How long should a capital campaign last?

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One of the most influential factors in a capital campaign’s success is its length - how long the giving period will be.

Unfortunately, this is where many churches make misinformed decisions that have the potential to harm their campaigns. There are fundamental differences between shorter campaigns and longer campaigns, and these differences must be taken into consideration when determining how long your capital campaign should be.

So, to help you understand these differences and make the best decision for your church's capital campaign, we wanted to share three ways that one-year capital campaigns differ from three-year capital campaigns.

1) One-year capital campaigns focus on “right now giving.” Three-year capital campaigns focus on sacrificial giving.

In one-year campaigns, you have to ask people to give money they have available right now since the giving period is shorter. It’s not as feasible for your people to make sacrificial, faith-stretching financial commitments because the funds are due so soon. If you stretch out your giving period to two or three years, it’s more feasible for people to give sacrificially because they have more time to pray and plan for whatever it is the Lord prompts them to give.

2) One-year campaigns primarily focus on the project at hand. Three-year campaigns primarily focus on your people’s spiritual journey of generosity.

When a campaign is shorter, the need for funds becomes more urgent. In one-year campaigns, churches typically have to focus on raising a significant amount of money in a short period to fund “X” project. At the end of the campaign, people only remember that the project was completed. When you do a three-year campaign, you can take a slower approach to raising funds and focus on shepherding your people through a journey of generosity to fund “X” project. Once these campaigns end, people’s biggest takeaway is that their lives were changed through this spiritual journey of generosity - not that the project was completed.

3) One-year capital campaigns typically add more responsibility to your staff’s plate. Three-year capital campaigns allow you to delegate that responsibility to willing volunteer leaders in the church.

It’s challenging to train up volunteers to carry all the responsibilities that come with leading a campaign in the short time frame that comes with a one-year campaign. When you increase the giving period to two or three years, your staff has adequate time and opportunity to raise up new, volunteer leaders who can carry the responsibilities of leading a successful capital campaign.

As you've probably already gathered, there are more scenarios where launching a two or three-year campaign is more ideal. Longer campaigns allow you to focus more on vision, discipleship, and leadership development. However, there are many scenarios where one-year projects are absolutely necessary.

If your church is trying to decide how long your capital campaign should be, we’ve created a one-page resource that lists 11 distinct differences between one-year and three-year projects. Use this to help you make an informed, wise decision for how long your campaign should be. You can download your copy for free HERE!