Note: This post originally appeared on Voices of Stewardship, a newly sponsored initiative by Vanco Payments. I've written a lot about church stewardship and giving over the last decade. Review a diverse sampling of that work here.

If you’ve been a pastor for any length of time, you’ve likely led your church through a capital campaign. It’s a special time filled with excitement, wonder and a world of possibilities. This can be one of the healthiest vehicles for spiritual growth any church can deploy.

When God inspires you to do a Kingdom project, it will always feel bigger and more complex than your current knowledge, resources and congregation’s experience. That’s why a capital project can be a time of tremendous growth.

But There Is Too Much At Stake To Leave It To A Game Of Chance.

Some of the most common feedback I receive from church leaders relating their experiences with a capital campaign is:

  • Our consultant didn’t listen to us.
  • The strategy was good but didn’t feel like it was tailor-made for us.
  • We ended up falling tremendously short of the funding needed to accomplish the building or missions project at hand.
  • After Commitment Sunday, we never heard from our consultant again.

This is why, I believe, many church leaders are looking for alternatives to the traditional capital campaign. Some are willing to try just about anything to avoid what they perceive to be tired, programmatic and, truthfully, nothing more than a commodity.

This Is The Dirty Little Secret That Could Hold You Back From Making An Impact On Your Community—And The World.

The reason why you feel like you were pushed through a standardized process and left to hold the bag after Commitment Sunday is that your strategy wasn’t grounded in analytics, and your plan for fulfillment wasn’t supported by technology. Without those things, you simply hired a project manager and licensed a notebook. This is the dirty little secret that could hold your church back from the impact it could make on your community—and the world.

Analytics means a lot of things to a lot of different people. I’m not talking about custom report writers. Those are fantastic tools but fail to take into account dynamic realities specifically related to your church. They also don’t have the capacity to accomplish predictive modeling across a variety of variables that show you trends and how to modify them to arrive at your intended destination. Most often these tools dumb down the results by relying on broad-based assumptions and averages instead of your specific church trend lines.

You’re not flawed for not knowing you need these tools, and your campaign consultant is not immoral for not offering them. It’s taken some time for this toolset to make its way into churches, but it’s already changing how churches and consultants work together.

Here are some characteristics of campaign consultants who understand the value of actionable insights:

  • A good bit of time is spent on the front end collecting and processing your data.
  • That raw data is structured and visualized to drive senior leadership conversations.
  • That structured data is now applied to a predictive model, so you can determine the impact a decision you make today will have in the next 3 to 5 years.
  • You’ll begin to see the correlation between data points and it will empower and equip you to validate or challenge your assumptions and expectations for a catalytic event like a capital campaign.
  • You will not see a project plan or strategy document before the analytics process is complete.

If Your Campaign Isn’t Built On Analytics, Then You’ve Left Your Future At The Mercy Of A “Guessing Game” And Put Your Church At Risk For Disappointment And Even Worse—Regret.

Your campaign strategy should emanate from the data. It’s the only way to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. While perceptions are important, objective data is the diplomat when difficult or troubling news needs to be delivered.

Analytics will determine:

  • Your dependency on financial leaders
  • What key moves will need to happen to reach your financial goal
  • The pitfalls you should anticipate
  • The places that show the most promise.

Without analytics and modeling, the communication and financial planning involved in a capital campaign are simply a series of preferences and unsubstantiated assumptions.

But Analytics Without A Technology-Enabled Fulfillment Process Is Shortsighted.

The truth is: it’s up to YOU to carry the momentum during the typical 36-month fulfillment period. The rush that comes from a campaign planning process is exciting, but the real work begins the day after Commitment Sunday. Your consultant will move on. He or she may check in once or twice a year, and it likely won’t be very structured if they do.

Here is what you need to successfully manage the fulfillment period of any campaign:

  • Congregational segmentation to deliver relevant, timely, and specific information and updates
  • An automated process to onboard new members into the campaign during the fulfillment period
  • Visibility into your communication, how people are interacting with it, and what impact it’s having on pledge fulfillment every 30 days
  • A way to systematically yet gently nudge pledgers over time to stay connected and engaged

Without The Support Of Automated Technology, The Fulfillment Period Will Be Dependent On Your Personal Resolve And Force Of Character.

Before you hire your next campaign consultant, ask these questions:

  • How will you arrive at your campaign strategy and recommended approach?
  • Can you validate that we can raise what we need to raise for this project? If so, how would you go about doing that?
  • What technology do you have to extend the excitement of the planning process through the end of the fulfillment period?
  • How will we interact and at what frequency after Commitment Sunday?

Capital funding is one of three essential buckets to a fully funded church budget. (The other two are operational and special giving.) No matter what size church, there will be times when you need an infusion of energy, people, and dollars to break through to the next level of impact. But this work should also integrate the tools and technology of today.

If you’re not reaching for anything and everything to help you accomplish your God-given vision, then you’re limiting your potential and return on investment in a consulting process. Don’t let the dirty little secret of campaign consulting hold you back from realizing all that God has planned for your church community.

REFLECT: Think about your most recent campaign experience. Did analytics drive your strategy and planning? Did you deploy technology to support the fulfillment process? If not, what difference would those factors have made in your overall campaign outcome?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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