Fundraising On Firm Ground
Solid Arguments for Considering a Capital Campaign
By Russ Priddy
Any church leader with a mortgage (or who’s about to incur one) should consider the benefits of a capital fundraising program.
A well-planned and well-executed campaign accomplishes many objectives:
- It helps to pay off a mortgage early.
- For a church about to build, it reduces the amount of money church leaders must borrow.
- It gets church members into the habit of giving dollars over and above their normal giving levels.
Despite these motivations, no doubt you’ll still have some questions about how to decide a capital campaign fund-raising program is right for your church. To help, you must study up on a few basic tenets.
What it is. A capital fund-raising campaign is a planned event that raises funds over and above the budget contribution for a specific purpose (i.e., paying off the church mortgage or raising money to build a new building).
Yes, it’s Biblical. Look at what the scriptures say about God’s people contributing to support God’s work. The Bible says there are three general obligations in the areas of giving that we Christians share: the tithe, the gift and the offering.
The tithe is biblically designed to support the week-to-week, month-to-month and year-to-year ministry needs of the Church. Expenses such as staff salaries, utilities, insurance, cleaning supplies and more are to be paid out of the tithes of God’s people.
Consider what Malachi said in chapter 3:10: Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. (NIV) God instructs His people that there’s a spiritual responsibility to give one tenth of their incomes to the Church. The storehouse Malachi speaks of is unquestionably the Church of the New Testament. There’s no question that the word “tithe” means 10 percent. (In Old Testament times, there was no such thing as refrigeration, so the food Malachi spoke of would not last very long in that climate.) God’s people were instructed to bring their contribution, or tithe, of whatever they harvested into the temple so that God’s servants – the priests – would have their needs met.
Today we have a monetary system, so not everyone must raise their own livestock or grow their own fruits and vegetables; we simply go to the grocery store and buy them, and we use our paychecks to make the purchase.
Likewise, the Bible teaches that we’re to give a tithe of our income, or paycheck, to our local Church. These funds are pooled, and that’s how we meet the ongoing week-to-week expenses of the Church.
Occasionally, the Church or people of God have a one-time or short-term need which God’s people are called to satisfy. Two examples come immediately to mind, the first of which is after Pentecost when the Church in Jerusalem was inundated with thousands of new converts in urgent need of discipleship.
Acts 4:37 says that Barnabas sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles‘ feet. Verse 32 says the believers shared everything they had with those who had a need. In modern times, we support missionaries and evangelists with gifts to support them in their work. We pass the offering plate to meet this one-time or limited-time need.
Another great example of the gift in scripture can be found in 1 Corinthians 16 as Paul is taking up a gift offering for the Christians in Jerusalem. Paul encouraged those first-century Christians to give a special gift to help their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. Again, it was a temporary need, and a one-time gift was collected to meet it. As such, people contributed over and above the tithe.
The third type of giving in the Bible has to do with building God’s House. Some call it a “freewill offering.” In Exodus 35, we have the marvelous testimony of God’s people giving materials and labor to build the Tabernacle. It says in verse five that they gave from what they had, so it’s plainly over and above what they’d already accumulated. At least five times in this passage, it says that only those who were “willing” contributed. Obviously, not all of God’s people are generous, but those who’ve learned to trust Him with their possessions will be.
In another Old Testament event – when David gathered the materials to build the Temple – 1 Chronicles 29 says he gave from his personal resources (verse 3) and that God’s people gave “willingly” from their own personal resources (verse 6).
Unquestionably, when the time comes for God’s people to build buildings for His purpose, those resources should come from special offerings over and above the tithe.
How it’s executed. A capital fund-raising campaign is generally a three- or four-month endeavor with a special emphasis conducted by church leaders. In the campaign, several things must happen:
- The need for the offering must be explained so everyone understands the need and how this specific effort will satisfy it.
- Everyone will be asked to pray about and seek God’s will for their own monetary contribution to this effort.
- A good campaign will emphasize the fact that God doesn’t expect or ask His people to give equally because they don’t have equal financial capabilities. It’s not important that we give equally, but we should sacrifice equally. Remember how Jesus praised the widow who gave only a few pennies but was giving all that she could.
The desired result. At the end of the campaign, church members will be asked to pledge an ongoing gift over and above their tithe for the purpose of erecting a building or paying the mortgage on one. So, the most obvious result is that total income should increase because God’s people are giving more than their normal contributions, and in most cases, they’ll do this for as long as three years.
Pastors who’ve completed capital campaigns say there are additional benefits. Members learn to trust God with their resources in a deeper way. People work together to accomplish specific purposes. The community sees this effort. New ministry space is created as money is freed up.
I once heard a pastor say that a church is out of Biblical order if it’s making the mortgage payment out of its ministry income. Although some might debate this point, surely his argument has merit.
When to start. If your church is renting a building, a capital campaign will help you gather the resources for a down payment on a building it can own or land to build upon.
If your church is already in a building and needs more space, the sooner you get started accumulating resources, the less money you’ll need to borrow to accomplish the goal. When the building is finished, you’ll have income for the mortgage payment as well.
Finally, if your church has an existing mortgage, a capital campaign can help pay it off and free up more money for ministry.
Available resources. Many companies specialize in helping churches raise funds. Some denominations even have specialists to help member churches accomplish their capital-campaign goals. Books have been written to help accomplish the task. There are more than enough outside resources available to help your church accomplish the goals God has challenged it to meet.
The next time your church needs to build, or the next time it has a mortgage – and even if it has one now – a capital fund-raising campaign might be God’s answer to your need.
Russ Priddy is the Lead Consultant for Ascend Stewardship and Consulting. He has a B.B.A degree in marketing from Marshall University, an MBA in finance from the West Virginia University College of Graduate Studies, and a Master of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.