The Newsletter of VanderWyden Consultants, Inc.
Providing Professional Giving Counsel
Capital Fund Campaigns - Operating Budget
Campaigns - Planned Giving
June 2008 - INSIDE THIS ISSUE. . .
1. Wyden Your Horizons with an Attitude of Adventure Click
In this "pre-summer" edition of Wyden Your Horizons, as we eagerly anticipate our summertime adventures of wydening our horizons by journeying to new vistas, we suggest that this attitude may provide valuable insight about church growth, and about growth in faith, and in joyous generous giving.
Also, as our nation's economy goes through uncertain times and many families struggle with their finances due to the mortgage crunch, and the increasing costs of gas and food, we suggest that this may be a very important and opportune time for churches to raise funds.
Wyden Your Horizons is provided as a free resource for churches, non-profit organizations, and individuals who are raising funds for good causes. Our mission is to enable churches and non-profit organizations to implement faith-raising programs that inspire their members to find the "Joy of Generosity." When individuals adopt this lifestyle, they experience giving as a joy and a privilege.
VanderWyden Consultants, Inc. provides professional guidance for Church Capital Fund Campaigns for renovations, repairs, and new facilities; for Church Stewardship Campaigns to provide funds for church operating expenses, staffing and programming; and for Church Planned Giving Campaigns to create or increase endowment funds; and for Judicatory Campaigns for Denominations throughout the United States. We enjoy sharing our discoveries about Fund-raising through Faith-raising with others. Please feel free to forward this email to family, friends, colleagues, or co-workers. If you have any questions about topics covered in this newsletter, or about any of our services, or if you wish to share your insights, please write us via email or call us through our toll-free line: 1-888-245-5826 (888-Bill-Van).
A Ship's purpose is not to stay safely anchored at the shore. The purpose of a Ship is to boldly venture out to sea, to chart new vistas, to explore new destinations, to discover new cultures and new possibilities. A Church’s purpose is also not to stay moored to tradition, but to always be venturing out on new voyages of faith.
“We never did it that way before.” The Seven Last Words of a Dying Church
In many ways a church can be likened to a Ship. If a Ship doesn’t set out to sea regularly transporting valuable cargo, it doesn't produce enough money to pay the crew and repair the ship when necessary. If repairs are not done, the ship can begin to rot and begin to take in water and eventually sink. Churches have the same challenges. If the church consistently doesn’t have enough money to repair and update its facilities and to pay the staff, its future is likely to be sinking. Many times in such circumstances, church leaders think that sermons on StewardSHIP will do the trick, and members will be motivated to give more generously. But giving habits usually become ingrained and it is difficult to change them. Ships can’t make quick course adjustments like automobiles. They require wide, slow turns and many adjustments to change directions. In this way, also, churches are like ships. It takes a long time to change the course of members' giving habits. Unwittingly many churches have habits relating to giving that are killing their churches; but because water isn't rushing in, the members don't fully realize that their church is sinking.
At this time many churches in our country are struggling financially to pay the bills for their ongoing costs for operating expenses, to pay the staff, for programming, and ministries. Many of these churches have been financially straining for many years, some for several decades. These churches have dedicated members who give valiantly of their time and talents to keep their churches going, but unfortunately their efforts to maintain the status quo may unintentionally be killing their church.
Consider the different attitudes of "St. Steadfast" and "St. Spirited":
St. Steadfast had been a fixture on Main Street for over two centuries. Generations had been baptized, gone through Church School, and served as church leaders. But now St. Steadfast has been struggling financially for quite awhile. The neighborhood was changing, and many of the children and grandchildren of old church families had moved away or were attending newer churches that had sprung up in the area. St. Steadfast valiantly continued to offer its traditional worship services and church school programs and ministries. The membership roles had been shrinking for two decades and the Operating Budget giving was dwindling.
The church's facilities had not been renovated facilities for 30 years, and the building showed it. The mortar was beginning to fall out from between the stonework on the exterior of the church, and the wooden steeple badly needed a new coat of paint, as the present paint was curled and constantly flaking, fluttering like snow on the many who drove past St. Steadfast on the way to other churches. If visitors would venture into St. Steadfast, they would find deteriorating stair tracks, and a nursery in the basement, that was furnished with hand me down toys and furniture. St. Steadfast's Sanctuary was huge and beautiful, but the walls were cracked and also needed a new coat of paint. The church organist had to constantly find ways to work around nonfunctioning pipes, and as a result played ponderously and slowly. The congregation always sang the old familiar hymns that were traditional and popular decades ago, but which brought back warm sentimental feelings to the older members of St. Steadfast, which was the bulk of the congregation. The acoustics of the massive sanctuary were not helpful to those who were hard of hearing, but the membership did not want any new technological sound system that might make the spoken words "feel artificial."
