Capital Campaigns vs. Annual Campaigns

Michael ErwinCapital Campaign Planning, Stewardship & Generosity

Annual Campaigns vs. Capital Campaigns

How will a capital campaign affect your annual budget?

What good will capital improvements be if you can’t keep the doors open and the lights on?

Church leaders hesitate to run a capital campaign at the same time as the annual pledge drive. They wonder whether a capital campaign will hurt annual revenue.

With the right process and good counsel, a “dual” campaign will increase commitment to both efforts.

Your annual stewardship program is the bedrock of your continued ministry as a church. The annual campaign nurtures long-term generosity among your members. It is important for members take a moment each year to assess their giving. Yearly pledges drive spiritual growth.

Annual giving also funds the vital mission and vision of your church every day. You need this giving to spread the gospel. Without a solid annual campaign each year, your church will not reach its full potential.

A capital campaign can seem to compete with annual giving. Sometimes a member may be tempted to divert their annual giving toward an exciting and engaging capital effort. This outcome could cripple a church budget.

But with careful attention to the principles below, your next capital campaign can boost your annual giving, not dampen it. With hundreds of dual campaigns in our sixty-year history, we have helped churches grow their annual giving during a capital campaign.

Based on our experience, we recommend that you:

1) Emphasize a comprehensive year-round approach to generosity and stewardship.

Our giving is a matter of the heart first, and a matter of the church budget after that. Jesus said, “The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” When we teach, preach, and practice true generosity all year long, we face the question “What does the Lord require of me?”

Churches that teach holistic generous giving do more ministry. Plain and simple. Preach about money when you’re not asking for it. Help your church members learn how to use their money in faithful ways. Thank them for their giving. And challenge them to give more thoughtfully.

2) Coordinate both the annual and capital campaign to occur at the same time, with final commitments on the same day.

In every campaign, someone suggests asking for annual pledges on a different day than capital pledges. Their heart is in the right place – annual giving must be sustained. It is clearer to ask for both pledges at the same time. That leaves less room for confusion. Use two different cards. Ask members to bring both back at the same time.

3) Communicate clearly that the annual pledge takes priority over the capital pledge.

We counsel our clients to say, “If you can’t give more right now than your annual pledge, please give only that. The annual budget takes first priority.” People understand that when it is stated plainly.

4) Ask for very specific increases for both campaign efforts.

In a dual campaign, it is important to ask for increases for both annual and capital budgets. Cost increases for next year require an increase. And the capital needs should be met.

For the annual campaign, ask families to step up one more percent in their giving over the prior year. That is one percent of their household income. Such an increase is realistic and can be managed by most members.

For the capital campaign, ask families to consider a pledge of two to five percent over a three-year period. For a family with income of $50,000, a three percent pledge would be $1,500. That’s $500 each year for a three-year campaign.

5) Capture the increased capacity for generosity after the capital pledge period ends.

Imagine a family that gives two percent of their income now. If they respond to the two asks, their giving will increase to 4% each year. After the campaign period, they will not typically maintain that level. But with proper cultivation (see #1 above), they will not revert to two percent. In a capital campaign we exercise our “generosity muscle,” so that it’s stronger when the campaign is over.

Concern for the annual budget arises naturally when planning for a capital campaign at the same time as the annual effort. With careful thought and a solid plan, the capital campaign can lift annual giving during and beyond the capital pledge period.

And with results like that, you may wonder why you’ve waited so long to do a capital campaign!