St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, located in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina had long planned to build an educational building beside their sanctuary.
Their church was growing. Over 2,000 members attended their Mt. Pleasant services on any given Sunday; hundreds participated in ministry and educational ministries every week.
After prayer and planning, St. Andrew’s decided it was finally time to grow its facilities. Its new three-story educational building would house the Day School and children’s ministries on level one; thriving youth, men’s, and women’s ministries on the second; and The Ridley Institute—St. Andrew’s School of Theology—on the third floor. To fund the church’s growth and the costs of construction, St. Andrew’s launched the Imagine 2040 campaign in early 2018.
Then at 4:30 a.m. on April 22, 2018, St. Andrew’s Rector, Steve Wood, got a phone call. St. Andrew’s ministry building—home to their ever-growing contemporary worship service—was on fire. In the end, firefighters couldn’t save it.
It quickly became clear that Imagine 2040 would be more than a traditional building campaign. While the prospect of raising enough money for two buildings instead of one was overwhelming, St. Andrews’ leadership remained optimistic. Why? Because before launching Imagine 2040, they had conducted a campaign study with the Winkler Group. Information gathered through one-on-one conversations, small groups, and a survey of over 3,000 members, along with a comprehensive giving analysis of the entire congregation, demonstrated St. Andrew’s congregation had the desire to support the church’s expanded campaign and were willing to fund it.
And they did. In the end, with the help of the Winkler Group, St. Andrew’s Anglican Church raised $6.5 million—$2 million above their original goal. And they are raising even more money today. More than two years after the campaign’s official end, St. Andrew’s has received three seven-figure gifts. Their partnership with the Winkler Group fundamentally transformed their approach to stewardship and their congregation’s commitment to financially supporting the church.
We know our members. Why do we need a campaign study?
A campaign study is a critical part of any successful campaign because a church needs to know how much money it can realistically raise in light of the cost of the project. It needs to know if members of the congregation believe in the project and are willing to support the campaign with their personal gifts.
“Campaign studies are essential. They ground a campaign in reality. They help set expectations properly. Otherwise, you are just guessing and hoping. Our study told us the congregation was supportive of our mission and our campaign priorities and that they were going to give to the level we needed to make construction possible.”
—Mike Hughes, Chief Operating Officer, St. Andrew’s Anglican Church
Too many churches take on debt when building because they assume they could raise enough money to cover the project. The old adage, “God will provide” is no excuse for not undertaking due diligence. “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it (Luke 14:28)?”
Through surveys, interviews, and a giving analysis, a good campaign study provides a church with detailed information on whether or not the church can reach its goal, and whether the congregation has both the will and the capacity to support that goal.
But a giving analysis? Isn’t that too personal?
It’s important to look at church members individually and not make blanket appeals to the entire congregation. The right ask for one member is the wrong ask for another. It is essential to honor every individual in the church regardless of their giving capacity. Research, analysis, and prayer help determine the right ask.
Yes, prayerfully doing this prep work takes time and effort. But by equipping churches with the best, most accurate information before they start raising money, church campaigns are better positioned for success.
But personal asks? That’s not the way churches work.
Broad, general asks. Form letters. Campaign appeals from the pulpit. These approaches are an easy way to receive many small gifts and pledges. However, they also cause churches to miss out on millions of dollars of campaign gifts and cause many of the pledges to go unfulfilled.
The Winkler Group’s approach is anchored in time-tested best practices that honor church members and make campaigns successful. The leading best practice is teaching, training, and guiding church leaders and volunteers to make one-on-one, personalized asks and then answer questions and address concerns.
“In a campaign you can undershoot, or you can over ask. Both are mistakes that can hamper a campaign’s success. Analysis on the front end minimizes those mistakes. Understanding someone’s capacity means you go into a personal meeting and know that person has the ability to make the gift you are asking for. That knowledge, combined with training the Winkler Group provided, made us more comfortable with the ask.”
—Mike Hughes, Chief Operating Officer, St. Andrew’s Anglican Church
One of the strengths of a church is in the faith connects individuals and families to each other and to the church as a whole. When the right person asks for the right amount, members recognize how important their contribution is to the campaign and the mission of the church. They also see how much the church cares about them as an individual; this personalized approach demonstrates honor, thoughtfulness, and respect for each person in the congregation.
Moreover, through personal asks, a church gets to know its members better. Relationships are strengthened and deepened. A better understanding of biblical stewardship and generosity fosters a feeling of greater connectedness and growth that comes from understanding what people love and what their hopes and dreams are for the ministry of the church. One-on-one conversations demonstrate that the campaign is about much more than gifts.
Beyond the Campaign: Transforming the Church’s and Its Members’ Approach to Philanthropy
St. Andrew’s campaign study and training benefitted them long after the campaign ended. In the eighteen months after the campaign ended, they received three additional seven-figure gifts. And annual tithing today is far above what it was before the campaign.
It’s important to understand that not all members will be on board or ready to give right away. Some take a wait-and-see approach. They want to be sure the campaign will move the church forward. That’s okay.
“Going through the campaign study and then the capital campaign increased everyone’s faith because it showed what we could do when we gathered together.”
—Steve Wood, Bishop, Diocese of the Carolinas and Rector, St. Andrew’s Church
By partnering with the Winkler Group on a campaign, the church will be ready to meet members wherever they are on their journey to support the church. Moreover, when members decide to get engaged, a church is even more prepared than at the start of the campaign to talk with them, to understand them, and to ask them for a gift that is meaningful to the church and to him or her personally as a member.
Working with the Winkler Group fundamentally transformed St. Andrew’s ability to raise money—even after the campaign ended. They continue to ask members for gifts and tithes to support the church’s annual budget and to support new projects. With the knowledge they gained regarding stewardship, today they are better positioned for future growth and new ministry opportunities.
About the Authors
Jessica Garrett has worked in philanthropy since 2003, with a focus on education, conservation, and historic preservation. Her talents lie in strategy development; foundation, corporate, and government grant support; annual giving; and capital campaign communications. Jessica holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College.
As founder and CEO, Tim Winkler provides the overall strategic direction, vision, and day-to-day management of the firm’s practice. He serves as a national director of the Giving Institute and is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE). Throughout his career, every campaign he has led has met or exceeded its goal. He has a B.A. from Wheaton College and an M.A. from Columbia Biblical Seminary.