In addition to these drabs surroundings, there were many hidden dangers, in that the electrical and heating system had not been brought up to code in decades. Many windows throughout the building leaked heat to the outside and brought in gusts of cold air. Yet all of these features felt like home to the membership. The budget didn't provide funds for a custodian, so members devotedly did their best to clean the rooms and make minor repairs. They loved their facility pretty much just the way it was, or at least as they remembered it being when they had celebrated highlights of their lives there – marriages, baptisms, funerals, fellowship dinners, etc. They felt fortunate to be members of this congregation and to have this truly magnificent facility. If you asked members why they loved their church, many would say, "When you go to our church you know exactly what you are going to get. We don't want to be surprised, and Lord knows we don't want to change our beloved building. Besides if we did change something, we're afraid we might lose some of our members. We can't afford to lose any members because we have so few now to pay the bills. It would be nice to have a few more families, to help pay the bills, but those families might want things to be different, and we probably would lose more members than we would gain. We think it is important for churches to hold up the traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation."
The neighboring church, St. Spirited also had been built about the same time as St. Steadfast. St. Spirited's membership had ebbed in a similar way to St. Steadfast's until about ten years ago. At that time, the members realized that their church would not survive much longer if it didn't have some new ideas, and new approaches. They noticed the signs that their ship might sink if they didn't do something different. They took a leap of faith and called a new Pastor, who shared many inspiring, creative ideas when she was interviewed. Although some of these new ideas scared some of the members, the congregation realized that this was a sink or swim time, so they summoned up their faith and trusted God to lead them and called this innovative, energetic Pastor.
At her first meeting with Church Council, the Pastor asked the church leadership, "What is unique about our church other than our facility? Do we offer any special programs that other congregations or organizations don't offer? Do we have a unique mission to the community, that draws people to our church?" The Council members admitted that they hadn't thought about those topics in quite awhile. Although they could identify some unique characteristics about the way they traditionally offered worship, they found it much more challenging to describe unique programs or ministries that they offered. In response to this vacuum of ideas, the new Pastor suggested that it might be good to call for an all-day, all congregation Retreat. She suggested that the Retreat would have a three part focus 1. to engage in Bible Study focusing on the actions of the early Christian Church as described in the New Testament, 2. to discuss what this Bible Study might indicate about their church's present practices and potential future, and 3. to pray for God's guidance about their unique call to ministry for the future. She stressed that if this retreat was to be successful, they would have to make it an exciting event, which members would want to attend. Church Council selected a Saturday two months in the future, and arranged to have a catered luncheon from one of the most popular restaurants in town. Each member of Council took responsibility for contacting and if necessary picking up and driving a group of members to the church for the Retreat, and the Council President used a wide variety of media and announcements to get members enthused about this historic event, where "they would be charting the future course of their church."
The Retreat was very well attended, and produced thoughtful, lively discussion about their church's tradition and its future. Although there were a wide variety of opinions shared there was no rancor or hard feelings. The Pastor had started the Retreat by offering a prayer asking for God's presence and guidance, and then stated key ground rules - any discussion on this special day would be done with a respectful tone for the feelings of others, members should look for God in the faces of those around them, and all ideas were welcome, but the aim of the day would be to have a harmony of a wide variety of inputs. She acknowledged that sometimes change can be scary. That some members may be worried that if the church changed, some members might leave, or they themselves might be uncomfortable with the change. But she said their aim was not to have change just for the sake of change, but rather to seek to improve on the strengths of the traditions that they already had. This was a time to put their faith in front of their fear, and to Wyden their Horizons of envisioning where their vision could lead them. The future could be a marvelous adventure of faith, where God would set the course and beckon them to follow the Spirit. These ground rules created an openness and enthusiasm in the congregation and new exciting, inspiring, moving ideas emerged, and the Retreat was remembered as a wonderful time of sharing, where members got excited about their church again and what it could provide for the members, their community, and the world. The Retreat was a time that they began to believe that their church could have a fantastic future, and they rejoiced in their critical roles in charting a new course for their church's future.
