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A capital campaign requires lots of time, resources, and hard work—and a successful one begins with due diligence on the front end.

There are no guarantees a capital campaign will succeed. An organization should never embark on one without counting the cost and being confident about the likelihood of its success.

In 2019, Mater Misericordiae Catholic Parish, located in downtown Phoenix, was at a crossroads: their current church had become too small for their growing congregation and recent events in the neighborhood had made them concerned for parishioner safety, but they understood that a new church was no small undertaking and needed to be sure it was the best move.

So Mater Misericordiae needed to know if they were in a position to raise approximately $5 million—and potentially as much as $10 million—for land, design, and construction costs. Equally important, the parish needed to know if they had the internal capacity—personnel, volunteer support, and systems—to execute such a monumental undertaking.

Parish leadership believed a new church was needed, yet they did not have clarity on what this entailed or an understanding of the level of financial support the parish community would provide. That is where American Philanthropic came in.

In order to assess whether Mater Misericordiae’s capital campaign was likely to succeed, the parish asked American Philanthropic to conduct a comprehensive feasibility study.

My colleagues and I began by researching land and construction costs, learning about peer institutions’ church building projects, and preparing a preliminary proposal for a new church and a case for supporting it. We drafted a set of study questions specifically tailored to Mater Misericordiae’s circumstances and conducted 25 interviews with key parish stakeholders who were representative of the wider parish community. Reflecting on interview feedback and analyzing parish finances and other organizational circumstances, American Philanthropic probed, deliberated, and weighed the many tangible and intangible factors at play. 

After our analysis, we concluded that the parish did not in fact—at that particular time—have the operational or financial capacity to conduct a campaign for a new church that would be a success.

While parishioners were truly enthusiastic about a new church and campaign to make it a reality and indicated they would give to support it, the study concluded there was an insufficient donor base for a $5+ million campaign.

The campaign feasibility study provided the information parish leaders needed to make wise decisions on behalf of their organization. And, just as important, the study provided concrete and practical advice for strengthening the parish’s development efforts, finances, and operations. Though Mater Misericordiae did not get the answer they were hoping for, the parish did receive what they value even more: clarity and wisdom.

After a four-month period of study, Mater Misericordiae had:

  • a professional recommendation for whether or not to move forward with a campaign;
  • a campaign case statement ready to be refined as new information is gathered;
  • increased relational capital with key stakeholders who were sought out and listened to;
  • a list of potential funders from outside of the parish to complement support from within;
  • clarity around financing a major project in the future; and
  • specific and concrete recommendations for how to strengthen operations and finances.

As a result of a partnership with American Philanthropic, Mater Misericordiae Catholic Parish is growing in operational and leadership capacity that is helping them manage the increased demands of a larger faith community—and preparing them for the day when they are ready to build.

If you are interested in a capital campaign or a feasibility study—what it looks like, how to succeed, or how to plan for success, reach out to me by email. I would love to help your organization think about and plan for success ... now or in the future.

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