At the beginning of a capital campaign, an often asked question by church leadership is how much can we raise? This question is usually followed by how successful are you at raising the goal?

Before answering the aforementioned questions, consider how your capital campaign plans began.

Well-meaning leaders have decided that there is need to expand and/or renovate. An architect is contracted and preliminary plans are drawn up. An estimated price is quoted, and the information is shared with the congregation. The estimated cost of construction now becomes the campaign goal. Normally, at this point, someone divides the cost by the number of members and concludes: if we all give “this” amount the project will be a success.

This is often the way a capital campaign starts and a goal is set — with little to no consideration if you can raise this amount in one 3-year capital campaign. Kirby-Smith Associates is no different than most fundraising firms when we advise a client that virtually all churches can raise one and a half times annual offering over three years as a minimum, with 90% of churches raising two to three times offering over three years, and with a select few that can raise substantially more depending upon large gift potential.

If Kirby-Smith Associates conducts a financial feasibility study, we can focus specifically on your church and provide a much clearer answer to the realistic prospect of how much your members will give to the capital appeal.

However, even with a feasibility study, the amount projected that you can raise may not equal what your church may see as the goal. From the perspective of the church, the goal is what the architect, and/or the contractor estimates will be the cost for construction. That amount may not be a realistic goal for a capital campaign. Kirby-Smith Associates advises that a church change the terminology for this estimate from a goal to a need. The need is how much the project will cost, the goal is either the amount you can raise from an educated guess based on your specific financial history or a more accurate assessment through an analysis of a feasibility study.

This important distinction is critical to not only achieving your goal, but in assuring that your members feel their efforts will lead to a successful outcome. Members are much more likely to give a gift of sacrifice versus convenience if they see that the goal is achievable.

To answer the two questions first proposed in this article: How much can we raise? Normally, one and a half to three times annual giving. If you need a more specific range, you need to conduct a feasibility study. How successful is Kirby-Smith in raising the goal? Kirby-Smith Associates is virtually 100% successful in raising the goal as defined by the feasibility study. To meet the need may require a second and sometimes even a third campaign.

However, Kirby-Smith Associates’ capital campaign process affords the opportunity to hit not only the goal but the need. We advise our clients to conduct a three-year capital campaign. Our 75 years of experience shows most church members prefer a capital campaign of three years in length. If a church has achieved the goal and is within approximately one-third of the need, ask members in year two and three to extend their giving one more year (two at the maximum). The original goal is not only exceeded, but the need is often met to pay for the planned project(s) without conducting a second capital campaign.

Need to raise more money? Follow the Kirby-Smith process and raise one-third more than your original goal. This process will have to be modified if you already have planned a multi-phase capital campaign or if you need at least 50% more than the amount raised in your initial capital campaign. The reality is that in today’s economy and with the costs of construction, most churches conduct more than one capital appeal to reach the needed amount.. However, whether you plan one or more campaigns, consider adding an extra year onto your last campaign to raise one-third more.

Call Kirby-Smith Associates and speak to one of our campaign consultants for additional information or to schedule a free no obligation presentation.