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Capital Campaigns: If You Build it, They Will Come, But Will They Stay?

General Assembly 2006 Event 2011

Sponsor: Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Staff

Presenter: Dr. Wayne Clark

As the Director of Congregational Fundraising Services for the Unitarian Universalist Association, Dr. Wayne Clark oversees the Fundraising Consultant Program, which has provided consulting services to several hundred local congregations since its inception in 1985. Based on this long experience helping congregations, Clark offered sound advice for those planning capital campaigns in their own congregations.

Clark challenged the conventional wisdom that a capital campaign, all by itself, will lead to a growth in active membership. "Growth is not just numerical," said Clark. The workshop presented material that will be appearing in a new book, Beyond Fundraising: The Complete Guide to Congregational Stewardship, due to be published in March, 2007.

If a local congregation carries out a building project, Clark said, "Please understand that it's not the bricks and mortar in and of itself that will help your congregation to grow." He suggested planning for additional programs and staffing to complement any new building project, and listed some possibilities, including increasing lifespan religious education programs, creating a small group ministry program, and developing global ministries.

Clark also suggested using a capital campaign to fund new staff positions. For example, a capital campaign could increase money to fund a full-time Director of Religious Education (DRE). 75% of the increase in compensation could come from the capital campaign in the first year, dropping to 50% in the second year, etc.

"It's important to develop a building project that reflects the congregation's vision," said Clark. "Whatever you decide to build needs to fit, needs to help you reach your vision and mission." The planning process should include as many people as possible, and congregational leaders should anticipate that there will be conflict, and find ways to manage conflict.

"I can guarantee you that whatever it is you decide to build, you will lose some people," said Clark. "At least if you're clear about your vision and strategic plan, people can decide to leave the congregation on the basis of some real solid decision.... And it's okay if they do leave—obviously we don't like to see it, but it's okay." Clark added, "And understand that if you don't do a building project, you're going to lose some folks as well."

Clark laid out a ten-stage process for planning and carrying out a building project. The early stages are devoted to planning, organizing, and refining a vision. Construction doesn't begin until the ninth stage, and fundraising doesn't begin until the seventh stage. Clark pointed out that the tenth stage, celebrating the completion of the building project, is as important as the earlier stages.

In an aside, Clark talked about ordinary annual fundraising. He recommends changing common terms, saying he no longer talks about a "canvass" and "canvassers," referring instead to "annual budget drive" and "visiting stewards." "This is not just an exercise in semantics," Clark said. "Some of the stuff we say gets in the way." Clark 's new book, Beyond Fundraising, will set forth his new terminology.

Clark's office offers consulting services to local congregations on a fee-for-service basis through the Fundraising Consultant Program. Assessments, feasibility studies, and other consulting services are available. Loans and grants are also available for building projects. For more information, visit the Congregational Fundraising Services web page.

Reported by the Rev. Dan Harper; edited by Margy Levine Young.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.

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