Choosing the Right Time for a Capital Campaign Part 1

by Erik Ely, Generis

As a Generosity Strategist with Generis, I being asked on a regular basis about the timing of a capital campaign. Most of the time, churches underestimate the amount of time it takes to plan and execute a capital campaign. There are many factors that come into play. In the next two posts I will touch on five of the most common ones I come across.

Calendar

This is probably the biggest factor that hinders a church capital campaign. Churches call us very late in the process. They usually engage an architect, first to get drawings for the building. They fall in love with said drawings and then contact a builder who gives them a more realistic price and the drawings go back to the architect for revision. This cycle can happen several times before we, the campaign consultant, are ever called about raising the needed funds. The design process can take months, so it is important that the campaign side of the process is running concurrently. You do not need to know how much money you need to raise to get started. There is a lot of work behind the scenes that needs to be done before the amount that we are raising is necessary. Here are some more specific calendar issues that need consideration.

Holidays – Every holiday needs to be taken into consideration or at least the big seven holidays; Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. The impact of each of these varies according to the church, but it is difficult to talk about a major initiative when you have low attendance. The commitment part of a campaign needs to be wrapped up before Thanksgiving which can take some planning. There are two distinct seasons for capital campaigns, fall, and spring. Easter and Christmas need the church’s complete focus, so it is not wise to try to run a campaign over these holidays. A campaign should shut down at least for the two to three weeks before these dates.

School Calendar – This is big. Any time there is a long weekend or school break that negatively affects your church attendance you should avoid those times. They are momentum killers and will make it significantly harder to raise money. If you are a university town, their calendar needs to be taken into consideration. I had one church recently that had a major university and local schools that had separate spring breaks. Another church I worked with had three different school systems that they had to take into consideration before they scheduled their campaign. This can be tricky for sure, but it can be figured out. If we claim we can only do ministry according to the school calendar, it only makes sense that we can only raise money by the school calendar.

Seasonal Calendar – Spring and fall are the two best times to engage your congregation in a capital campaign. That said, as stated earlier, we need to avoid other calendar issues like school breaks and holidays. Summers need to be avoided for obvious reasons. People are more engaged with vacation and spending time outside than they are about engaging in a capital campaign. Very few churches have been successful doing a campaign in the summer.
Now that we’ve discussed the when… stay tuned for part two which addresses many other factors.

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