Mark Brooks

A Wake-Up Call for Stewardship Firms

Since the mid-20th century up until recently, capital stewardship firms have helped churches raise billions of dollars. That was then. This is now. COVID19 is revealing a lot of things lacking in the Church and the same is true for my industry. COVID19 is a wake-up call for Stewardship Firms.

While giving to campaigns has raised billions of dollars, at the same time giving to the Church has been in a steady decline. We have a problem staring us in the face and few if any in the stewardship industry are aware of the problem. Our model was designed in the 20th century and while some of the principles are valid, our methodologies are antiquated. It is past time for a change.

Why? Let me list a few key reasons why we must change:

  • 10% to 15% of your donors contribute 50% of all giving. The few have always and will always give the majority. Yet,
  • 75% to 85% of your top 15% of donors are Baby Boomers. 10K of them a day retire. Even before COVID19 you were headed for a train wreck.
  • 80% to 90% of all that is given in a capital campaign is given by 15% to 20% of your total donor base. These are the same Boomers nearing retirement.
  • Boomer’s post the Great Recession greatly minimized the amounts they were pledging in capital campaigns. This is a dirty little secret of my industry. Recessions do impact capital giving.
  • 1 to 1.5% is the average my industry was seeing in pledge to budget ratios before COVID19. I know, I talk to all the presidents.
  • Raising more than one times your annual operating budget has been and will always be dependent upon your top 15%. To accomplish more than one times your budget you need five and six-figure gifts. Do you have those?
  • Your top 15% of your donors have been impacted by COVID19 and that impact will impact any capital campaign you attempt!

Now is not the time for a 20th century business as usual approach to raising capital funds. COVID19 is a gamechanger and capital campaigns must change! So, stewardship firms, yes I know you read this, let’s get our heads out of the past and into the future!

Here is what stewardship firms need to do:

  1. Change our thinking from capital campaign consultants to generosity strategists. Our focus needs to be on giving 365 days a year for our clients. We are a church’s Minister of Generosity and we can also help you raise capital dollars. Be everything they need!
  2. Modernize the process completely! We need to move away from a program-driven model towards a directed coaching model. Churches don’t need another program but church leaders do need directional help.
  3. Go digital. Why other than to keep some people employed are you printing manuals?
  4. Use teleconferencing. COVID19 forced us to use video technology and now that the genie is out of the bottle there is no going back. We have been using remote training and teaching for years. Everyone else needs to catch up.
  5. Stop overcharging and under-delivering! Those days need to be over. You can’t justify the enormous fees you are charging.
  6. Change! The world has changed have you?

Here is my word for stewardship consultants

  1. Change or get left behind! If your firm is stuck, get unstuck from your firm.
  2. Stop being treated as an employee! There is absolutely no reason you should be paying your firm 35% of your contracts to the firm you are aligned with. Most capital campaign consultants in America are their own businesses operating in a trade association with some firm. You are their client, not the other way around. The fee you are paying is based upon 20th-century programs and strategy. Stop overpaying so you can stop overcharging your clients!

My advice to churches thinking about hiring a capital campaign consultant:

  1. Do your research! Talk to your friends in the ministry to ask about their experiences. Don’t be fooled by sales promises.
  2. Ask for and talk to references. Current references!
  3. Always negotiate the fee. Always! Trust me, they want the contract so bad they will discount their first price. Fee churches ever try this. If they tell you they can’t reduce their fee then you are not talking to the right person. Hey, call me and I promise I will be 50% or more lower.
  4. Get everything in writing! Don’t leave anything up for chance.

My final word is this, you need help navigating through these difficult times. You should not have to overpay. Come on stewardship industry, let’s get this right!