Alan Wildes

Alan Wildes

Lesson Learned – Your People Don’t Know!

I learn something every capital campaign season. I have been at it for 16 years now and I learn new things each time. However, some of the ‘oldies but goodies’ never stop reoccurring.

THE #1 mistake made by churches entering into a capital campaign:
“Our people know what we are trying to raise money for.”  
My experience says, “9 times out of 10, they do not.”

Yes, the core leaders know what is going on. The core leaders (which represent less than 1% of the people) have been talking about the project for months (even years in some cases). Yes, they know what’s going on and maybe the governing body of the church has a decent idea of the scope of the project. However, my experience tells me that over 90% of the active people in a church do not know what they are about to raise money for in the upcoming capital campaign.


How do you gauge where the people are? In your next Council, Session, Vestry, Elder, Deacon, Ministry Leadership Team, Executive Team (you get the picture) meeting ask this question:

“On a scale of 1 – 10 of understanding what we are about to raise money for in the upcoming capital campaign, how would you rank a family who attends 1-2 times a month and comes only for an hour on Sunday? They are not in a small group of any kind and really not plugged in other than worship. Rank their understanding of the upcoming project we are about to raise money for on a scale of 1 -10.”

Go around the room, get an answer from each person, calculate the average and SUBTRACT 2. That’s what I do. Why? Leaders radically overestimate the communication processes of their church. The average ‘church attendee’ does not think like a leader of the church.

So, how do you fix it? Start from the beginning. Tell the people of the church at least 7 times the answers to these questions BEFORE you start a capital campaign:

  1. What is the vision of the church?
  2. What is the problem?
  3. What is the solution?
  4. What is the urgency?
  5. How much is it going to cost?
  6. What can each person do to help?

Once you have communicated with your people the answers to these questions 7 times, you are then ready to begin a campaign.  

Why do this before the campaign? In the fall of 2015, the churches who did a good job of communicating prior to starting the campaign raised at least 1 more time their operating budget than those who did a poor job.  1 time their operating budget more! That’s a lot of money for any church.

Raising money can be challenging in the best situations. Communicate early and often prior to starting the capital campaign. It pays off; literally.


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