Church Capital Campaign Advice

Contributor: Michele Meleen
Repainting the church

Churches today may encounter more challenges given declining membership numbers and the need to re-examine capital campaigns to update an already existing structure, as opposed to a new building. However, there are things every church can do to help maximize its success.

Pre-Campaign Phase

Before starting a campaign, every church needs to take stock of its status in the community and current congregation to initiate a membership drive.

Set Goals

Whether it's a new roof or an addition to the current building, identify your project goals before soliciting any donations.

  • Build membership.
  • Implement new program initiatives and community support services.
  • Generate a mood of enthusiasm and excitement for the work and mission of your church.
  • Increase public relations efforts to make sure your entire community knows about the growth of the church and the vibrancy of the congregation.

Create Member Momentum

Make every effort within economical reason to re-paint and re-furbish the existing structure first. It is important to remember, unlike an academic institution, a church is dependent on an active, working, practicing, and growing membership. Plan to run a six month to one-year membership drive prior the year you want to start a capital campaign for your church.

Phase 1: Making the Case

If a building committee runs your church's daily management, they should begin identifying the scope of work for the project about a year before the campaign begins. It is especially important as a nonprofit enterprise to show good fiscal leadership and management skills through the use of valuable resources and professionals.

  • The current committee should make sure the legal counsel of the church acts as an advisor or helps recommend and bring on board an attorney specializing in real estate law.
  • Charge the committee with getting an in-depth examination of the current structure and estimated costs of repairs or re-building.
  • Plan for, hire, and engage a competent architect, developer, and landscape specialist to draw up plans.
  • Consider hiring a capital campaign company to oversee the entire project if no one from your church is capable of or able to manage it.

Phase 2: Quiet Cultivation

The goal of the second phase is to begin the public portion of the campaign with a large amount of the funding required raised. During this phase, church officials work to solicit large donations from the congregation's most generous members through personal phone calls or solicitation letters sent only to these individuals.

Increase Donations by Offering Options

As these donors/members are identified and solicited, they should be offered several options in terms of payment over time or recognition for their contribution to the campaign.

  • Bi-annual or quarterly installment payment plans over the course of the campaign provide the opportunity to give at a higher level.
  • Create a challenge grant where a donor's gifts are only guaranteed if matched by donations from other members of the congregation to generate enthusiasm.
  • The option to have the pledge recognized via a naming of a room or the dedication of a special piece of equipment can drive some to give more.

Form Special Committees

During this time, the church should establish a special capital campaign events committee whose goal is to come up with and run special fundraising events during the public portion of the campaign. The church should also establish a development committee to research the possibility of capital grants and community business support in terms of building materials and volunteer donations of goods and time.

Phase 3: Public Portion

Once all major prospects have been solicited and their pledges made, the capital campaign goes public to the general membership. Create giving opportunities that will extend the mission of the campaign and touch other possible donors.

Fundraising Suggestions

Get creative and utilize a variety of giving events or opportunities so every member of the congregation can get involved.

  • Encourage tithing at a rate the donor is comfortable with; given today's economic climate this may be only 3 to 5 percent above the person's current giving level.
  • Make it a family affair by encourage families to raise a pledge amount by giving up something such as cable TV for three months, collecting spare change, or pledging part of the family's entertainment budget. Create excitement by telling the congregation what various families do and how much they raise.
  • Create a program whereby a member/donor can give pledge forms to relatives and friends in lieu of birthday and other gifts this year, saying "please consider a gift to my church's capital campaign."

Understanding the Scope of Work

When project managers, church members, and the community understand the specifics of the project and the budget it's easier to generate interest and raise funds. Take on your capital campaign as a step-by-step process and you'll reach your goals in no time.

Church Capital Campaign Advice