Raising Your Roof
By Paul Bizer, Charles Blaisdell, and Jill White
This article was originally published in Giving Magazine Vol. 22, No. 1 in 2020. You can access the full issue here.
So, your church’s ministry is growing and thriving and it’s time to build or remodel. Congratulations! You’ll want to consider conducting a capital campaign to fund these dreams. First, though, two questions: What is a capital campaign and when is a capital campaign appropriate?
What is a capital campaign?
A capital campaign is a concentrated effort (typically thirteen to fifteen weeks) in which you seek gifts and three-year pledges or commitments from your church members and friends. These monies are over-and-above the regular giving to your annual budget and often represent gifts from members’ accumulated assets and/or things like real estate, vehicles, artwork, copyrights, appreciated stock, or sterling silver.
When is a capital campaign appropriate?
When you want to raise money for long-term needs that cannot be funded through regular annual giving and you have determined that a capital fundraising program is indeed feasible. Consider these as possibilities for support through a capital campaign:
The construction or renovation of facilities.
Many congregations have aging facilities and choose to build a new facility or renovate. Some congregations are deciding to repurpose a portion of their facilities for new ministries, often in collaboration with community partners.
A renovation that might include items like solar power panels, energy-efficient heating and cooling, or bringing the facilities into full compliance with access for everyone to all areas.
The creation or enhancement of an endowment fund that supports the ongoing ministries of the church and which thereby enables people to continue giving to the ministry of the church in perpetuity. (Prior to its establishment, policies regarding gift acceptance and fund distribution should be in place.) Churches are encouraged to be in touch with their judicatory for assistance with these policies.
Another possibility is to manage or reduce debt that may have accumulated over a period of time. By reducing or paying off the debt, funds that once were used for debt service are then available for ministry and mission.
New ministries and staffing.
The initiation of a new ministry and/or staff position can be made possible with capital funds as well. Funds raised can be used as the seed money to begin a new ministry position along with a plan to shift the funding over three to five years to the congregation’s operational budget. For instance, the congregation wants to begin a food distribution ministry with a part-time staff person. Knowing the need to address food insecurity, the ministry is initiated with funds raised from the capital campaign, then gradually funded through the operating budget.
Perhaps the most important thing that will lead to the success of a capital campaign is to always tie the why campaign case—the why of the campaign effort—to the why of the congregation’s mission and vision. People by and large do not give to institutions per se; they give to respond to urgent needs that the institution can meet. So clarity about your church’s mission and the needs that mission addresses is essential! A campaign case that is not grounded in the congregation’s why will not achieve its best possible outcome.
In addition, the success of a campaign is dependent upon the congregation being united in support of the proposed projects, and the projects are intended to strengthen and enhance the church’s ministry and mission. Before embarking on a capital campaign, any significant conflict or discord within the congregation should be addressed, as this will also impact the success of the campaign.
A successful capital campaign can positively impact the overall morale of a congregation and often leads to growth in member participation in the ministries of the church, more members engaged in leadership roles, a greater understanding of and commitment to the church’s ministry and mission, and overall increased giving by members to the operating and mission budgets. Many churches have found that a successful capital campaign tends to increase the regular annual giving to the church’s operational budget as well!
In addition to raising funds, a capital campaign can be an enriching experience for the congregation. It affords an opportunity for the congregation’s growth in faith, energizing spirit, and transformative generosity and mission to the community and world. For the congregation as a whole, a campaign can result in a deeper understanding of giving and help to create a culture of generosity. For individual congregants, it can be the greatest faith-raising experience of their lives.
Paul Bizer, Charles Blaisdell, and Jill White are Regional Mission Interpreters for the United Church of Christ Church Building & Loan Fund (CB&LF). CB&LF provides services to all denominations, including but not limited to capital campaign consulting. For a complete overview of these services, visit www.cblfund. org.
Giving Magazine was a premier stewardship resource published by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (ESC) from 1999 until 2020. The magazine served Christian faith communities throughout North America, providing thoughtful, practical, and inspirational content on faith and giving from thought leaders and practitioners alike. Giving was published annually from 1999 until 2018 (volumes 1-20), and then quarterly in 2019 and 2020 (volumes 21-28) in digital form only. In 2021 ESC closed its doors and committed its archives to the care of Lake Institute on Faith & Giving. For further information on ESC or its archives, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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