We have been assisting the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, based in Indianapolis, on a number of fronts (www.stewardshipresources.org). One of them is developing a network of capital campaign providers who connect to the Christian denominational families. We think they need to strengthen their place in the marketplace because their services are excellent and they usually provide a less expensive and supportive alternative to the selling of services and production goals of some commercial firms. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about this service available through the Ecumenical Stewardship Center.
Why form a network of capital campaign providers among participating denominations?Denominationally-affiliated congregations make more use of capital campaign assistance than ever before, and from an increasing variety of service providers. These providers may or may not adhere to the standards or expectations set in place by a particular denomination.
Persons and organizations within denominations that provide capital campaign services previously had little knowledge of each other. By linking them together through the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, they can assist one another, discover efficiencies, establish partnerships, improve methodology and create larger pools of consultative help for specialized situations. It also makes it possible to serve a larger market and make denominationally-connected providers more competitive with para-church and commercial providers.
When money is paid to para-church or commercial providers, that money is no longer available to recirculate within that denomination’s economy. None of that money circulates back as loans to churches, contributions to mission, support of church camps or for covering administrative costs for the denomination. When a denominational provider serves a congregation as capital campaign counsel, the fees circulate within the denominational family, coming back to serve sister congregations and organizations.
The current marketplace of capital campaign providers for congregations can be described as:
Solo operators — Solo operators usually prefer to do the fundraising portion of a campaign alone. These consultants are usually local and part-time. Their fees are usually subsidized via private income.
Loss leaders — These firms provide free or discounted capital campaign service tied to paid services such as architecture, construction or financing debt the campaign does not cover.
Denominational campaign services — They provide process centered and relational fundraising for congregations, with a deep understanding of the denomination’s culture and polity. These services have been subsidized by denominations in the past, but increasingly must earn their own way.
For-profit consulting firms — These firms, whether para-church or commercial, usually employ a sales force and professional campaign consultants. Fees for these firms are usually the highest, usually involving a proprietary method that is sold repeatedly.
Denominational campaign services must compete in this marketplace. Denominational services focus on the congregation and can build on multiple relationships that are already in place because of a common history. This gives the consultants the opportunity to be process-centered and relational, providing an important distinctive within this marketplace. A tighter coordination of denominationally based capital campaign services strengthens this option within the marketplace.
Who plays what role in this network?
Providers maintain their service while participating in the network. Participation lets them draw on resources available from other providers, even to the point of borrowing other consultants when needed.
Denominations that do not have their own capital campaign service can participate, recommending this service to their congregations.
The Ecumenical Stewardship Center serves as the organizational home for this network of providers, and offers a referral service to congregations that contact the Ecumenical Stewardship Center looking for assistance.
What would show that this network is successful?
Providers of capital campaign services with a denominational connection have a stronger and broader network of resources to call upon. This includes a deeper bench of skilled consultants.
Those firms with denominational connections gain administrative efficiency, cost controls, similar expectations of consultant qualifications, preferred rates for constituent congregations and increasing similarity of quality and look/feel of campaigns. It also provides a stronger brand differentiation among the variety of providers that seek to sell their services.
The campaigns serviced by this network of providers would feature the following distinctives that benefit both denominations and congregations:
Access to and involvement of the best in stewardship education providers.
Access to qualified capital campaign consultants with significant experience in fundraising.
Access to remedial resources and organizational development assistance when needed.
Ability to conduct annual campaigns and comprehensive stewardship audits.
Commitment to maintaining denominational distinction and relationships.
Where can we locate this service? The Ecumenical Stewardship Center ( www.stewardshipresources.org ), provides a referral service for participating providers. It also convenes providers annually for professional development and coordination of the service.
What is the charge for these services? The typical rate corresponds to a minimum campaign fee or .03 of the congregation’s operational budget, whichever number is greater. Campaign Readiness Assessments and development of campaign materials are additional.
-mark l vincent