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Stephen Lee, Founder  |  678.896.9296  |  steve@catalystfaithworks.com  |  

When to Go Pro with Church Fundraising Communications

Helping Churches Maximize Their Marketing and Capital Campaigns was a Natural Hook for Catalyst Faithworks

By Bo Gray and Stephen Lee

There is a tension between the correct stewardship of resources and the expectations of the world for a professional presentation.

Churches also are engaged in the decision of maintaining “amateur” status or going “pro.” No church leader can avoid the tension between the savvy, professional expectations of the world and stewardship of the Lord’s resources. Consider how churches deal with the use of consultants and professional help in their capital campaign communications.

In this age of meteoric advancements in desktop publishing, image adjustment programs and color laser printers, the subject of hiring a “professional” capital campaign communications firm has caused lively discussions in many a church boardroom. Weighing in on this debate are Stephen Lee, founder of Catalyst Faithworks, an industry leader in church capital campaign communications; Randy Renbarger, director of communications for Perimeter Church (PCA), with 3,500 attendance in Duluth, GA, and Ernie Woodby, administrator of Great Hills Baptist Church, a 6,000-member church in Austin, TX.

Five principles emerged to provide key points for the church executive in seeking to determine when a fundraising communications firm can help:

When your in-house staff has a full plate.

“Although we are a church that has all the resources in-house to have covered a campaign of this size, we were all completely covered with the rest of our day-to-day efforts and the planning of our 25th anniversary celebration,” says Renbarger of Perimeter’s $30 million Next Generation NOW campaign. Effective campaign communication needs the equivalent of a full-time person devoted to its success.  It can rarely be done on the side along with the church bulletin and ministry signage and other daily things.

A successful capital campaign demands “top of mind awareness” for the life of the project, which means focus, framework and fresh energy to carry it out over the long haul.

When time is of the essence.

Capital campaign consultants agree that timing and delivery of communications are critical. Says Renbarger: “We employed a firm that was already familiar with the tools and formats used by our consultant, so that meant that there was no learning curve and we could hit the ground running.

“In one meeting the firm was able to grasp the scope and feel of our campaign, and in a matter of days present us with several options to choose from. They were able to make adjustments, and with great commitment and zeal, helped us make every deadline.” Campaign communications not only demand time for design work, but also time for proofing and printing.

Catalyst Faithworks’ Stephen Lee said his firm has been asked to bail out many church campaigns at “crunch time.” Going pro basically eliminates such problems, Lee says. “No local graphic design firm or printer can begin to provide the understanding, quality and speed that a professional firm can. Church capital campaign designs are our main focus and we deliver more church capital campaign communication packages than anyone in the country (see our client samples). We understand deadlines.”

When quality matters.

The pursuit of excellence is not just a slogan for secular business. A capital campaign is one of the best times to retell your story and recast your vision. There is a responsibility before God to see that the vision is clearly and adequately communicated in a relevant manner.

The hope is that God would raise a unified ownership to embrace the road ahead, as well as all costs for the journey. A professional firm will help your church find its unique voice in order to maximize campaign pledges and develop a thriving stewardship culture. Lee calls that “impact,” which is defined as the “quality in communications that strikes against the receiver’s indifference and enlivens their mind to consider taking action.” For long-term impact, the communication program must be wide reaching, diverse and of high quality.

When a specialist is needed.

We live in a culture of specialists. General practitioners exist, but in most health systems, they are gatekeepers for the specialists. As communications director at Perimeter church, Randy Renbarger acted as the “family physician,” who upon close examination of the needs of the “patient/client” referred out to a specialist.

“If it were not for the knowledge, experience, talent and tenacity of that team, there is no way we could have had such a coordinated and visually strong campaign package.”

Great Hills Baptist’s Ernie Woodby also recognizes the value of specialists in his role as business administrator. “I admire people who have the ingenuity to take something and make it just talk and walk. It’s imperative to engage one who is an expert and who has something that you think will give you the impetus to get your project off the ground. I see no need to reinvent the wheel (see our process) when you know that someone out there has information that will be of value to you.”

When experience counts.

Everybody knows somebody who does “graphic design,” because there are more than 6,500 “shops” that deliver products and services in a wide range of venues. Yet as Renbarger observed, “I needed a team that required very little ramp-up time and one that was already well versed in the area of capital campaign promotions.” Unlike general church marketing and design firms, specialized campaign communications firms focus solely on the campaign because it is their specialty and passion.

When experience counts while considering a firm for capital campaign communications, a church executive would be wise to ask:

  • Do they understand the uniqueness of mission for our church? Do they have demonstrable experience in church capital campaign communications?
  • What references can they provide for this specific field?
  • Does their client list reflect diversity in size, style and denominations?
  • Do they have tools and resources to help the church define its unique direction?
  • Do they offer a roadmap process from conceptualization to completion?
  • Do they have expertise in a broad range of media?
  • Do they exhibit a talent for reaching all generations?
  • Do they have a sound understanding of Biblical stewardship principles?

Church capital campaigns should galvanize a group of people toward a long-lasting stewardship culture. A main step in that process is the planning, producing and implementing of professional caliber communications. In a capital campaign there is little worse than looking like an “amateur” when you could have gone “pro.”

Bo Gray, Catalyst copywriter
A former account manager for CATALYST FAITHWORKS, Gray brings a wealth of leadership experience that includes 20 years in the marketing communications field, and another 20+ years in pastoral ministry. He holds a Bachelor of Science (B. S.) degree from the University of Florida and a Master of Divinity (M. Div.) from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Happily married since 1980, he and his wife are parents to six children.

Stephen Lee is the founder of Catalyst Faithworks, an Atlanta-based company dedicated to providing church capital campaigns, annual stewardship campaigns, debt relief campaigns and more to help church leaders tell their story, vision and challenges in an effort maximize fundraising pledges. His company also serves Christian private schools and para-church ministries. He brings more than 22 years of experience, from church branding and community outreach efforts to capital campaigns.

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Stephen Lee, Founder  |  678.896.9296  |