St. Mark’s Reaches Campaign Goal

St MarksThese are joyous times at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Erie, PA. On all Saints Sunday, the church celebrated the announcement that their capital campaign had reached its mark of $600,000! With a successful capital campaign, the church leadership can now begin the process of renovations and improvements to their parish hall and front entrance area.

Evans/Davis was honored to guide St. Mark’s through the planning and implementation of their capital campaign. With guidance from the Holy Spirit, St. Mark’s will continue to shine as a beacon for God’s message and ministries in the greater Erie, PA, area.

Current Capital Campaign Project Updates

Update GraphicSt. Mark’s Episcopal Church – Erie, PA

They are closing in on their campaign objective. A discernment committee of the church determined a long-range plan that called for improvements to the parish hall and remodeling of their front entrance. As of this writing, nearly $550,000 of the $600,000 objective has been pledged! They should reach their goal soon!

St. John’s Episcopal Church – Franklin, PA

They have just completed their kickoff brunch. Their long-range plans include church and rectory renovations as well as installation of an elevator. Currently, the campaign has raised approximately $80,000 of its $200,000 objective and will continue solicitations through Thanksgiving.

Value of Evans/Davis Services from a Senior Warden’s Perspective

st pauls

Halfway Through Construction

As a member of the leadership team of an Episcopal church it is sometimes worse than trying to herd cats to get a Vestry, Clergy and other church members on the same page in regards to a capital campaign.

When we at St. Paul’s Episcopal in Medina, Oh were finally forced to face a series of crumbling building issues (10+ years of water buckets, ice dam destruction, etc.) we knew we needed help. We turned to Evans/Davis for support, here are the key benefits that they brought to our needs:
  • Experience and perspective, they kept us rational through some pretty emotional discussions and decision processes.
  • The vision and planning process has been impactful well beyond the capital campaign, the process output continues to guide our thinking and behavior.
  • Masterful ability to meet with members and garner honest feedback around financial contribution and church leadership.
  • Results, we ended up raising almost exactly what the Evans/Davis process and team said we would.
Our capital project is complete, it is enjoyed by all and serves as physical evidence of God’s blessing upon us and it only took 4 years from start to finish.
Steve Rucinski, 330-958-4867, feel free to contact me if I can help you with your church’s decision process.


IT’S FALL!!! Oh my…where has the year gone?

If you find yourself asking this question you are probably wondering if there are enough dollars currently in or coming in to cover your Church’s/organizations budget. Vital ministries, programs and services typically pick up in the fall. Can you afford them? And what about expansion? Are there dollars available for this as well?

Autumn is typically a time when Churches and not-for-profit organizations begin developing next-year’s budget and looking to long-range growth and development. It is the time for developing costs for next year and looking at future needs. Most importantly, it is a time to assess whether the current income stream is enough to cover your annual and long-range costs.

We live in challenging and changing times. It is important that your leadership looks at all of the tools available to provide the ministries, services and programs needed for today’s needs. Evans/Davis has developed an affordable vision program that can assist you in developing the right plan that will help to assure dollars will be there for current and future ministries and services.


We just received a bequest! Guess we don’t have to do a capital campaign now!

How many times have we heard this? There is a church in the greater Cincinnati, Ohio, area that has been in existence for a long, long time. They have approached a number of near crisis situations before receiving a bequest from a member who had past away. Each time they used the bequeathed dollars to help with operating and other capital needs only to find the money eventually running out returning them to a near crisis situation…thus delaying the inevitable.

Once again, they find themselves in a dire situation with shrinking membership and a physical plant that is old and needs lots of work. Clearly, had the church leadership, years ago, had saved the first bequest or used it sparingly and developed a long-range vision plan for growth and development they would have likely provided the resources in a “non-panic” mode.

Bequests are a wonderful gift to the Church and other not-for-profit institutions. They need to be used wisely and sparingly. A good vision plan will use all three funding sources (annual, capital and planned or bequeathed dollars) to financially support the long-term growth and development of the Church or other not-for-profit organization.

Evans/Davis can meet with your leadership to determine the best course of action and help in planning the visioning process.

It’s Not In the Budget – Church Capital Campaigns

It's Not in the BudgetHow often have we heard this!!  As churches plan for the next year they, of course, develop an operating budget that usually is based upon the expected giving of the congregants for the year usually from an annual, fall stewardship campaign.

