When Should We Do A Church Capital Campaign?
The timing of a capital campaign matters to a church. When is the optimal time for a campaign and does having a church capital campaign consultant really help with its success?
"Timing," in relation to a capital campaign, refers to the month on the calendar when a church engages the entire organization in a conversation about funding a high priority project. This public season is typically five weeks of focused attention on unpacking the project and making the case of why this project matters to the church. Because Generis is an innovative group, we’ve experimented extensively with variations on the five week window and found that the five week timeline works best in the current climate.
No matter the final decision on the public phase timing, the most important work comes in the campaign preparation period. Without focused attention on several key aspects of a campaign in advance, the public phase will end with mediocre or sub-par results. We recommend a minimum of a four-month preparation season for a church, and even longer for churches that are larger than 500 in weekend attendance. Quality preparation for a campaign makes for quality results.
All of our knowledgable church capital campaign consultants will advise that it is unwise to decide to do a campaign and then rush into the process. Given the multiple cultural shifts of the last few years, engaging givers in a project and talking to them about their finances now takes much longer and requires much more intentionality in advance.
Church campaigns work best in two seasons: late fall and spring, taking into consideration Easter and spring breaks.
Fall Ministry Season:
When the season starts, allow for the community to reset their life rhythms in the new school year. It can take several weeks for families to adjust to their post-summer schedules. Most people therefore do not have the emotional and life margin to pay great attention to a campaign. Furthermore, many church leaders will want to leverage the new ministry season and launch the fall with a series to capture the return to church, instead of immediately jumping into a financial topic.
Fall variables to consider:
Have the campaign end prior to Thanksgiving. Once the holidays hit, our culture goes into holiday mode and any focus on a church capital campaign will diminish. If the public phase takes place later, the development of major gifts, which are essential to any campaign, will come in over the prior weeks.
End-of-year giving matters to those who leverage charitable giving options for their tax planning. The fall season gives a slight advantage in some cases, but leaders should not rush a campaign for the sole purpose of receiving end-of-year giving. Better preparation will yield better results for a spring campaign. Plus, we can help those who really need to have the public phase in the spring still leverage tax advantages in the prior calendar year.
Hint: for those with avid football communities, whether NFL or college, be aware of those schedules when planning. Still, fall school breaks tend to be less intrusive than breaks in the spring.
Spring Ministry Season:
Spring provides a greater degree of flexibility when it comes to campaign planning and timing. There is more room in the cultural flow to work around, as fall is more compressed between school starting and Thanksgiving.
Spring variables to consider:
The location of Easter Sunday on the calendar is the first thing you should consider. Your campaign should finish before promotion of Easter begins. Churches also embrace Lent at varying degrees. Take into account your traditional Easter patterns to either leverage or to protect.
Weather factors also apply. If your part of the country often experiences severe spring weather that has prompted your church to cancel services before, try to begin your campaign later into the spring. If the weather in your church location does not often affect worship services, early year campaign timing works better because attendance tends to be higher when church services are not competing with warm weather activities.
School spring break often means lower attendance for two weekends. If you are in a balanced school calendar, your church capital campaign consultant will have ways to actually make that work to your advantage. Avoid campaign timing that overlap spring break weekends.
While the end-of-year tax option does matter, most campaigns can still take place over multiple tax years for those who prefer that route. We can help you think that through.
Avoid beginning the public phase of a campaign in the summer, the Christmas season, a senior pastor sabbatical, or when your community is experiencing other significant events. Super Bowls, athletic playoffs, and other unique community events are all things that your church capital campaign consultant will help you consider.
Your decision to enter a campaign season is huge and important. Effectively framing the public phase is one of several key decision points in knowing where to begin in order to achieve the most success possible for your organization. The team at Generis would love to assist your church in timing or planning a capital campaign. Schedule a meeting below to let us know how we can best serve you.