One of the results of the Retreat was a decision to develop a 10-point, 10-year plan. They created goals and strategies for improving their church in 10 areas. Their aim was to excel in: music, worship, their facility, fellowship, church school, Bible Study, outreach ministries for their community, generosity, mission giving for the needs of the world, and evangelism of sharing the Good News of God's love. They broke each long term goal into one year, five year, and ten year goals, and developed strategies for reaching them. It was not easy to make these changes. Not everything worked the first time. Sometimes the Spirit didn't fill the sails, and some new programs didn't take off or took awhile to take hold. Sometimes they got stuck on a rock or a reef, as some adjustments and significant course corrections were necessary for them to be appropriate and applicable and effective. Some of the improvements that they envisioned would often cost a lot of money. But this didn’t deter the member of St. Spirited from trying new things as they now saw that they were on a voyage of faith, a marvelous adventure of exploring new possibilities as God lead them. Members did not see these challenges as signs that the goals were unachievable, rather just opportunities to grow and develop their faith and to listen more carefully for God's call for their church.
And the result, as they say, "was historic" In those ten years, St. Spirited's congregation grew by leaps and bounds. They became known as the church that was really making a difference in their community. They offered free special musical concerts and fellowship events to their community, and started a ministry of providing meals for the homeless. They realized that if they were going to improve their Church School and attract new families, they would have to renovate their facility, focusing on restoring the exterior, painting and installing better lighting in the sanctuary, refurnishing their church school rooms with new furniture with special attention to creating a new nursery near the sanctuary, and renovating and buying new comfortable chairs for the fellowship hall. When they counted up the costs of all of these improvements, it was five times their present giving. Many had doubts that they could raise this huge amount of money, but they eventually found a consultant who told that God had already provided the funds that were required, that they just needed to give them. The consultant helped them in organizing a no-pressure, pleasant Capital Fund Campaign, where members found the Joy of Generosity, and gave wholeheartedly. They exceeded the Capital Fund Campaign goal, and also in just 10 years they increased their mission giving 4 fold, and quintupled their Operating Budget.
Those ten years, following their 10-point, 10-year plan, adjusting course where necessary, maintaining their traditions and developing new ones, was a wonderful voyage of faith for the congregation. Even though they had accomplished most of the goals that they had set as a result of "The Retreat" as it was now known, they now had new visions, new ideas of what their church could do. These new ideas would require even more ingenuity, more generosity, and more courage. But as a result of putting their faith in front of their fears, and setting out from the safe shore, they had changed the culture of their congregation. They now were a congregation with a vision and mission, and they understood that growing in faith was a constant voyage of adventure into un-chartered waters that led to new discoveries, new insights, new ministries, new members, new leadership and new opportunities to grow in faith. The congregation now knew that the Spirit would lead them and that God would provide. They strove to follow the scriptural guidance that “faith was the substance of things yet to come and the promise of things hoped for.” They did not fear or avoid change. Anytime that they had some fear about some new idea that could improve their ministries, they decided to put their faith in front of their fears, and implemented the change. They felt that embracing new things was a way of trusting the Spirit of God to lead. They saw new challenges really as opportunities to discover unforeseen blessings that God could only provide if they stepped out in faith. They felt that God had great plans for their church that would only be implemented if they left worry behind them and let faith go before them.
Put your Faith in Front of Your Fear with an Attitude of Adventure
Obviously St. Steadfast and St. Spirited don't exist. The above descriptions are intentionally extreme dramatizations of church characteristics and behaviors. However, we encounter numerous churches every month in our work that display characteristics of St. Steadfast and St. Spirited. All of these churches have hard-working devoted leaders, members, and clergy, who love their churches and seek to follow God. Unfortunately those churches where fear of change predominates always unfortunately are slowly shrinking, struggling, sinking and dying. Their leaders have lost sight of new horizons, and think safety is secured by clinging to the shore. Often we will have members of those churches ask us, "Aren't all churches shrinking in membership and struggling financially?"
We always answer, "No." The churches that hire us, have
put their faith in front of their fears, and have decided to try out some
new, promising possibilities. Invariably they are churches that are already
growing, or they are churches that have decided that they need to make some
changes if they are to have a vital future. They realize that they have to
chart a new course, to set out on a voyage of faith, and respond to God's
call. Having an Attitude of Adventure about living with faith is a crucial
characteristic that can make all the difference in your life, and in your
The First Congregational Church of Charlotte, Michigan had a vibrant growing ministry. It also, however, had a facility that required major repairs and renovations to bring the facility up to code and to meet the needs of its congregation and community. Their facility had not been renovated in 20 years and many maintenance items had been delayed for decades because of insufficient funds to take care of them through the annual operating budget funds. After hiring an architectural firm to review their facility, they heard the challenging news that they would need to raise $2 million dollars to fund the delayed maintenance items and the repairs and the renovations.