This budget usually contains staff salaries, heating and lighting, some ministry costs as well as general maintenance and up-keep of the church facility. It usually has little or no costs associated with high-ticket (capital) items or costs associated with long-range planning or costs associated with conducting a capital campaign.

We suggest there are possible ways to handle these costs:

1)      If your church has an existing endowment, money can be borrowed from that fund to cover costs associated with both fund-raising counsel and architectural fees and given back to the fund as capital pledge dollars are received during a capital campaign.

2)      If there is an expected construction loan needed, many banks will loan the necessary dollars for “program start-up” knowing that those dollars would be returned with interest as part of a construction loan.

3)      Some dioceses have start-up grants and loans to assist parishes in the planning process. Again, loans would be paid back with dollars coming from the capital campaign.

It is important to begin the planning process early on…whichever plan works best for you and your church. Bringing counsel in early will save your church dollars in the long run and will guarantee that your visioning program and likely capital campaign will be cost effective and efficient. Most importantly, delaying vision planning and development of long-range needs of your church hurts the potential for both numerical and spiritual growth during these challenging times!

Leadership is the Key to Capital Campaign Success

If there is one basic necessity in capital fund-raising, it is leadership in the commitment of time, talent, energy and money. Interestingly, nearly everyone is willing to talk about potential leaders and colunteers for a fund-raising campaign. They will also suggest certain corporations and foundations to be aasked for large gifts. But, almost everyone tries to avoid mentioning individuals who may be capable of making leadership gifts.

Table of Giving Standards

Early in campaign planning, a “Table of Giving Standards” is created to illustrate the importance of leadership gifts. It shows how gifts of different sizes must be combined to reach the fund-raising goal. Leadership gifts often comprise the top 10-15 gifts shown in the Table. If secured, the campaign will usually succeed because others will then tend to contribute in accordance with their capability.

Leadership Gifts are Key

Leadership gifts made at the outset are the foundation of a successful campaign. Depending on the campaign goal, they often start at $50,000 and go up from there. The saying that “20% of the people contribute 80% of the money” applies to leadership gifts. Still, many people think they can raise $2 Million by asking 400 people to each give $5,000. That strategy always fails.

Occasionally campaigns that start out on the right track may take a wrong turn. For example, an organization trying to raise $4 million is seeking a donation of $1 Million as the lead gift to the campaign. If that gift comes in at $500,000 instead, some may say, “We’ll just have to find ten more gifts at $50,000″ may be overly optimistic. Where can they be “found?” Lowering the target doesn’t help either (100 gifts of $5,000 may cost more in time and effort than can be collected).

The momentum of a campaign rests on getting to the goal as quickly as possible. The more prospects you must solicit to accomplish that goal, the longer it takes and the more momentum you lose.

Successful campaigns are won with relatively small number of large leadership gifts received early in the solicitation process.

Get Help Early When Fundraising

The earlier, the better, is the rule to follow when involving fund-raising counsel in your new project, whatever it might be. Projects are completed by taking these four actions:

  • Defining your project in writing; what, where, when, how much and whom.
  • Securing all of the required funding.
  • Designing the project architecturally and structurally
  • Building the project with reliable construction

The two most time consuming actions are usually the fund-raising and the construction. You must allow for the time it takes to secure the gifts in a fund-raising campaign and to get sufficient payments in hand to begin construction. The construction–either new or remodeling–cannot be rushed. Chose and involve your counsel early.

Clearly Identify Your Potential for Fund-Raising

You need to identify your potential for fund-raising before your dreams for your new project get far beyond your potential to fund the project. You may have reserve funds, the ability to borrow money at an attractive rate, and the capability to raise significant dollars. How much do you have of each?

A fund-raising feasibility study early in the project will indicate ho much you can raise. This may help the architect in designing something you can afford. Then, all you need for fund-raising purposes is a site plan and ‘foot-print’ of the building to begin fund-raising. An architectural sketch might also be helpful, but you do not need complete architectural drawings. You save considerable money by not proceeding to complete architectural drawings to soon.

Types of Counsel Help

It is also important to involve fund-raising counsel early so you can decide which type of help will serve you best. The most common options are: Full- Time (on-site) resident counsel and Part-Time (periodically on-site) consultation. In the final analysis, the costs of raising funds are the same whether you use full-time resident help or periodic part-time help. The differences between the two are these:

Full-Time Resident help gives you a professional on-site full-time to guide your effort. Though a relatively intense effort is required, this process actually accomplishes the objective quickly and requires less staff time overall. More money is raised–usually significantly more–and the funds start coming in earlier. This approach works best when your constituency is well defined and fully informed.

