While the vast majority of professionally-led capital campaigns are successful in reaching their goals, the percentage falls off when congregations try to run their own campaigns without guidance. Here are the primary reasons why some campaigns fail:
Choosing the wrong leader
. Leadership requires talent and time to be successful. Occasionally, pastors who have experienced multiple campaigns during their pastorate believe they can organize and run a campaign on behalf of their congregation. That might be true if they can abandon their other responsibilities and no new ministry issues surface over the next six months. A prime example of this was a congregation that had started their campaign with a pastor who had been a part of eight campaigns. Surely he had the experience and learned techniques, but what no one counted on was that he'd be called to active military service from his National Guard unit. No documentation or written plan existed as the congregation tried to pick up where he left off.
A needs-based campaign rather than a vision-based campaign.
Often times the urgent needs of building maintenance just seem to bubble up from vocal committee members and pretty soon they add up to major dollars and a campaign emerges. Two problems with this approach are that the squeakiest wheel gets the oil first, and one person's "needs" may be another person's luxury item. When a vision for ministry is the objective, the priorities of a campaign become obvious to all.
Avoiding setting giving expectations.
Setting expectations for giving is often interpreted as telling someone else how much they should give. Mainline denominations are notorious for their poor giving history for congregations. Presbyterians, for instance, have traditionally given 1½ percent of their household income. A well-run campaign will first figure out what a giving formula will require in number and size of gifts, then try to match gifts with members who may be capable of a gift of that magnitude. It's not a matter of telling someone how much to give, as it is to ask them to prayerfully consider a gift of that size so that the campaign can be successful. Without this approach, it is virtually impossible for a congregation to be successful unless their goal is so low that they couldn't help but get there if they just made a simple ask for support.
Counting on a congregation that's divided.
And then the most dangerous campaign technique - believing that a divided congregation will somehow unite by conducting a capital campaign. My most common comment on this subject is "capital campaigns do not cause division, but they can exacerbate the situation of a divided congregation." You must resolve conflict before you undertake a campaign, no exceptions.
. Generally speaking, congregation financial goals when undertaking a major project should be reasonably fully paid in two or no more than three consecutive three-year campaigns. A decade of paying pledge amounts that are two to three times what one is accustomed to contributing will wear down the excitement level of most members. After six straight years, congregation turnover and fatigue can wear down enthusiasm and giving to the annual budget. This can be a deadly mixture for future ministry objectives.