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.