What Should We Do About Our Church’s Capital Campaign Plans During These Turbulent Times?

What Should We Do About Our Church’s Capital Campaign Plans During These Turbulent Times?

Michael Walsh, President | Walsh & Associates, Church Capital Campaign Specialists® | michael@walshfundraising.com | August 11, 2020

Coronavirus, political unrest, economic uncertainty. These are trying and turbulent times.

So what should you do about your church’s capital campaign plans – the one that was in progress or planned for the betterment of your church and your ability to better do God’s will and works.

There is a tendency or temptation to want to shelve your capital campaign or, at the very least put it on the back burner so to speak. Some churches have done just that. They say that now is not the time to do a campaign and that we need to be empathetic to our country’s and community’s plight. And for the most part, I understand and empathize with this to a certain extent.

But I still believe, and am in fact convinced, that churches that are in the progress of capital campaigns or have capital campaigns planned, should also be taking baby steps and starting to move forward with their campaigns relatively immediately.

Here’s why.

  • You should never stop trying to get better. Good stewardship commands that we always take steps to be better and improve regardless of the obstacles we face. Many churches, have already started doing this, using the Covid-19 crisis and resulting shutdowns as an opportunity to get up to date or do more “technology wise.” They started reaching out to members more regularly digitally. They started live-streaming services, which reached not only many of their regularly attending members, but also, shut-ins, former members and others outside of their churches too, many of whom they were not previously reaching or reaching out to. Most too, got up to speed on encouraging and getting more people to take advantage of regular, electronic and online giving which will benefit your church for years to come. This is all good news and tremendous progress. And continuing with your capital campaign or capital campaign plans is another great step in a positive direction.
  • If your needs are valid they won’t go away. The needs you had started to address with your campaign plans have likely not gone away. In fact, maybe some additional needs have emerged like the importance of setting aside funds in a reserve or endowment fund for emergencies. These needs remain and are likely to not go away. So the best thing is to continue to take steps to address them starting today.
  • Things are likely to get more expensive later. Each day you delay paying down debt, dealing with deferred maintenance or making planned physical improvements, costs will go up and your project will get more expensive if economic conditions continue to improve. So, to avoid having to expend more, keep taking steps to address your needs sooner rather than later.
  • Challenging economic times have benefits. Even in tough economic times though, there are benefits to doing capital campaigns, such as lower borrowing and construction costs which we saw in the economic downturn in 2008. So even if you won’t be able to raise as much in your capital campaign in times of economic decline, your project is likely to be less expensive too, than you had originally expected if you start sooner rather than later.
  • Just because some people won’t be in a position to participate now, doesn’t mean they won’t be able to participate later. In fact, one of the benefits of a capital campaign is that they are long–term endeavors with pledges being spread out over 3, 4 or even 5 years. And if you have a good follow-up plan in place after your campaign that involves appealing to people who haven’t pledged or participated yet, you should be able to recapture what you might have lost during the active campaign.
  • Capital campaigns still are dependent on relatively few, key gifts. The 80-20 rule (quickly becoming the 90-10 rule) has always applied to capital campaigns and basically says that if you want to be assured of reaching your potential, you should secure 80% of the support you need from 20% of your supporters. So capital campaigns have always been, and will always be dependent upon, not only a substantial number of givers, but also, a few key and substantial gifts. And most people have these types of gifts to give are typically not as adversely affected as most during trying economic times and will be available to meet with you personally or virtually.
  • Virtual visits, meetings and events are possible during campaigns. Keep in mind that virtual visits, meetings, and events during campaigns, while not ideal, are all possible and can be arranged during capital campaigns.
  • Capital campaigns not only raise money, they pull people together. Church capital campaigns also have, as one of their primary benefits, not only raising a lot of money, but also, pulling people together to work on and accomplish something of significance together and, as a result in the end, building a much more closely connected and ever more committed community of faith. And we especially need, and can benefit from this now.
  • People need their faith and your church now, more than ever. And one of the things that we’ve seen in trying times is that people need and tend to renew their commitment to God, prayer, their faith life and their faith communities more so than during trying versus so called normal times. So this is a benefit too, of moving forward with your church capital campaign or campaign plans.

    So as I see it at least, we have the opportunity to take steps now to turn these tying times into a more positive and prosperous future. So take your campaign or campaign plans off the shelf and back burner and do something else that’s positive to combat the negative that surrounds us now. For, as God said to us in Isaiah, 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Michael Walsh, President | Walsh & Associates, Church Capital Campaign Specialists® | michael@walshfundraising.com | March 19, 2020

Navigating Through Trying Times

Responding to Concerns about the Coronavirus and the Economy
as it Relates to Your Church & Your Church Capital Campaign

“Do not fear, for I am with you.”
Isaiah 41:10

These are scary and uncertain times…a fast spreading, life-changing and threatening virus is wreaking havoc on our country, our economy, our churches and everyone’s everyday individual and institutional lives. These are times that leave all of us wondering and asking about what to do and what to do with the capital campaign for our church that we have in progress or planned.

