Capital Campaigns: Asking People to Give

(Originally published as an article within ECCU’s former e-publication, Ministry Banking Today.)

“Let me be blunt, the church needs money to move forward. We don't like to say it, read it, and sometimes even admit it. It doesn't sound spiritual, but it's deeply spiritual. You cannot escape the reality and responsibility of raising faith and raising funds for your church.”

—Dan Reiland, The Pastor’s Coach e-newsletter

When your ministry is in need of extra cash—above and beyond regular tithes and donations—what should you do? Brad Leeper, senior strategist and fundraising expert at Generis, has a few suggestions.

Do not be silent. If you are too busy, timid, or overwhelmed to bring up the need, remember that your silence speaks volumes—and does nothing to serve your ministry. If people are not asked to give when generosity is most needed, they miss an opportunity to be a part of kingdom work.

Teach about generosity. We addressed this approach in the August issue of Ministry Banking Today. The bottom line: Seize the opportunity to build a foundation for generous living in your ministry. Teach stewardship principles and live them out in your decisions as a ministry.

Engage in a specific project. Whether you’re trying to raise funds for a new building or a new ministry opportunity, here are tangible tips from Leeper for getting your supporters on board in the midst of a shifting economy:

Keep it short. Think of campaigns in short-term increments, between one or two years. For example: “Between now and next December, we want to raise X amount of money.” The key is a shorter timeframe, as opposed to the traditional three-year approach. In an unstable economy people fear committing more than a year or two ahead. You are likely to receive more pledges if you ask people to commit to a shorter time period.

It’s a drip, not a fire hose. It used to be that campaigns had a five-week window for promotion—with communication coming fast and furious. Today, a better approach to your promotion is with steady, intentional, and strategic communication over the course of about a year. For the first six to nine months, work on creating a culture of generosity, then dig into the campaign.

Know your audience. Rather than parroting the same message to your entire donor base, tweak your content to align with each subgroup. Conversations with first-time givers should be different from those with committed givers. Do you have a specific message for surplus givers—those that have wealth and either give very little away or give a lot but not to your ministry? Identify your different donor groups, and then craft your message to match their unique distinctives.

For a re-cap of reasons to pursue a capital campaign and more ways to succeed at it, visit the May 2009 and August 2009 issues of Ministry Banking Today.

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