Five Reasons Your Church needs A Readiness Assessment
By Jeff Cluxton
One definition of a Readiness Assessment is: the analysis or research into the practicality of a proposed plan or method, based on factors like need, location, available technology, manpower, and financial resources.
Most will agree that a Readiness Assessment or Feasibility Study is one of the important first steps in assuring a successful Capital Stewardship Program. The benefits of a Readiness Assessment are numerous:
- Your church receives valuable feedback on the plan before you start a campaign and solicit pledges.
- Members of your congregation or parish are engaged in a thoughtful evaluation of the needs for a proposed Capital Stewardship Campaign.
- It creates an opportunity to test the leadership of your church to assure unanimity.
- A Readiness Assessment also creates an opportunity to take the case to the people in a clear and concise manner.
A feasibility study, if conducted properly, will take somewhere between 2 and 8 consecutive weeks depending on the size of the congregation and the amount of details of preliminary education previously offered to the members of the church about the campaign.
The value of the findings of a Readiness Assessment are immeasurable. The top five reasons why your church should execute a professional Readiness Assessment prior to beginning a capital stewardship campaign are:
- To inform the congregation about the proposed plans. Having a series of meetings for the sole purpose of informing the members of your plan lets you share the correct information and avoid rumors. When you invest the effort, time and expense involved in conducting an effective Readiness Assessment and schedule 10, 15, 20 or more focus group meetings, it sends a loud and clear message that this plan is important.
- Solicit input regarding the case statement. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. Even the best plan can be improved. As the many attendees of the focus group meetings see and consider your plans, exciting fresh perspectives will come forth. In a recent focus group, the architectural plans were shared showing the church choir room on the first floor. The plans also included a youth group meeting room directly above the choir room on the second floor. After one of the members rightly said, that won’t work, the leadership decided to change the plan.
- Build enthusiasm and consensus for the project. When a small group of 20 to 30 people attend one of the numerous convenient focus group meetings, one can see easily and quickly whether there is sufficient enthusiasm and support for the plan. When there is consensus and agreement, it becomes contagious and momentum builds. This momentum can carry you well into a successful capital stewardship campaign.
>Identify and cultivate leadership for the campaign.
- At focus group meetings conducted properly, an objective consultant will have a questionnaire for each attendee to complete and return. Unlike so many mail out questionnaires, the personal meeting is far more effective. Just consider the number of pieces of mail we receive every day. One of the important questions asked is: Who would you suggest for leadership roles to ensure the success of a Capital Campaign? Data are compiled and shared with church leadership. Selecting the right key leadership is essential for the success of your campaign. One common mistake made by many fund-raising firms is to ask respondents how much they are willing to give to the campaign. This flawed approach only encourages token giving and leaves the impression that the only reason for the meeting was to determine the value of a prospective donor’s gift.
- To identify the members who will support the plan as volunteers and / or financial contributors. Another question on our Focus Group questionnaire is: Would you consider supporting a Capital Campaign: Financially? Volunteer Time? The attendee can respond with Yes, No, or Need more information. Data are also tabulated and shared with church leadership to provide a reasonable measurement of expected participation. Also, having a large list of volunteers already identified and willing to work in various capacities is invaluable when many tasks need to be done.
You should enter into the Readiness Assessment process fully prepared and with the best proposed plan your church leadership can present and recommend. Feedback, questions, comments and suggestions are sure to come. You must be open and accepting of that feedback. All of the feedback received during the focus group meetings should be kept confidential.
Using an objective third party will assure that the privacy of the respondents is protected. The responses must be documented, compiled by a consultant and shared with you in a comprehensive report at the completion of the Readiness Assessment. The findings must be explained to the leadership. However, the individual responses, suggestions and criticisms must be kept anonymous so not to embarrass or expose anyone.
Gathering much information and advice from your valued members is critical to success. There is even strong Biblical support for engaging in an activity similar to a Readiness Assessment. For example, scripture says in Proverbs 15:22, Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.
As you can see, there are many benefits to committing to a Readiness Assessment prior to a major Capital Stewardship Campaign. Communicating your plan clearly, obtaining names of willing and eager participants, gauging the level of enthusiasm, and gathering valuable feedback from attendees will prepare you for a successful Capital Stewardship Campaign that your church will long remember.
Jeff Cluxton is a consultant with James D. Klote & Associates, Inc. This nation-wide firm offers full-time and on-site Capital Stewardship consulting services to individual congregations for the purposes of new construction, renovation, debt reduction and mission and outreach. Offices are located in Falls Church, Virginia and St. Charles, Illinois. For more information please visit www.jdklote.com or contact us directly at 800-360-2315.