Extraordinary Money! Understanding the Church Capital Campaign

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Michael Reeves’ Extraordinary Money! (Discipleship Resources, 2002) could have been called “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Capital Campaigns But Were Afraid to Ask.” – because there is a lot of fear out there about capital campaigns. People ask questions such as:
• “Can we do it ourselves?” Reeves says “Don’t!” and gives seven important reasons and examples of money results to back up his answer.

• “How do we choose campaign professionals?” He gives the pro’s and con’s for three types of professionals, so we can pick what fits for us, and lists questions to help us find the right match.
• “How much can we raise?” He names five factors that determine the answer, and shows financial results of fifty actual church capital campaigns for land, new building, debt retirement or renovation.
The author should know. Currently President and CEO of the United Methodist Foundation of Louisiana and formerly with the Texas Methodist Foundation, he has worked professionally as director of campaigns for a major capital funding organization that works primarily with churches. He has personally led more than 150 church capital campaigns.
So fear not – this practical gem of a book gives us one-of-a-kind guidelines for figuring out our readiness for going after “extraordinary money” in the context of biblical stewardship, in contrast to imitating institutional fund raising.

Two Goals
Reeves says the first goal of a “capital stewardship campaign” is “to have every family of the church informed and in prayer about God’s will for them with regard to the campaign.” Prayer is a crucial change agent, dependent upon insight from the Holy Spirit, in the process he recommends. So the second goal of such a campaign – to raise as much money over and above regular giving as possible – is not the end of the story.
“For many people in the church,” he says, “this will be the beginning point of a commitment to biblical stewardship.”

Extraordinary Money! Is full of practical guidelines: everything from seven stages of a campaign to church leadership job descriptions; from the purpose of “pre-campaign planning” (his preferred phrase for what’s usually called the feasibility study) and the congregational survey, to building ownership and growing gifts throughout the commitment process.
He tackles tougher stuff, too, like “Should we borrow?,” shows cash-flow analysis (with and without a loan), and even lists approximate commercial fees for capital campaigns.

Major Gifts
And what about the mystery of major gifts, and how we can approach the range of giving? Reeves offers four actual Gift Profile Guides, for campaigns of $300,000 to $2 million. (The Guides say it will take so many gifts of this amount and so many of that, to come up to the total financial goal.) Okay, so many of us have heard that capital campaigns can raise from one and a half to three times last year’s annual budget. But Reeves gets more specific. For example:
• Major gifts are what make the difference when churches receive more than the general ratio expectations.
• In most churches, one of every forty families can make a one-time gift that equals the church’s annual budget.
• The cost for consultants seldom goes over five percent of the amount raise. Consultants should receive a flat fee, never by percentage (for ethical reasons).
• “The rule of thirds:” About one third of the total raised will come from the top six to ten commitments, another third will come from the next twenty percent, and the final third will come from the rest of the commitments.

Shattering myths
Reeves also shatters a few “everybody knows” falsehoods along the way. For example, he notes that generally it is good for the church to separate its capital campaign from its annual funding campaign. This maximizes congregational involvement and “uses both stewardship opportunities to teach responsible financial stewardship to the fullest.”
He also shows how “in most cases, an effectively designed and implemented capital campaign has a significant positive influence on the regular giving in subsequent years.”

A “must read”
Does this sound too technical for you? Not at all. Reeves writes in a conversational style with lots of actual church examples.

Will this make you an expert? No – but it will give you enough information and benchmarks to bring in an expert and have the whole thrust of your capital campaign actually strengthen and extend your ministries. This is a “must read” for anyone contemplating a capital stewardship campaign at some point in the future.

 

Betsy Schwarzentraub

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