This figure was 10 times the present annual giving of the membership. This presented a daunting goal, but the church leadership felt they could not ignore these needs that God had put before them. They asked us to conduct a Comprehensive Financial Feasibility Study to assess the resources of the membership, and their willingness to give funds for the essential repairs and renovations to their church's facilities. Many consulting firms offer "Feasibility Studies." However, many times these "feasibility studies" consist merely of review of the financial demographics of the area in which the church is located. Other consultants perform a cursory analysis of the church's giving patterns and consequently underestimate the giving potential of the congregation.
We often hear that many consultants routinely tell churches that the "rule of thumb" is that the most a church can raise is 2- 3 times their present giving. This statement is more a reflection of the lack of competence of these consultants rather than a lack of God's providing. Our objective always is to assist a church in raising all the funds that it needs. We believe it is very presumptuous to limit God's providing by some arbitrary number. We have found that God never puts a financial need before us without providing a means to meet that need. Working from this assumption, we routinely work with churches that raise 5, 6, 8, 10, and sometimes even 12-13 times their present giving in Capital Fund Campaigns. That's far more than "rule of thumb." And it only happens after conducting a professional, Comprehensive Financial Feasibility Study.
There are two basics questions that you must answer before you attempt to raise an ambitious goal. Of course the first question is, "Do our members have the financial wherewithal to be able to give the amount of funds that we need?" Your members obviously can't give what they don't have. Many Pastors have told me, "Our members are saying that they just can't afford to give any more funds." If Pastors accept these protestations of poverty on face value, they would never have the faith to even consider investigating a Capital Fund Campaign. The fact is that most church members have far more financial resources than they will admit to their Pastors. Many Pastors believe their members when they say they don't have much money, because many Pastors are paid far less than most in their congregations, so they have a hard time believing that anyone could be able to make a large gift in a Capital Fund Campaign. However when we conduct confidential interviews of church members in the course of conducting Comprehensive Financial Feasibility Studies, members admit that they have far more funds than their pastors ever imagined. With our low key approach in conducting interviews members will share with us information that they will not divulge to their pastors.
The other question that you need to answer before launching a campaign with an ambitious goal (a goal of more than 4 times your present giving) is, "If our members have the financial resources to be able to fully meet these needs, will they actually give those funds for these purposes?" Once again, in our Comprehensive Feasibility Study interviews, we find out how members really feel about the proposed projects and how much they are actually considering giving.
The members of the First Congregational Church of Charlotte did indeed report to having significant financial resources. They also indicated that they loved their church, and even though the amounts they would have to give were far more than most had ever given before in their lives, they were willing to pray about the possibility and would consider giving the high-level, major gifts that would be needed. In every campaign you can anticipate that at least one family can give a gift of at least 10% of the anticipated goal. In this case, gifts of $200,000, $150,000, $100,000, and $50,000 would be needed.
We reported the positive results of the Comprehensive Financial Feasibility Study, stating that "The goal is possible. Members have the financial resources to fund the essential repairs and renovations, and they are prayerfully considering giving the required funds." However, we also cautioned the church that this would not be an easy campaign. It would be essential to follow our no-pressure, proven, Joy of Generosity Process, to the letter.
The congregation voted to proceed with the campaign, and an excellent team
of campaign leaders were recruited. Having exceptional leaders is the key to
a successful campaign. We provided the organizational structure, the
process, and the training of church leaders that was required. As always,
this was truly a lay-led campaign, where the members encouraged each other
to greater generosity. Rev. Phil Hobson provided valuable inspirational
encouragement. When the Campaign Committee would have momentary anxiety
about the magnitude of the challenge, he continually reminded them, "The
Feasibility Study said the goal was achievable, but it also honestly told us
that this would not be an easy campaign." The church leadership did
fully implement our process and closely followed our guidance, raising
the $2 million dollars that initially seemed impossible. Many churches would
never attempt to rise to such a challenge. But it is a tribute to the
members of the First Congregational Church of Charlotte that they stepped
out in faith to engage in conducting a campaign for a goal that could have
easily stopped them in their tracks. As Jesus said, "If you have faith even
as small as a mustard seed, and you say to the mountain move, it will move."
