I sat down and interviewed CIF's very own Campaign consultants, asking about the difference between fundraising and capital campaigns.

How are church fundraising and capital campaigns different?

Dave Viland, Senior Campaign Consultant (DV): One of the first things we talk about with churches is that a capital campaign (CC) is not a fundraiser. Fundraisers are often in conjunction with a specific event. CC may include  a series of events, but are about something much bigger than an event. Rather than fundraising, we encourage churches to present capital campaigns as a spiritual journey. This includes coming to understand God’s vision for the church and His direction for each person’s spiritual journey and financial participation.

Steve Johnson, VP – Campaigns & Consulting (SJ): Fundraising is more of a transaction. Many times, in that transaction, the question is asked of “What am I getting out of this?” Instead, a CC is much more of a journey and a vision. It’s at a different, higher and, hopefully, more thoughtful level. 

Fundraising is more about closing a deal, making the case and getting a “yes.” CCs are more about helping people get in position to make a God-honoring decision. If it’s just fundraising, what I see happen is that someone pulls out a calculator and says, “We’re trying to raise a million dollars. We have a 100 families and, if we all each gave $10,000, we would be able to do this.” But that’s not how giving in a CC happens; it’s really about a heartfelt and heart-led journey.

DV: I think that’s the big difference. Most of the time, fundraising isn’t very much about a spiritual engagement.

SJ: Yes, I really think so. We sometimes struggle to get a church to move towards a spiritual journey because they are measuring the results in dollars, not in kingdom impact for individuals and the church.

Why is it important for churches and congregants to know the difference?

SJ: I often start the first CC meeting by saying that a CC is a ministry. This isn’t something that we do so that we can do ministry. Rather, let’s really see a CC as a ministry of the church where you can impact people. Jesus says, “Where our treasure is, that’s where our heart is.” CC and generosity are part of the lordship of Jesus Christ over all of our lives. It’s part of a discipleship process, and I think it’s a key indicator of godly character. It starts because our God is a generous God. If we’re looking towards becoming like Christ, why settle for just making a CC a fundraising event?

DV: I also encourage our campaign leaders to talk about a CC as a ministry, not just an activity or process. If they use the word, “ministry” when referring to their CC, some will start to think differently. It helps reduce resistance to a CC.

SJ: Towards the end of CCs, we hear campaign leaders talk about how it really was a spiritual experience. It’s affirming because we talk about that concept going into a CC when, many times, I believe the leadership team crosses their arms and go, “Yeah right. That’s part of sales.”

DV: Many times after a CC we hear, “Yes, the money raised was great. But what God did in our church and in many individual’s lives is what this really is all about.” 

Why is it important to focus on the spiritual value of campaigns rather than just raising money?

DV: That’s where it brings it home to the individual. At the end of the day, this is about lives, hearts, individuals. Projects don’t change individuals; spiritual journeys do.

SJ: A second part is that giving is also an act of worship. At the center of giving, peoples’ hearts are engaged to worship.

DV: It’s about giving to the Lord [Exodus 25, 35; I Chron. 29:9]. The hope is that people come to recognize CCs aren’t about giving to the church, project or building fund, but to the Lord. What really matters is that they obediently follow God as He directs them to the project. 

SJ: Dave and I use a framework from the book Giving and Getting in the Church by R. Mark Dillon. A person’s giving attitude starts at “Don’t talk to me about money” to “Don’t talk to me about my money” to “How much money should I give?” to “How much of God’s money should I give?” to “How much money of God’s money should I keep?” 

Perhaps there’s a person in the congregation who wants to give to the church but doesn’t trust how the church leaders will use the money, whether or not they are trustworthy. Can you speak to that?

DV: I just heard reference to this by a pastor teaching on giving. He said, "If you feel the Holy Spirit is really calling you to give, don’t worry about the stewardship of it after you give it. You are being obedient by giving it to the ministry."

SJ: I’ve heard that same idea about a homeless person standing at a corner with a sign asking for help. It’s really hard for me to give money in that scenario, but the challenge is to remember that my money isn’t mine. It’s from the Lord.  What I do with it is between me and the Lord. And, after I give it, it takes “me” out of the equation. 

You’ve talked about how transformational generosity is more about kingdom outcomes than the results of the money. Do the results of a CC differ from the results of fundraising? If so, how?

DV: One difference is this: ”Transactional giving” is about me; “Transformational giving” is typically about the kingdom purpose. One is about me; the other about something external, in our case, a kingdom purpose. And sometimes it’s not so much about kingdom ministry as it is about what God wants to do in my heart, regardless of what happens with what I have given.

Contact us to learn more about CIF's Capital Campaigns Services.

Blog Category
Campaigns & Consulting Stewardship & Generosity
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