Periodic Consultation gives you serve a few days a week or month and works best when you have a development professional on staff. The campaing takes longer, which can be an advantage when you need to build broad community awareness for your project. Out of pocket travel costs for the periodic visits do mount up and can be expensive.

Timing is Everything

Finally, early involvement of fund-raising counsel will permit you to plan the timing of your campaign correctly. Timing can be very important. Major gifts are often best sought in early fall. Churches may want to coordinate a capital fund campaign with their fall stewardship efforts.

Educational institutions may want to avoid conflicts with annual fund-raising campaigns while coordinating with major campus events. Social service agencies may have to schedule around United Way campaign or other important events. In the South and Southwest fund-raising may be most productive in the late fall to early spring. The northern portion of the country presents other issues relating to vacation schedules and winter migrations by major gift prospects.

The earlier the better is a smart move when it comes to bringing fund-raising counsel into your project planning. The nice part is that in generally costs no more to do so.

Church Capital Campaigns – What is the Best Approach?

A recent study of over 1000 churches across the USA who have recently completed capital campaigns revealed that subtle differences in campaign approaches yielded significantly different results. Here are the two key questions that are addressed in the study:

1) Does professional counsel make a difference and, if so, is there a difference in results between firms that take a more advisory approach versus assistance oriented approach?

2) Does how you reach out to people and ask for gifts make a difference in results?

Read Church Capital Campaigns – What is the Best Approach

The Lost Art of Personal Visitation for Fundraising

Fundraising for churches has gone through different variations in the past century, yet many of the basic tenets of fundraising remain the same, whether the fundraising is for the annual operating budget or a capital campaign. However, one area that has changed is that many churches have abandoned the practice of personal visitations when soliciting funds. Your church may find it helpful to consider bringing back this approach when planning for your annual stewardship campaigns.


Through the period from the end of WW II to the late 70’s, most churches in the United States that put on a fall pledge or faith commitment solicitations program to determine their budget for the next year would do a canvass of their congregation. This canvass was usually a system of personal visitations where couples visited couples or individuals visited individuals in their homes to discuss with them a financial commitment to the church for the coming year. In keeping with stewardship principals of Time, Talent and Treasure, families were asked to volunteer to assist their church with a ministry commitment as well.

Culture Change

But as the 80’s approached with increasingly both spouses having to work and congregations growing to larger sizes, the system of visitations gave way to the mailing of a solicitation letter. This letter usually states the needs of the church and asks for a percentage increase in giving over the previous year. While a church may have legitimate reasons for using the more impersonal approach with a general solicitation letter, your ministry may be missing out on an important technique that can help you better balance the budget. Personal visitations are time intensive, but can provide the necessary marginal increase in donations so that Church leaders and clergy aren’t placed in a position of making special appeals throughout the year to stay current on expenses.

The Case for Personal Visitation

Capital Campaign Personal SolicitationOf equal importance is the fact that personal visitations help strengthen your ministry. The reality is that most couples enjoy personal visitation among each other. Often, it’s the only time when many families can visit other families outside of Sunday worship. There is a note of camaraderie and friendship with these visits. Also, the gatherings are the best vehicle to inform fellow members of the “vision” for ministry and mission of the church. If the program is done correctly there is a “coming together” of the congregation into a unified spirit of optimism for the future. While raising significant dollars, a well managed, personal visitation campaign also develops new leadership and strengthens the church’s volunteer base. Additionally as we all know, it is harder to say “no” to a personal request from a fellow congregant. Unfortunately, too many churches have abandoned this effective method of fundraising and instead rely on impersonal letters from the Senior Minister or church treasurer.

A number of churches have also abandoned the personal visitation program for major capital campaigns. Since major capital campaigns are infrequent events, it is necessary that financial commitments be personally asked for from fellow members. It is the  way that the story of the church and its long term “vision” can be told so that a sufficient amount of capital dollars can be raised to make this “vision” a reality. Increasingly, well intended church leaders have chosen fund-raising counsel that does the solicitation themselves through a series of worship services or special events and does not use church members. These fundraisers argue that most volunteers “can’t ask for money” or that giving is a private affair and that personal solicitation visits can be too heavy handed. We caution against that way of thinking, and advise churches that if structured and used properly, personal visitations are a very helpful ministry tool.