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0 Comments | Feb 23, 2010

Funding Your Multi-Site Strategy in Tough Economic Times

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By Brad Leeper, Multi-Sightings, Jan. 2010


Multi-site and multi-venue options are the new normal. No question. Given the new non-normal economic metrics, however, funding the multisite or multi-venue confounds the best of leadership teams.
How might churches consider gathering increased funds for expansion? Additional funding can be secured if leaders know how to pursue the alignment of the vision and the hearts of your people.
To understand how to secure your funding, understand what is going on in the current giving patterns.
Current Economic Realities
  • General giving for missional churches tends to be healthy. Churches that have a focused vision and can articulate that vision in the midst of fruitfulness generally are up in their giving. While there a valid exceptions to this trend, most churches have weathered the storm and have done much better than predicted in their regular giving.
  • Bank loans are very hard to obtain. Churches found an all-too-easy marketplace for loans until the recession. Lenders have rebounded by enforcing much more stringent requirements to get a loan for any kind of expansion. Being debt-free is not even considered an advantage. Banks are now looking for cash reserves, excess cash flow, and increased cash participation by a church in the project for loan consideration.
  • Giving is still an option for mission critical projects. People will give sacrificially for your expansion project, but their questions are more demanding and their process more cautious. The better you make the case for the expansion and align the expansion to the heart of the donor, the better the results. Extra giving is in correlation to the mission critical nature of the project. The process of project giving is much, much more complex than ever. Be aware, however, that the overall project giving results are much lower than the unusually bountiful years prior to the recession.
  • The donor is more cautious about your project. Still open, yes, but more cautious in the process. Surprisingly, some churches still presume upon the donor because, from the leadership perspective, the project makes a compelling case for everyone to give. Presumption and poor communication will doom your giving totals. People seem to have generally concluded that we have weathered the hardest hit from the recession and it will probably not get worse. The donor, however, is not convinced that it will get better anytime soon. The shorter the duration of the giving season for the project, the more inclined the donor is to give generously. It is easier for people to give above and beyond for 12 months than 36 months. They are simply not as confident about 36 months out.
  • Higher capacity donors remain in play. While many have suffered through this season, a smaller group has done well financially. As highlighted in Esther, God has placed a group of people in play for such a time as this. In the last three weeks, I have seen gifts and pledges from higher capacity donors ranging from $100,000 to more than $1,000,000. Knowing the new dialog to converse with this group is the challenge. And yes, you probably have a group of these people in your church. Nearly all churches do. Often, leaders do not know that they are there. And just as often, this group does not appear in your list of top ten givers.
  • Giving to projects is more sacrificial than ever. People will take you seriously when you make a case for your expansion or multisite. Even when they are already making adjustments in their personal lifestyle, they will sacrifice financially to make the expansion a reality. Simply be aware that their giving really means something deep to them. The giving is not from surplus. We in leadership must honor their love for God and the church by not asking them to give to a project that is not mission critical.
  • People still get excited about mission critical projects!

Options for Raise Funds for Expansion
  • The general budget. Some churches can absorb a multisite or venue from their general budgets. Although this option is not as common, it is an option if a church has substantial cash reserves and believes that the multisite can be self-sustaining quickly.
  • One-time church wide offering. Depending on the church size and history with offerings, this option can generate substantial funds. The communication for this option, however, is far more complex than ever. A one-time offering is not a simple exercise. Layers of communication tailored to various groups in the church are essential for success. With Christmas just ahead, a Christmas offering might be a unique option in funding a portion of your project.
  • A small project giving season. Increasingly, project giving is designated for non-capital expenditures. It is not unusual to ask a church body to fund a multisite over a period of time with over and above giving. Do not exceed 12 months and try to keep the giving season as short as possible.
  • Connecting with higher capacity donors. Multi-site and other expansion options tend to make a compelling case to higher capacity donors. Their mindset is much different than that of a typical donor. They more often value getting involved in projects that are compelling and where they as a donor can do things that few other people can do. This option is often my first consideration in working with a church in a multisite or multi-venue expansion.
  • Asking the launch team to be involved financially. Most multisites are launched with a core team and campus pastor leading up to the public introduction. As a challenge to the core, consider asking them to include extra giving designated to the project. As you might guess, financial involvement is an excellent indicator of being all in for the project. Would you want to go into battle with people unwilling to give toward the project?
  • A combination of many of the above. Given the complexity of the giving environment, a combination of these factors is more often employed to fund a project. The challenge is to know how to pace each of these areas and to communicate with excellence to the various groups. Leadership cannot pull this off with a flippant plan and without careful planning over a longer period of time. The entire process of raising project funds is much longer than ever.
Other considerations in launching a multisite

In working with many churches using multisite, these issues stand out as critical decisions:

  • When will leadership expect the multisite to be self-sustaining financially? This value must be determined early in the strategy planning.
  • Will we make the campus pastor responsible for generosity and stewardship in his or her leadership? Some campus pastors do not embrace this value and believe that the senior pastor alone is responsible for generosity. The stronger the campus in giving, the more likely the success of the campus. Place the value of generosity high on the campus pastor’s responsibility. Only hire campus pastors that can passionately see generosity as part of their roles.
  • Does the senior pastor still carry the primary load in vision casting and resourcing? Yes, and increasingly so. Many of my clients tell me how reluctant they are to lead in this area. After working on their project and engaging with their people, they often report the time as the best they have had in ministry for years. The senior visionary leader has more direct impact in giving than any other factor after the mission critical nature of the project.
  • Does senior leadership’s and the senior pastor’s giving remain important for any expansion project? The speed of leadership always impacts the speed of the team. If you as leaders are considering an expansion project like multisite, expect to lead the way in bountiful giving. If you are not willing to invest financially in a sacrificial amount for the project, do not move forward with the project. That expansion is doomed for failure and there is likely a disconnect with the mission critical nature of the project.

Brad Leeper is a senior strategist at GENERIS, one of the nation’s leading generosity consulting firms for churches and ministries. Brad works to help Generis elevate Christian generosity through the local church to see our communities transformed for Christ. As a specialist in multisite strategy and other pioneering church movements, Brad provides

innovative counsel to all types of congregations across America to help them thrive in today’s challenging economy.


As a strategic partner with Multi-Site Solutions, Brad is available for a one-hour free phone consultation on how to fund your multisite strategy. You can contact Brad at brad@generis.com.

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