Considering a Capital Campaign? 4 Signs Your Church is Ready

Capital campaigns help church leaders everywhere inspire their congregants to give, subsequently allowing them to reach ministry milestones. Whether your church wants to build a new structure, renovate an existing one, or retire debt, a capital campaign is a worthwhile consideration.

This is especially true considering the financial constraints some churches have faced over the past year. To comply with social distancing regulations, places of worship had to supplement in-person offerings with virtual fundraising to ensure financial sustainability. Now, they may be in need of a capital campaign to get back on track.

Even for experienced church leaders who have conducted this type of campaign before, capital campaigns can be intimidating to take on, especially without first knowing if your congregation and staff are ready. To help, we’ll walk through these four tell-tale signs that your church is ready for a capital campaign:

  1. Your church has defined its long-term goals.
  2. You can identify a capital campaign’s role in achieving those goals.
  3. You have a passionate team that’s on board with the campaign.
  4. Your team is ready to engage participants throughout the whole campaign.

Here at Greater Mission, we’re dedicated to serving faith-based ministries and providing them with the guidance they need to cultivate generosity and encourage church members to give. We’ve worked alongside church leaders to conduct capital campaigns to fund new or enhanced facilities, ministries, and outcomes for God’s work. Drawing from this experience, we’re confident these tips will help you determine if your church is ready for a capital campaign.

Your church has defined its long-term goals.

A strong end goal is the driving force of any effort. When it comes to faith-based giving in particular, people want to play a role in something bigger than what they can accomplish alone. The right goals will inspire congregants to give and see to it that your campaign is successful.

Bear in mind that few people are motivated by dollar amounts; they’re more likely to be inspired by a goal and mission that resonate with them. Luckily, that’s the core of a church capital campaign — sharing your aspirational mission with others and encouraging them to play a role in it.

Common end goals for capital campaigns that will inspire church members to get on board include:

  • Purchasing a new building or land
  • Renovating an existing structure
  • Minimizing debt
  • Participating in local or global missions
  • Expanding your ministry in some other way

While these aspirational goals will certainly capture your congregation’s attention, the one you select has to be feasible. Your congregation has to be able to attain this goal and check progress toward it along the way. By understanding your ministry’s ultimate end goal, you can determine whether a capital campaign supports it.

You can identify a capital campaign’s role in achieving those goals.

After determining that a capital campaign clearly supports your ministry’s ultimate goals, decide the exact role a successful one would play in achieving those goals. Greater Mission’s guide to church capital campaigns explains that you need to know why a capital campaign is the right solution. That is, what is the primary reason why your church should conduct a capital campaign as opposed to pursuing another fundraising initiative?

Consider what your church will look like as a result of the desired project. Overall, you should be able to envision what you will be able to do that you can’t do now. For instance, this could include:

  • Hosting larger services after expanding buildings
  • Expanding youth summer camps by renovating current structures
  • Focusing more on extra programming and expansion once you’ve paid off any debt

Understanding the potential impact will help determine whether a capital campaign is the correct route to take. In turn, you can begin to develop your case for support by determining the desired impact. Your case for support will help explain to congregants why your project and their support for your campaign are necessary. Then, you can dive deeper into the specifics of the total amount you need to raise and a realistic timeline for acquiring those funds. 

An experienced consultant can help determine how a capital campaign will play into your mission. Double the Donation’s church fundraising ideas guide explains that the right consultant “can effectively assess your church’s financial situation, design a campaign that will succeed at your church, and help you grow your revenue.” This will ultimately help you fund new or growing facilities and ministries while also inspiring faithful charity.

You have a passionate team that’s on board with the campaign.

