The Future of Raising Capital for the American Church

The Future of Raising Capital for the American Church

“I know you need to raise a chunk of change, and I can help you do that. But can I tell you what I am really interested in?” I’m interested in helping coach you through this decade so that by 2030 your church will be financially secure and ready to face future challenges.”

That was my comment to a pastor last year as I met with him to discuss helping raise $10 million for a new sanctuary. I shared that story last week when another church called asking if I could help them raise capital dollars for a $3 million renovation project. I shared with that church that my ultimate goal for my client churches is to get them away from the traditional capital campaign.

In this Coach, entitled The Future of Raising Capital for the American Church, I want to share with you my thoughts and recommendations for how best to raise the capital you need for the future we face. While I am averse to the typical traditional campaign, I believe every church will need to raise capital at some point if they plan on continuing into the future. There will always be a next crisis that will stress your budget. Let’s build a storehouse for the future.

Build what you need and pay it off by 2030 has been my advice since before Covid hit. Why? Because by 2030, nearly all Baby Boomers, the largest donor group by dollar amount given, will be almost entirely retired, and living on fixed incomes. Those 10+% tithers will continue giving at that same percentage. But their earning power is now significantly less; thus, their faithful 10% amounts to less. At the same time, the next generation of donors has yet to rise to the level of giving that would replace Boomers. And with the continual decline in attendance and engagement, Americans now give less than 2% of their Disposable Personal Income (DPI) to the church. By 2050, it is projected that the amount Americans give to the church will be 1%. This is the American Churches’ ticking time bomb.

It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road hoping next week’s offering will turn things around. Part of the problem has been that the decline in giving has been so slight that we adjust to those declines without realizing our future financial stability will be challenged. The longer you put off addressing this issue, the harder it will be to recover. Failing to make plans now will endanger your church’s future. Every church in America must do two things to ensure a healthy financial future.

First, build a culture of generosity at your church by teaching biblical stewardship. The greatest thing we can do for the next generation of the Church is to show them the joy and benefits of living a life of generosity based upon biblical principles. As the old saying in America goes, you seldom, if ever, see a skinny eater. We must teach putting God first!

Second, develop a plan of action to challenge your faithful givers to make your church their primary charitable giving outlet. While working to bring up the Next Generation of donors, we must focus on our current key donors, helping them use God’s blessing in their lives for Kingdom purposes. This is why I believe that every church needs a Legacy Lane strategy. Let me start by giving you my definition of a Legacy Team.

Legacy Team Definition – A group of people who either have the gift of generosity or they are looking for creative ways to use the blessings God has given them to be a blessing to others.

Why is a Legacy Team crucial for your financial stability? First, it addresses the reality of where funds come from. I have made a career out of analyzing giving data. I was blessed to be on the ground floor of the platform to analyze church giving created by my mentor, Dave Sutherland. Mortar Stone, and later Gloo, built upon what we had built.

I’ve analyzed hundreds of churches’ giving. We have found that, on average, 15% of a church’s donors give 50% of all that is given. For churches with budgets above $10 million, the percentage drops to around 10%. In Super Mega churches, it drops to around 8% on average. 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! This was our finding on One Fund campaigns as well. For more on this, check out my Bonus Section!

How many of your church’s top 15% donors are over 50? I continually ask that question because the answers reveal much about your future giving revenue. It is not uncommon for the typical church to have over 80% of its revenue from those 50 and above. What would you do if your top donor died before Sunday? Remember March of 2020 when, due to Covid, we were all scrambling financially? That is your everyday future.

Unless you prepare now by maximizing your giving leaders. It starts by knowing who they are. Please spare me the, I don’t want to know line. What would you do if the A/C were out when you arrived at the office today? Who would you call to help you financially pay for installing a new A/C unit before Sunday? So, you have a sense. I suggest alphabetizing the top 15% if that will make you feel better. But you can’t disciple who you don’t know, and I’m advocating discipling this group to end well with the fruits God has blessed them with. If you don’t, their alma mater will.

Next, and most importantly, if you want to compete and win against ‘ol alma mater, you will need a bigger vision.

Do you have a vision that stretches into Eternity? Do you have a Children’s Ministry? Then you are thinking beyond your life and into Eternity. The problem for most churches isn’t a lack of vision but how to present that so that your top-tiered, “already got stewardship down” folk perk up. Because the tithe might go to you, but the over and above goes to whoever has the best story, vision, and plan of action. And lest you think all of this only pertains to the big churches, I’ve seen churches with $250K budgets get $300K bequests. “Ye have not because ye ask not.”

I know all of this comes off as very unspiritual. Do I ever think of anything else? Not in the church arena, God has called me to. Remember, I am that weird guy always asking, how will this impact give? You thank me in July when following my advice, and you met all bills and payroll on time. Well, guess what? Some of you reading this are in the July of your ministry. In my fourth quarter of ministry, God has called me to help save as many churches from closing as possible. At the same time, I am helping several pastors who just turned 60 end well by leaving their churches financially secure. This takes time, thought, planning, expertise, experience, and many prayers to arrive at an eternal vision.

This is what has been on my mind for the last few months as I was reviewing studies I did in 2018 for a book that never developed. What was being predicted then is coming to pass now. We have a small window of opportunity left. What will you do with it?

So, traditional capital campaigns, even two-year combined fund campaigns, are not your path to financial security. They are reactionary responses to the present. We need a new way of thinking beyond what my industry provides. Let’s plan further ahead. Let’s make capital campaigns a thing of the past. You can avoid them by utilizing a Legacy Team Approach. There is a better way. It’s the future of raising capital for churches. I’ll show you how.

Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach

Missions and Ministry Moment (aka Offering Talk) – This week’s talk can be accessed afteryou register at:

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