Above Goal is in the midst of a research project focusing on the trends of capital campaigns in Catholic church fundraising, with a particular focus on dioceses and archdioceses. We’ve also been looking at your performance (as consultants) in the marketplace and the services you offer to the Catholic sector compared to your peers.
We’re taking a break from our research to share some quick observations about this sector.
Concentration – We have found that there is a significant concentration in the firms that perform diocesan campaigns. Some firms have regional dominance, while others excel with capital campaigns of certain sizes. However, few firms regularly compete (and win) the business of the approximately 200 archdioceses and dioceses. There is less concentration with campaigns at the more than 17,000 parishes in the United States.
Memories Fade, Staffs Change – Your previous successful campaign with a diocese is not as important as you think. Nine years ago, you successfully helped a diocese raise millions of dollars and now they’re preparing for a new campaign. Take a closer look, and they’re fielding proposals from other consultants. Unfortunately, high development staff turnover is not limited to secular organizations. When asked to name the consultant that ran their last campaign years ago, a stewardship leader at a Midwestern diocese said, “I wasn’t here for our other campaign. I have no idea.”
The Good News: Staff Members Hop Around – In some ways the stewardship office at a diocese can resemble a local news station. Stewardship staff members might start their career at one diocese and end it in another diocese. We’ve met several staff members that have worked in the stewardship departments of many different dioceses. If you’ve run a successful campaign at one diocese, your odds might increase slightly if a staff member moves to another diocese and is launching a campaign. We recommend carefully maintaining these important relationships like your nonprofit clients might manage their major gifts portfolios.
Innovation should be on the horizon – We believe the first consulting firm to build a recurring revenue product for this sector will cement themselves as one of the go-to firms of the next generation of Catholic fundraising. Currently, it seems, service offerings to this sector are limited to searches, campaigns, appeals, and offertory enhancement projects. Projects with a beginning, middle, and end. We don’t have an answer, but it would be wise to consider what your client’s day-to-day, month-to-month, stewardship pain points are and how your firm might be able to regularly lend its expertise to help them address these issues. Offering recurring and ongoing services to this sector could prime your firm to be selected for the big capital campaign project since you would have established a strong working relationship.