Capital Campaigns for Novices (or the Fully Professed)
Today’s post opens a new volume in the “Letters from the Almoner” series. These fictional letters will open a window into conversations between a professional fundraiser and a religious sister who is in charge of raising money to build a new monastery.
Dear Sr. Veronica,
Praised be Jesus Christ! Getting your letter was both a delight and an honor. I pray that the Lord will give me the wisdom and insight that you need as you build your new monastery.
I don’t think that you have any reason to be discouraged. Raising eight million dollars is a big job, but it’s not impossible. Be not afraid. If the Lord has told you to move your religious house, He’ll provide the means to make it happen. My favorite Southern Fundraising proverb is, “If it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill.”
Follow the peace.
I am glad that you mentioned that you and your sisters have been praying about this move for a number of years. And that your superior and the leaders of your order agree that this is the right move. The peace that you have with your current plans is a good sign that this really is the direction that the Lord wants you to take.
It’s true that the plan is much bigger than you might have expected. But remember, God is not dealing only with your state of your current monastery, decaying neighborhood, and need for a new home. He sees a bigger picture than you do, and knows what kind of resources you’re going to need in 5, 10, 50, even 100 years. He’s eternal. So if you have peace when the decision is made, move forward with confidence.
One word of caution. The devil will attempt to throw you off balance by throwing doubts, fears, and second guesses, all in an attempt to undermine your trust in God’s plan and provision. This WILL happen. When it does happen, don’t let it surprise you. Just call to mind St. Ignatius of Loyola’s fifth rule of spiritual discernment:
“In time of desolation never to make a change; but to be firm and constant in the resolutions and determination in which one was the day preceding such desolation, or in the determination in which he was in the preceding consolation. Because, as in consolation it is rather the good spirit who guides and counsels us, so in desolation it is the bad, with whose counsels we cannot take a course to decide rightly.”
The peace that you feel now is the consolation the St. Ignatius highlights as being the action of the Holy Spirit. The doubt, fear, and worry… these are the action of the evil one. You can’t let the evil one prevent you from moving forward with what God has planned.
I’d like to be more encouraging than sobering, but lets face the fact choosing not to hire a campaign consultant will make your job more difficult. Raising $8,000,000 is a real challenge, especially if you’re learning how to do it on the fly. Not that I don’t think that it can be done. Just know that it is going to be significantly harder than you expect.
Jesus said, “Take up your cross daily.” This campaign is going to be your cross for the next several years. That’s right, I said years. If you know that, if you recognize that, if you accept that right now, then you can take comfort in the fact that God’s grace will be there every step of the way. The nice thing about the cross is that it won’t let you down. It will always fulfill its purpose, so long as you are willing to follow our Lord’s example with a resounding, “Thy will be done.”
Don’t think that I’m only pointing at the cross that awaits you. I’m pointing THROUGH the cross to the victory that lies on the other side. The resurrection is impossible. But it’s true. The cross made it possible. You don’t get to the empty tomb except by walking the way of the cross.
Raising this money will be harder than you ever expected, but the fruit will be incomparably better than you could ever imagine. Keep you soul eyes fixed on these two facts: 1. God called you into this capital campaign; 2. He never fails those who move in the obedience of faith.
Your Beloved is Infinite.
If you need more encouragement, go wander outside tonight and look up. I know you live in Brooklyn, so imagine that you can see millions of stars in the sky. Think about the fact that God created those myriads of stars out of nothing. Why?
He is infinitely perfect in Himself. He is lacking in no goodness, truth, or beauty that He doesn’t possess completely by His very nature. So why did He create all of this stuff?
God wanted children. Think about that. He made all of this stuff for you. So of course, He’s going to provide everything that you need for the big project that He’s given you. He’s your Father and He loves you. He won’t give you a task without providing the means that you need to complete it.
Now, He WILL allow you to struggle and muddle through this campaign, because wrestling with a big task is good for you. It will cause you to grow in faith and stretch you to do things that you never thought you could. Just like when I tell my 5-year-old to feed the chickens even though the chicken feeder is almost too heavy for him to carry once he’s filled it. It’s good for him to fight with the weight of his burden. Carrying this burden will be good for you, too.
Hopefully, in this process, I can be your Simon of Cyrene. I can’t bear the full weight of the cross for you, but I can help you carry it. I’ll walk you through the process that a capital campaign consultant would have used, and try to give you enough tools so you can do it yourself.
Every capital campaign is different because every project, organization, and body of donors is different. But there are general principles and best practices that should enable you to succeed. Putting your best efforts into raising this money is an exercise in prudence, even as believing that God will provide is an exercise in faith. Faith and prudence work together beautifully. Do your best, and God will do the rest.
I’ll start pondering where to begin.
P.S. A word of encouragement: I just finished working with another order that was raising a money to build their new chapel. They didn’t have a capital campaign consultant either. They worked their tails off and God was faithful to provide. Their new chapel is BEAUTIFUL.