This church faced up to moving a "mountain" of money, and summoned up their
faith, and the mountain moved. This campaign truly was an inspiring
testament to God's abundant providing, another experience of abundant
"fund-raising through faith-raising." Top
Many churches conduct their Operating Budget Campaigns in the fall. Often these campaigns are planned in September and implemented in October and November. With such minimal planning time, the inclination is to "Just do what we did last year", or to use the least labor intensive method -- send out a letter asking for support for the church, enclose "pledge cards" and ask members to bring them in on Loyalty Sunday. Unfortunately this kind of thinking can lead to disappointing results. Whatever process you use to invite your members to give has at most a 3-5 year "shelf-life" effective period. The first year you use the process you get the attention of many members because the process is new, and you may get a significant increase in dollars committed that first year. The second year, the process is not new, so fewer members pay attention, and if you have any increase in giving it generally will be less than the previous year. Then during years 3-5 the novelty of what you are doing wears off, members pay less attention, and your results diminish exponentially. That's why we recommend that you change your process for conducting your Operating Budget Campaign about every 3-5 years.
There are basically three processes used in Operating Budget Campaigns: 1. Letter Campaigns with Loyalty Sunday, 2. "Pony Express" processes which involve personally delivering a packet of information about the church's programs to each home, asking members to fill out their pledge card and enclose it in the packet, and to deliver the packet to the next home, etc. and 3. Face to face, heart to heart, soul to soul Personal Visitation to members' homes by fellow members, who with a no-pressure process, invite their fellow members to join them in indicating their support of the church by filling out an "Intention to Give Card" at that time.
All fund-raising research proves that the most personal methods are the most effective, and the least personal processes are the least effective. In other words, Process 1. mailing out letters is the least effective, and Process 3. visiting members face to face in their homes to invite them to join in supporting the church is the most effective, and process 2. "Pony Express" personal delivery of informational materials is slightly better than Process 1, but not nearly as effective as Process 3. Many churches have conducted Process-1 type campaigns for decades with ever diminishing results and they are perplexed why their members are giving less every year and more and more members are not filling out pledge cards. On the other hand, some churches conduct what they call "Every Member Canvass Campaigns" (this is very old terminology, but it is still being used) where they send out members to visit other members in their homes. Often these efforts become very discouraging because the "callers" have no training in how to conduct no-pressure, pleasant calls that invite their fellow members to give, and many members are fearful of welcoming fellow members into their homes to receive "pledges" because they fear being pressured into giving. The "callers" who are typically active church members, are sent out to visit many inactive members, and they come back discouraged because they have heard the complaints of those who are disaffected with the church.
All of the giving in the early Christian Church, as recorded in the New Testament, was done face to face, eyeball to eyeball, heart to heart, soul to soul, in members' homes. So Process 3, the most effective method, has been used by the Christian Church for over 2000 years! However, this visitation was not an "Every Member Canvass." The "callers" were enthused about the Good News they had to share, and those that they called on were inspired to give generously. In these times, if this process is to work, members' typically need to be professionally trained in how to conduct "no-pressure, pleasant, inspiring calls, and the membership has to be educated and reassured that the calls will be wonderful, warm times of sharing, that can enable them to find the Joy of Generosity.
As you see, there is much to consider as you think about your fall Operating Budget Campaign, and if you want to improve the results of your campaign this fall, now is the time to begin to think about the above facts, and begin to consider your process, your preparation, and if you may benefit from professional assistance.
We provide professional Workshops in how to plan Operating Budget Campaigns
for groups of churches, and personalized guidance for these efforts for
individual churches. With our guidance, churches typically increase their
giving at least 15% the first year, with up to 45% increases over 3 years. Top
VanderWyden Consultants provide professional fund-raising
guidance to non-profit organizations and churches who need assistance
with their fund-raising. We provide professional guidance for Capital Fund Campaigns, Stewardship
Operating Budget Campaigns, Planned Giving Campaigns, Comprehensive
Financial Feasibility Studies, and Workshops on the dynamics of stimulating growth in
membership. If you would like to meet with us, since we provide our services
throughout the United States, we can be available to meet with your
church leadership. If your church would like to
host one of our Professional Workshops for churches or non-profit
organizations in your area, we can provide a discount in our services for
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Rev. P. William VanderWyden, CFRE