The Capital Campaign Story at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church
I am Linda Barry, and during 2015-2016 I served as the Co-Chair of the Capital Campaign for Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Spring, Texas (a northern suburb of Houston). The Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) asked me to share with you a little about our story and our Capital Campaign experience.
In the fall of 2015 we engaged the ECF to partner with us in determining if we could raise the funds needed to build a new church. ECF explained that our campaign would consist of three phases: “Discernment”, “Feasibility” and the “Ask” phase.
The first ECF recommendation was for Holy Comforter to have a discernment period which included holding small group “listening” meetings. To be honest with you, I didn’t like this idea. We had been talking about building a new church building for 34 years. I said we were “talked out”. But ECF said they strongly recommended holding these conversations in small groups. So we agreed to have these conversations.
They were right. In small groups, people felt comfortable speaking up and sharing with us their thoughts and dreams for our church. We learned so much about who we are as a parish, where our passions lie, and what we care about deeply. Honestly, holding these conversations was well worth the time and money spent even if we had never raised a penny to build a church. Everyone shared his/her ideas and passions. These meetings unified the parish. We realized that we were passionate about the same things and that we were all being led to build a church, and to build it now.
In January 2016 the ECF was contracted to lead us in the “feasibility” phase. The purpose of this phase was to determine if Holy Comforter could raise the funds necessary to build the new church. The data source for this study was the feasibility survey which ECF would create. Once again, I was not sure that a new survey was necessary. We had just held the small group “listening” meetings and the year before we had conducted a survey created by our architectural firm. Plus, in past years we had conducted informal surveys. Thus, conducting one more survey seemed redundant. If we needed to conduct a feasibility survey I wondered if we might not be able to create and conduct this survey ourselves. So I prayerfully asked, “Can’t we do this survey ourselves?” The answer I got was: “If you are going to hire a consulting firm, why won’t you take their advice? It is like paying for an office visit for the doctor and then ignoring his advice and treating yourself. If you are going to treat yourself why go to the doctor? The same is true about hiring a consultant. If you hire a professional to help you with your campaign then you should heed their advice….all of their advice.”
So we asked ECF to create and conduct the survey. They worked with us to design a survey that fit our congregation and our situation. The congregation trusted ECF because they were professionals and because ECF was a third party conducting the survey. If we had created and analyzed an in-house survey there would have been people in the parish who would have said that we created a self-serving survey and that we analyzed the data to support our own opinions. Since ECF was not part of our parish membership their feasibility survey was viewed as objective and impartial. The results and the accompanying report were clear, easy to understand, and easy to communicate to the congregation. It provided Holy Comforter with a professional opinion as to an amount we could reasonably expect to raise from pledges. ECF presented the survey to our Vestry and suggested that we hold small group informational meetings to communicate the findings of the survey to the parish. We held these meetings, and we made full copies of the report available to everyone. This survey and its report helped us get the “buy-in” we needed from everyone in the parish.
The Ask Phase
The ECF provided the structure and training for this phase. They also provided us with many good suggestions to help us be successful. There were four major projects which set the stage for inviting members of the parish to make a pledge commitment to the building of our new church:
1. The creation and printing of the campaign brochure and pledge cards;
2. The creation of the master database;
3. Identification and training of the Gift Workers;
4. Planning and executing the Kick-Off Event.
With the help of ECF, Holy Comforter’s campaign committee worked on these projects beginning in Mid-June through our Kick-Off event in early October.
We spent about four months making preparations to invite members to financially commit to the building project. During this time it seemed important to find a way to maintain the focus of the parish on the campaign. So a “vision board” was created. The campaign asked the congregation, “What do you see spiritually when you see the new church? Do you visualize children playing, people praying, feeding our neighbors?” Then we asked each person to bring in a picture, poem, scripture or similar item that captured his/her vision. These items were placed together to create a parish vision board of what Holy Comforter sees when we envision our new church. (See attached picture). This project kept the Capital Campaign on the minds of the parishioners.
ECF encouraged us to plan a Kick-Off event that was suited for our parish. Our Kick-Off event was a perfect fit for Holy Comforter and it gave us the momentum we needed to begin asking members of the parish to make a financial commitment to the project. My personal experience was that when I called to set an appointment to visit with people they were excited and wanted to talk about the campaign. They were ready to make that financial commitment.
Was Holy Comforter’s Capital Campaign a success? Yes, the campaign was successful! Did we reach our financial goal? Almost, we still have some work to do to close the gap. Was it what we expected? Not exactly, but it exceeded anything we imagined.
- It gave us a better picture of who we are as a parish. We have a heart for mission and outreach and we welcome everyone.
- The entire parish grew spiritually. We became more united, we reached out to each other, we worked together, and we gave our gifts. We grew much closer to Jesus during this campaign. This parish is alive! You feel it the moment you walk in the door.
- We have a sense that we are all in this building project together. This is “our” church… it is not a church building paid for by a few people. It belongs to everyone. There are many people making sacrificial gifts and making these gifts with amazing joy. The excitement is contagious. There are smiles everywhere.