As we’ve touched on, a church capital campaign is a large undertaking and isn’t something that can be tackled by one or two people. The team you put together should be passionate about your mission and fully on board with the campaign, inspiring them to do their best work. These teams are typically comprised of three types of individuals:

  1. Church members. This group will be your strongest supporters on the ground level. Consider avid donors and volunteers — these individuals choose to donate their time and money to your ministry. They can converse with fellow churchgoers, and inviting them to join your team will establish transparency and trustworthiness among your entire congregation. Your fundraising technology should make it incredibly easy to locate your church’s top givers, so you don’t spend all your time looking through records.
  2. Staff members. Smaller churches should invite their financial leaders, such as their treasurer or accountant, to their capital campaign team. They will help keep the campaign’s financials in order. Larger churches may invite additional staff members to join.
  3. Church leadership. The final group of people you’ll want to invite is your church’s leadership, such as deacons or anyone else who your church has commissioned to serve. With a close connection to your ministry and an understanding of your goals, they’ll be able to share their feedback and whether they believe it aligns with your church’s mission.

If you find that any of these groups are hesitant to join your capital campaign team, this may indicate that the rest of your church will not support the initiative. Soon after you’ve built your campaign team, you’ll want to educate them on the process, so they have a clear understanding of what to expect. When everyone is aligned on the process and reasons for your campaign, you can boost your chances of leading a successful fundraising effort.

Your team is ready to engage participants throughout the whole campaign.

Between planning a campaign and encouraging church members to pledge their support, capital campaigns take a lot of work. Your campaign team needs to maintain momentum throughout the entire campaign by sharing progress and continually encouraging members to join their fellow churchgoers in giving. 

While the bulk of your work will be done during preparing and launching the campaign, don’t forget about following up. 

This guide explores several ways you’ll need to follow up post-campaign, including sharing results and thanking anyone who gave or pledged to donate. These efforts continue through the fulfillment process, which is when you make sure everyone who pledged to your campaign follows through. Your team needs to be fully committed to following up and keeping spirits high with plenty of proactive outreach.

Your capital campaign team will be in charge of following up with anyone who falls behind on pledge payments and commending anyone who is on track with their payments.

The fulfillment process entails plenty of persistence, which can be difficult after you’ve wrapped up a lengthy capital campaign. At that point, your team has spent plenty of time discussing whether a capital campaign is the right choice, then many more months planning and launching the campaign

It’s challenging staying focused after that point, but this is the only way you will ensure all pledges are fulfilled. The right pledge technology will help immensely in reminding your team and pledges to stay on top of payments.

Whether your church’s fundraising took a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic or you’re simply looking to expand your ministry further, a capital campaign can provide you with the funds to keep the doors open, promote faith-filled giving, and further God’s work. Just bear in mind that you must consider if a capital campaign is right for your congregation before committing to one. It’s our hope that this guide will be a useful tool in clarifying your church’s next steps. 

If you’re still unsure whether your church is ready for a capital campaign, reach out to a professional consultant. These individuals bring a great deal of experience to the table, guiding you toward the right fundraising initiatives.

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Thomas Sonni

Tom Sonni founded Greater Mission in 2006 so that he might expand his life’s work, empowering the Church to live and share the greatest mission ever conceived: To know Jesus Christ and make Him known. Tom brings more than twenty-five years of experience designing stewardship models and managing capital campaigns along with years of experience in strategic planning, constituent research, annual appeals, major gifts, and legacy giving. Tom has guided efforts that have raised over $400 million for the Church. His service has strengthened the Arch/Dioceses of Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Lansing, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Providence, Richmond, St. Petersburg, and Venice, among others. He led the creative design of With All Your Heart – a dynamic new mission advancement model that integrates spiritual formation and lifting parish communities to new levels of generosity to sustain and expand mission and ministry. Before founding Greater Mission, Tom served as the executive leader of diocesan-wide development and stewardship programming in the Diocese of Harrisburg and the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Tom has been a thought leader in the Church on matters of discipleship, stewardship and development, serving on the Board of the International Catholic Stewardship Council. In addition to contributing articles to professional journals, Tom has frequently spoken at national and regional conferences. He also served on the board of Christlife, an international Catholic evangelization ministry.

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