As you can imagine, I’ve been asked about this a lot lately – by our clients, prospective clients, staff members and consultants. So, I’m putting together my thoughts and recommendations in writing, which is based on my experience in navigating multiple other “trying times” that include the Iraq wars, 9/11, the economic downturn of 2008-09, numerous regional and local disasters such as hurricanes, floods and tornados, and even individual church challenges, such as pastor changes and past improprieties.

So here are some specific tips on what to do, in light of our current crisis:

  • Be empathetic. Understand that people are worried, concerned and scared and that they need and turn to their faith and their church more in times of crisis than ever before. So, commit to being there for them.
  • Embrace technology and reach out to everyone electronically. Commit, develop and execute a plan to stay in constant contact with your members and others connected to your church electronically, to check on their current status, well-being and needs; to share with them your current status, well-being and needs; to offer them your ongoing prayer, guidance and other possible assistance; and to ask for their ongoing prayer, guidance and assistance for your church. Use your church website, blog, Facebook and Instagram posts, email blasts and text messages to communicate with people en masse. Livestream prayer activities and worship services and ask for online offering gifts. Use this occasion too, to point out the importance of and to sign people up to make ongoing electronic gifts. And use virtual meeting platforms as a substitute for personal gatherings, too.
  • Reach out to and stay in constant contact with select members and others personally. We also suggest reaching out to the key leaders of, and donors to, your church regularly and even more personally using the phone, Facetime, Skype or Zoom. Ask about their well-being, their needs and let them know that you will be there to help them with any needs. Let them know too, about the goings on in your church, any hardships you’re encountering and ask for their guidance, continued prayer and financial support. This group of people are among your core supporters and those you are most dependent upon for your church’s success. And they will remember and be especially appreciative of this. We also recommend reaching out more personally to your church’s most vulnerable, including the elderly.
  • Slow down but don’t stop or drop your capital campaign. And, last but not least, we suggest slowing down, but not stopping, your campaign. Keep progressing toward meeting your needs and dreams by continuing to take positive and progressive steps in or toward your campaign. Move meetings, key activities, steps and events back a few weeks and then plan to start-up again after Easter. Then, if needed, be ready to move your timeline back again in a few week increments until things begin to positively change. But don’t stop or drop your campaign entirely, because most of you have already invested a considerable amount of money and time in your project and campaign already. And, if your needs are valid (which they are), realize that they won’t go away and will only get more extensive and expensive to deal with later on, or the longer you wait. So, keep moving forward, albeit at a slower pace, with your plans and/or campaign. Remember too, that capital campaigns are long-term endeavors. Planning for and conducting campaigns typically takes several months. Pledges for the campaign are typically paid over several years. During this time things tend to change. Consider the fact, for example, that the average recession in our country lasts just 10 to 18 months and that this is typically followed by an economic upturn that lasts for 27 to 57 months. This means that if some people can’t participate, or participate to the extent they otherwise might, in your campaign because of more trying economic times, they are likely to be in a position to make a gift or better gift in future years of the campaign when economic conditions improve. And, even though stock market drops and recessions may well decrease some people’s capacity to give or give more in the short term, a downturn in the economy almost always results in substantially decreased construction and borrowing costs, which we saw in 2008-09. This tends to save churches doing maintenance, remodeling or expansion projects, tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars that will more often than not offset any decrease you may realize in contributions. And, if you proceed with your project during these more trying times, you will actually be a beacon of hope for and stimulus to your local community and economy.

For believers, this is also a good time to remember that our hope is not in what we have, have saved or even in our physical health. Neither our current health crisis or status, the economy or the stock market provide the source of our identity.

In fact, Psalm 20:7 reminds us: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God”. Or, in other words we might rephrase this slightly and say…“Some trust in our health status, the economy and our financial portfolios, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

This is critical to hold on to when fear threatens to grab hold of our heads and our hearts: our God is not surprised by a viral outbreak, an economic downturn or a stock market drop. He is not disinterested in our fears either. Rather, He is our rock, our light, and our salvation (as it says in Psalm 27:1).

This might be a good time to look toward the Bible and not the news feed for support!

Because Jesus told us to let our light shine in a dark world (Matthew 5:14-16), and our response in a time like this may be such a time to shine!

Michael Walsh is President of Walsh & Associates, Church Capital Campaign Specialists®, a firm that specializes in helping churches with their capital campaigns.