Sean Tully

Jul 25, 2019, 8:00 AM

Church capital appeals - how to improve your chances

On 20th July, Action Planning Chairman David Saint and Consultant Sean Tully delivered a Capital Appeal workshop for churches, hosted by the Diocese of Oxford. One of Action Planning’s regular training seminars, the event focussed on how churches can practically approach a capital fundraising appeal of any size. Here, Sean explains some of the main learning points that arose from the day.

It’s a real privilege to spend a day with 30 clergy and lay leaders, taking a critical and considered but supportive look at a wide range of capital development projects. The range of projects covered everything from under £100,000 to well over £2m: from improvements to toilets and building access, to full-scale redevelopments; from more space for children’s work to the preservation of ancient heritage… The exciting thing about this workshop is that no two projects are the same and you never know what’s coming through the door.

The challenging thing about the workshop is that everyone has a pressing need to get their project funded, limited human and financial resources and a hope that they will leave the workshop with the answer to their funding needs. Of course, it’s not that simple. Action Planning cannot provide the answer – particularly not from a single workshop.

What we can offer is three things.

Supportive and practical 
Firstly, a distinctively Christian context in which everyone is on an equal footing. There is no project too big or too small, there are no “stupid questions”, and no catchall answers. People attending the workshop are genuinely supportive of each other, willing to share their experiences and learn from each other. The day started and ended in prayer, ensuring that the focus remained on churches doing their bit and allowing space for God to do His.

Secondly, the workshop provides a practical framework for approaching any capital fundraising appeal of any size, stage and complexity. No matter the circumstances that a church faces, the workshop demonstrates the absolute necessity of a thorough Fundraising Feasibility Study as the foundation for any fundraising appeal. Without taking this vital step to identify what it might be possible for a church to raise, it is impossible to make realistic plans for the project. And the workshop provides everything a church might need to undertake this step in terms of guidance, resources and practical advice. 

Reasons for hope
It was inspiring to hear how one church had even taken the step of creating a prayer specifically for their appeal, ensuring that their human endeavours were underpinned by faith in a God who provides. After all, as Psalm 127 begins: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain.” 

Thirdly a heavy dose of realism mixed with hope. As we heard about each of the churches represented, it soon became clear that in that one room on that one day, there was a combined need for over £25m in project funding. Many churches would be looking to the same limited sources to fill this gap. As David pointed out, fundraising for a church capital appeal is not easy – and beware the consultant who tries to insist otherwise. But, by taking a tried and tested approach, and underpinning it with prayer, churches can have both hope and a practical plan of action that makes the agreed target more likely to be achievable, however insurmountable the challenge may at first appear.

A clear course of action
By the end of the day, everyone was able to identify and share the practical next steps that they will take to move their capital fundraising appeal forward – and no doubt a number of new contacts were made on the day to share future ideas, support, prayer and inspiration.

David and I are delighted to be returning to the Diocese of Oxford in October to repeat the workshop for another group of churches, and we are exploring opportunities to run it again in the West Midlands later in the year. If you would like to find out more about partnering with Action Planning to host a workshop in your area, please email sean.tully@actionplanning.co.uk.

Need direction for your church capital appeal?

Perhaps you are reading this and thinking about your own church capital appeal. Perhaps you don’t know where to begin or, having made a start, you are unsure of the way forward. Action Planning has nearly 30 years’ experience of helping clients to plan and take the next step in their fundraising.

Contact Sean for friendly chat