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Loss of a Leader

campaign hurdles

Capital Campaign Hurdles – Part 1

It was a fundraiser’s worst nightmare. 

My friend has shared the story with me several times, always finding a new takeaway. She had been on the fundraising team of a large organization. They’d spent many months planning the public launch of their new capital campaign. It was a festive, fun, and creative event that got the hundreds of donors in the room excited about the future. Everyone was on a high, knowing they’d made the most of a milestone opportunity.

Less than 24 hours later, everything had changed. The organization’s leader suddenly resigned – for reasons unrelated to the campaign – and the news sent shockwaves through the staff, donors, volunteers and the local media. The campaign staff found themselves in the midst of a crisis no one plans for.


What do you do when your capital campaign hits a hurdle – or worse, a significant crisis like that one? You CAN overcome them, and in this blog series we’ll unpack how to (1) avoid, (2) clear over or (3) recover from those hurdles. 

We’ve spent some time in the last months talking about campaign planning, campaign communications and how to best prepare your church when you are considering a campaign. But some things you can’t fully plan for, and those are the uncommon (but unfortunately more common that we’d like) hurdles we’ll talk about in this series.

One of the most significant challenges any campaign can face is the loss of the leader, the face of the campaign or organization. For churches, this could look like the denomination moving the lead pastor, promoting the pastor out of the local church, or the resignation or retirement of the head pastor in the midst of the campaign. It also could mean the loss of a key staff member viewed as critical to the campaign’s success (ie, your children’s pastor when you are building a children’s ministry wing).

There are three keys to keeping a leadership shift from damaging your campaign’s success:

Act quickly.

Unfortunately, you never have the luxury of time in these crisis situations. Church grapevines are lightning fast, so the news of someone’s departure will get out in rapid fire. Not only do you want to be the one delivering and shaping that message, you want your members to hear it from you and not as a rumor so you can retain and build on their trust. Do not sit on the news of a pastor’s impending move or the resignation of a key leader: Move quickly to get your messaging out in a brief, assuring but professional way.

Keep your messaging open, honest and concise.

Be as open and honest as you can in delivering the message. Anticipate and address members’ and donors’ questions while keeping it brief. Assure them that the church board and leadership remains committed to the campaign, and while this change is difficult or unexpected, you know the church community will face it together. Leave the door open for anyone who has questions or concerns and provide a point of contact.

Double down on relationships.

A major change might cause a pause in or slow the pace of your campaign for a time. But handled well, it can reinforce the need for your project. You can use this time to meet individually with donors and address their questions. In some ways, you’re going back to silent phase mode – you’re allocating time to strengthening relationships

My friend whose crisis opened this blog remembers everyone on her team spending their days that week of their crisis on the phones and in personal visits with donors. They simply spent time listening and talking to constituents about the bright future of the organization despite the departure of the leader. Church members who are committed to the project can help you overcome a hurdle, but it will take an investment of time and a listening ear.

In the next weeks of this series, we’ll outline other common snags you might encounter in your campaign and how to overcome them to achieve success for your church. 

Campaign Hurdles

Capital Campaign Crises: Overcoming Hurdles and Pain Points

You’ve launched your campaign, and the pledges of support are flowing in. The congregation is excited. So what do you do when your campaign hits a major snag?

This guide outlines strategies for overcoming campaign hurdles and pain points – the most common issues we see impact a launched campaign. What happens if your pastor resigns? If you lose a major donor or financing? If your project costs are spiraling? Learn the steps to keep your campaign on track when a crisis hits.

Tim has over 30 years of experience in Church, Non-Profit Administration, Management, and Fund Development.  Serving as an Executive Pastor and Chief Development Officer in growing Churches and Non-Profit Organizations. He has provided a wide range of expertise and resources. Tim serves as the Founder and CEO of Non-Profit DNA. A boutique firm committed to helping nonprofits and churches. By building their capacity through fundraising, leadership, team building, staff recruiting, and coaching.

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