to it. Also, use your existing structures of the organization to communicate the vision.
  • Technology is how 21st century people process and respond to anything. Key thought: to connect your vision with your people you need to be where they are, and technology is the highway to their minds and hearts and thus their dollars.

You only get one chance to get your campaign right! The priority of needing over-and-above dollars will never go away. But the process of how we raise those dollars has and will continually change. Are you prepared to meet those changes?


Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach
mark@acts17generosity.com

There will be no Stewardship Coach on July 4th.

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