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The Long Journey of Fundraising: 10 Pointers for Raising Money for Capital Improvements

This is an article where we tell you how to raise millions so that you can build the place of your dreams. Laughable, isn’t it? Actually, it’s really not that funny. The pressure pastors and executive directors face (and many time, they face this part alone) is real. In the very best of scenarios when the eldership and committees fully support the mission and carry a big portion of the work load, there is usually one person who has to get on the platform and make the case for a great deal of money: the pastor, or the ED. No one likes to ask their membership for money, but there are ways to ease the burden, to avoid major disappointments, and to increase giving strategically for capital campaigns. In my experience, the nonprofits that have had the best luck with fundraising are not necessarily the wealthiest congregations, but those with the best long – term plans.

Rule Number One of Fundraising: Keep the congregation updated with the information you are sure of. It’s tempting to tell the congregation every exciting detail of the work you are accomplishing in the planning process. However, the better approach is to update them regularly, but only with information you know with a degree of certainty.

In the beginning, you are simply building excitement and letting your people know what’s ahead! Think carefully and speak only what you know to be 100% true based on solid advice, and not advice you’ve arrived at by means of hastily asked questions and badgering of people in the industry. The reputation of the project within the church needs to be above par at all times. Do not exhaust the congregation; simply keep them in the loop about milestones (positive or not so positive). It’s all about sharing the proper perspective.

As a general rule, you want to update the masses as much as possible about why you are pursuing a building project (e.g., growing ministries, growing needs, and growing kids). Then, of course show them how you are going to do it (communicating capital campaign goals and a running total of where you’re at on the fundraising scale). And yes, as much as you can along the way, show them what you are going to do (using site plans, building renderings, etc). So first deal with the why, then deal with the how, and then follow up with the what. This reinforces the role of the building and facilities as a tool for your ministry, not the other way around. In this manner, you are coaching the church into an intentional mindset about the project, where the building is clearly seen as a tool to support the work of the church. A church with such a mindset is much likely to incur major disagreements over trivial parts of the project, because the focus is on the building as a tool, and the excitement lies there (as opposed to the color of a countertop, etc.)

As you begin work with an architect, ask them monthly if there is anything new you could showblog-6-01 the congregation. The best practice is to wait until you have valid cost estimations before you present visuals of any kind, other than a very basic feasibility study (with which you would not mention a number that you need until you know that for sure). Keep the lines of communication open for questions, possibly through a comment box, which would be checked by the building committee chairman. Congregational questions should be discussed by the committee before answers are given, and the rule of thumb about sharing only the facts should be the general rule.

Many churches are hiring fundraising experts these days. These professionals can be an important asset, especially in very large congregations. Here are 10 Basic Principles to keep in mind!

  1. Keep the congregation updated on a very regular basis with most simple, clearly understood facts about the project.
  2. Consider your position on whether you will accept pledges as part of your fundraising strategy, and if so, how you will redeem the pledges.
  3. Take time to explain to the congregation (usually the finance committee will assist with this) exactly how you are funding the project. If you have made the decision to borrow conservatively, let the congregation know how and why you arrived at that decision. If you have decided not to borrow, you’ll need to lay out those plans as well.
  4. Once design decisions have been made and prices negotiated/communicated, give the congregation access to flyers and booklets telling the wonderful news of what is to come!
  5. Strategize the best times to ask the congregation to consider major financial support. In the project schedule, there are some events proven to help fundraising: when people see the first drawing, and when the first backhoe shows up. Other great times are when the structure blog-6-02becomes visible and when you can take your congregation through their first building tour.
  6. Do not ask the congregation to support two ministries or efforts on the same Sunday, or even back – to – back Sundays. This does not benefit either cause. People who would have prayed and given to both causes will likely back off from one.
  7. There is a major difference between project cost and “building” cost. You need to tell the congregation how much the whole project is going to cost.
  8. Remember that people give to the church in two ways: time, and money. Treat your ministry leaders and your major financial contributors similarly as it pertains to fundraising and you’ll avoid a world of hurt feelings.
  9. Consider at the very beginning of the project how much “pull” you’ll allow your contributors to have about the details of the project. We recommend that all suggestions, regardless of whom they are from, run through the same channels (building committee, board, pastor, etc).
  10. #1 Piece of Advice:  Keep a Positive Perspective.  Construction and design are not easy, and it’s very likely that this season you may feel that your time is in short supply.  Work with people you trust, and lead by example on all fronts.

If any questions come to my mind, please feel free to email us at info@plannorth.com

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