By Paul Gage
Hiring the right consultant is the first step to a successful capital campaign.
For the pastor, the consultant is a coach, encourager and valuable resource. A consultant can customize a campaign precisely to suit a church’s size, personality and ministry methods. And, of course, only a consultant brings the necessary skills and objective viewpoint to the church to ensure a successful outcome — qualities gained only through experience.
In future installments of this series, we’ll discuss proven strategies related to the five phases of capital campaigns: preparation, organization, campaign, commitment and giving / follow-up. In this first installment, however, let’s lay a solid foundation by taking a look at five essential steps to selecting a capital campaign consultant.
Step 1: Assemble the right selection team. Some churches have traditionally assembled a stewardship selection team of 10-15 individuals — Kingdom-minded, loyal and well-intentioned people, to be sure.
However, a more targeted, productive approach involves a selection team comprised of two to five church representatives. Together, these carefully chosen individuals will do the research and determine which companies will be invited to make a presentation.
The team should be comprised of the senior pastor, executive staff and key lay leaders. All these individuals will be knowledgeable and able to speak about the church’s vision, purpose for raising funds, and day-to-day ministries — all of which should be crucial to the consultant leading the campaign.
Step 2: Identify and research four to five capital stewardship consulting companies. Contact each company to address questions from your research. Make a concerted effort to learn more about the specific consultant who
will be representing the company and leading your church’s capital campaign.
Step 3: Request references for the individual consultants. Request approximately three to five current references within the past three years. After checking references, narrow your decision to two or three candidates.
In future installments, Paul Gage will discuss creative and proven strategies related to the five phases of capital campaigns:
- Giving / follow-up
Step 4: Conduct consultant interviews. Schedule a two-week timeframe that is compatible for all of your selection team members. Offer a two- to four-week notice to allow consultants appropriate time to prepare for travel. Again, it is important that the consultant who will lead the church’s campaign be on hand as a presenter.
Allow each consultant enough time to effectively present their services; a favorable schedule would be 45-60 minutes for a presentation and 30 minutes for Q&A.
As you vet each consultant, ask a handful of campaign-critical questions. For example, how many churches does he or she work with annually? What does a capital campaign timeline look like for your church from start to finish? What will the follow-up strategy consist of?
What kind of resources and technology tools will the consultant bring to the church to strengthen training meetings, communication, and donor presentations for the capital campaign?
For a successful outcome, it is imperative that the chosen consultant be able to answer such questions easily.
While a great personality fit is a great start, base your consultant selection on his or her personal experience and track record versus a company brand. Companies often change ownership and personnel; you will want to be familiar and comfortable with the individual leading your church through this very important spiritual journey.
Step 5: Evaluate and pray. Evaluate each presentation, and seek for God’s direction in your decision.
These five important steps will ensure a mutually beneficial foundation for both the church and the capital campaign consultant.
Paul Gage is founder and president of The Gage Group in Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX. Gage has more than 30 years of ministry experience and has personally provided consulting for 500-plus successful capital campaigns, assisting pastors and church members to raise in excess of $1 billion.
Case study: 5 action steps for selecting a consultant
Recently, I received an exploratory call from a church stewardship committee member. Not only was it his first-ever capital campaign, but the church hadn’t conducted one in 20 years.
In talking with him, it became clear he was working with limited knowledge about the church’s future building project and financial needs. To move the conversation in a more effective direction, we focused on the “what, when, and why” of the future project.
As we wrapped up our conversation, he told me there were 25 people on the stewardship committee, and that they would get back with me regarding the next step.
Four weeks later, the stewardship committee chairman reached out to me. He said our firm was one of six chosen to present a formal, 30-minute presentation at the church. All six would take place in one evening, and travel expenses would be my own.
Though the opportunity to meet with the committee was greatly appreciated, I graciously declined.
Though my response was not intended to be arrogant or difficult, the chairman was surprised and did not understand why I opted out. I then explained.
Based on my own experience, I did not see the benefits for the church to entertain six companies within such a short timeframe and did not see how the committee could make a truly well-informed decision.
Looking back on our exchange, I believe the five essential steps outlined in this article can benefit any church in its capital campaign consultant selection process. — Paul Gage