Church Capital Campaign Horror Story

For many churches, it is the season of the capital campaign that will help finance the construction of the church building. For the world, it is the season of horror as it celebrates Halloween (don’t get me started on that track). For some unlucky few, it is the intersection of both – a capital campaign that turns out to be, if not a horror, then far less the spiritually and financially uplifting event that it should have been.

As a capital campaign consultant, I hear the good and the bad about church’s experiences with their campaigns. Sometimes its enough to make you want to cry, or at least cry out in anger and frustration. Today I heard from a church who spent $50,000 on [just] capital campaign services from a well known consulting firm with a short name. The church did not feel they received the the promised or necessary attention or focus of their consultant. The church soon realized that the campaign was in trouble and when they reportedly contacted the firm, they were promised printed materials and follow-up visits, none of which materialized. The end result was the church was left much on its own and raised about 25% of what the consultants told them they could raise. The church is considering asking for some of its money back, as the consulting firm did not deliver on its promised services.

I hear variations of this sad song over and over, perhaps with a different refrain, but always the same chorus; “we paid a lot of money and feel we got very little personal attention for the money spent.” Over and over again I hear churches say the results did not live up to the sales pitch. Churches that were wined and dined and inundated with fancy glossy sales packages often felt somewhat abandoned when it came to delivery. A word of warning – it seems that many firms are better at marketing than performing.

Before you get the wrong idea, I do NOT mean this as a condemnation of capital campaign services. A capital campaign is an effort that produces both spiritual and financial benefit! The church will typically experience much better spiritual and financial results when it hires a consultant. An experienced consultant should be able to tailor the best practices developed from other church’s efforts into a capital campaign to meet an individual church’s needs. Speaking from my own experience as both a client and a consultant, the church should get experienced outside help for its campaign. There are good consultants that can deliver entire completed campaigns for less than just the consulting fee charged by some of the “big firms”.

I will also say that, regardless of the size of the company, the church should not “buy the company”, it should “buy the consultant” . It’s important to know your consultant and how many projects he or she will be working on at the same time as your project. It is also important to know the spiritual “fit”. for as it says in 1 Thes. 5:12, we are to “know those who labor among you”.