Lawrence R. Chottiner

Lawrence R. Chottiner

As our work to conclude the capital campaign for the Salisbury Presbyterian Church moves toward its end, I wanted to write to put some thoughts on paper regarding the process and to review the work of your consultant.

Before I do that, I want to share that this campaign represents the first attempt at a major fund raising effort for capital additions since 1992, a period of almost twenty years. That campaign, though it addressed some badly needed space requirements, did not reach its expected goal and subsequently two additional appeals were made before the debt was retired. Further, in 2006, a small campaign was lead by the Director of Music and a small committee that was recruited to raise approximately $400,000 to replace the existing pipe organ with a re-built organ procured through the Organ Clearing House. This initiative more than raised enough money and although there are some significant issues still present, it was a campaign that one can say was quite successful. The Director of Music and her husband, the organist, had served the church for nearly 32 years and in many ways this was a way of saying to them that they were appreciated for their efforts. Soon after the installation of the organ they resigned and have moved out of state.

With that history in mind, this campaign designed to add badly needed space and to repair and renovate existing space seemed to be clearly indicated. In fact, in 2008, the leadership of the church recognized this need and made it one of the priorities as we moved forward in our ministry. Unfortunately, not long after the economy turned sour and caution became the watchword, which translated, meant that any emerging plans would be put on hold. In 2011, the needs were still growing and the decision was made to move forward but with many offering reasons that it wasn’t necessary. Nonetheless, the vote to begin the campaign was taken and at that point we contracted with your firm to start the process, which is what happened. The goal was set at $5.2 million and whether that was realistic or not, created quite a stir among this cautious group of Presbyterians. I might add that this is a congregation that has historically practiced a generosity that seldom met the annual needs of operation, a fact that has lead to the many maintenance issues the present campaign hoped to address. It was not easy going from the beginning. There were continued criticisms about what I have termed to be basic fundraising 101, not to say that the process used isn’t effective, but that it rubbed some more vocal members the wrong way. Or, it provided them an excuse to not participate. As I write this, we are at $2 million dollars and hoping that in the next few weeks to reach at least $2.5 to $2.7 million, which I believe will enable us to do much of what was planned. Nonetheless, this congregation has not responded in a way that any of us had hoped and in many ways the early criticisms that the time wasn’t right and the economy wasn’t good and the needs weren’t evident have all become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Our consultant did an excellent job. He came prepared to help us to achieve the goal and I think provided us with some clear guidelines in order to do that. He was well regarded by the Campaign Committee and they looked to him for the leadership which he readily provided. That there was frustration, from almost the start, is clear, given what I have said above. Nonetheless, our consultant continued to be supportive and encouraging and I believe we would not have gotten this far had it not been because of his presence and guidance.

I also found him to be a good friend along the way because as the pastor of a church during a campaign, one feels at the center of the task, the praise and the criticism. He continued to communicate with me and I was encouraged by his words of experience.

With our contract with your firm now complete, I would also add that our consultant has continued to be in touch with us, providing advice, as needed, and encouragement to complete the campaign. For that, I am grateful. This has been an interesting challenge and I am sure that we would never have gotten this far without the help your firm has provided.

Again, it was a pleasure working with our consultant and with your firm. I will be more than happy to talk with others in the future who are considering your services.

-Lawrence R. Chottiner
Senior Pastor
Salisbury Presbyterian Church
Midlothian, Virginia
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