Church Capital Campaign Case Study | Lake Hills Church


Lake Hills Church is experiencing a rebirth. Founded over a century ago, the congregation, formerly known as New Morgan Hill Baptist Church, was in decline. Then God called Pastor James Walker back to his hometown to serve this church. His leadership sparked a renewal. Now recognized as one of the fastest growing congregations in Western North Carolina, Lake Hills’ facilities were no longer meeting the needs. So the church launched a building project, and hired Dickerson, Bakker & Associates to plan and implement a capital campaign to help raise money to fund it.


Pastor James envisions the church as an oasis in a dry and dusty world — A Place to Belong — where God’s people can re-energize their faith and band together for ministry. A major refresh of the facade was needed to enhance the church’s “curb appeal” and make it more inviting to visitors. Inside, Lake Hills Church needed space in almost every ministry area. Sanctuary space was needed at both campuses to accommodate swelling attendance. Children’s ministry space and adult classrooms were in desperately short supply. The Lake Hills family loves to gather for fellowship over meals, so the kitchen and fellowship hall needed updating too.

The Challenge

Initial estimates for these improvements amounted to more than three times annual giving. An additional challenge was that the congregation was comprised of two categories of people: longer-term members who in truth were a little shell-shocked by all the changes, and a slew of new attendees who were just settling in. We were uncertain how enthusiastically either group would embrace the vision and give to the campaign. And time was of the essence, since space was needed right away. Our firm was hired in June, with hopes that a campaign could be completed before Thanksgiving.

The challenge was clear. We were going to need to run one campaign across two campuses to help the church raise three times their annual giving – mostly from new members – and we were going to need to do it in record time.

Planning & Preparations

Buy-In. To ensure we had buy-in from the entire church, the first step was to hold an all-congregation meeting to lay out the vision. Remarkably, the plan was passed unanimously, with not a single vote against it.

Communications: A communications team was recruited, and immediately went to work crafting printed materials and producing a campaign video based on samples and direction provided by Dickerson-Bakker, built around a theme of “Immeasurably More”.

Events: An events team was formed to begin planning a series of Leadership Challenge meetings over the course of the summer, followed by a major launch event scheduled for October.

Children & Youth: Leaders of the children and youth ministries were encouraged to get involved, and we met with them to brainstorm ideas and frame up a plan.

Teaching & Preaching: Finally, we sat down with Pastor James and his teaching team to construct the framework for a series of sermons and teaching materials on generosity, which would anchor the campaign. This was a high priority, since giving data showed that the church was not yet meeting its potential for giving.

Leadership Giving: While all this was going on, we also worked closely with a small team of leaders from the church to conduct a series of one-on-one meetings and small-group Leadership Challenge Meetings with members who were able to make a generous commitment in advance to help build momentum.

The Campaign

Launch. The campaign was launched to the congregation during Sunday services in the middle of October. The author of the devotional used for the campaign was the guest speaker, and he delivered a stirring message on Biblical stewardship. The entire congregation was challenged to walk through a 40-day journey of generosity, using materials provided, which was coupled with a daily prayer message in their email.

Week Two. Pastor James launched a three-part sermon series with a powerful message, casting a vision for the future of Lake Hills church. Several church members shared their personal testimonies about how the church was having a positive impact on their lives. This was followed by lunch under a big tent behind the church. Architectural renderings were unveiled, and campaign materials were distributed to all members.

Week Three. Leadership giving totals were announced — resulting from the one-on-ones and small group Leadership Challenge meetings, totaling nearly half the campaign goal!

Week Four. Children and youth came forward during the service to provide another powerful demonstration of generosity, having raised nearly three times their goal.

Week Five. Commitment cards were handed out, and the entire congregation was challenged to begin praying and thinking about their commitments, in advance of Commitment Sunday, scheduled for the following week.

Week Six. Dozens of church members gathered for a 24-hour prayer vigil beginning on Saturday morning and leading into Commitment Sunday services.


Target goal of the campaign was achieved

Rate of pledge fulfillment exceeding 100%

Construction underway, on pace for completion later this year

Annual budgeted giving held steady throughout the campaign

Total cost to conduct the campaign amounted to less than two cents per dollar raised


“One of the most important things to us was to make sure this capital campaign didn’t feel like we were ‘strong-arming’ our people for money. We wanted to focus the campaign on the vision of what God is doing in the life of our church. If you talk to any of our people, they will tell you that this has been a rich spiritual experience. Their commitment to the Lord, and their commitment to the church has grown as a result of their participation in this campaign… We have been extremely pleased with how this campaign has gone. If we ever do a campaign again, we will definitely use Dickerson-Bakker.”


No doubt you’ve heard it said that successful major gift fund development is “all about relationships”. We couldn’t agree more. At the same time, however, it just isn’t that simple. Real success in major gift fundraising is about strategically managing relationships with high-value donors in order to maximize their understanding of, interest in, involvement with, and commitment to your organization and its underlying mission. Even the word “relationships” is ambiguous. Major donors don’t have “relationships” with organizations. They have relationships with people in the organization. Too many put too much emphasis on the relationship with the development officer and overlook the importance of others. Relationships between your organization and its major donors actually have multiple dimensions, each increasingly important as you advance to higher tiers of giving.

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The case statement, also known as the “case for support,” provides a glimpse into the heart of a non-profit organization and is a vital part of any major gift fundraising effort. With over twenty years experience working with major donors we know what they are looking for in an offer. We will work with you to craft a compelling and professional case for support and guide you through the development of additional collateral materials needed to effectively present your case. We will also spend time in the field with your team to help them hone their presentation skills and train them in the “Art of the Close”.

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Of all the building blocks needed to create a major gift program, none is more important than the people you have in place on your major gift leadership team. Having the right people in the right roles is a critical part of the Keystone Solution™ and we will work with you to ensure that your staff and volunteers are well-trained and appropriately gifted for their roles. If necessary, we will work with you to recruit additional members to your major gift leadership team.

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Any good fisherman knows that you can’t catch a big fish if you’ve got your line in the wrong pond. The future success of any major gift fund-raising program is built upon the organization’s ability to attract new donors to support its mission. To ensure on-going growth, a wide base of dynamic support is necessary, which presumes that a significant number of new major donors must be acquired and subsequently nurtured and elevated to rising giving levels. Using both “high-tech” and “high-touch” approaches we will work with your organization to identify a pool of best major gift prospects for your major gift program and to segment them into prioritized lists. As part of our prospecting services, we are also able to provide Donor Research Services to help you realize the major gift potential in your donor database and circles of influence.

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Successful major gift fundraising is both an art and a science. The art is in the relationships, but the science is in the systems. Someone once said, “Motivation is what gets you started; good habits are what keep you going.” Putting good major gift development policies and procedures in place and getting into the habit of living by them is a critical part of making a program sustainable. Dickerson, Bakker & Associates will work with your organization to implement best practices within your major gift development department to ensure that the improvements we put in place will continue not just beyond our term of service but can be consistently applied even if you have a turnover of staff.

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An organization’s brand is perhaps its most important asset. Most people think of brand superficially—considering only those aspects encompassing the “look and feel” of an organization (e.g. name, logo, etc.). Those brand marks are just outward expressions of your brand, however. At a deeper level, BRAND represents a promise to your constituents of those quintessential qualities that define who you are, what you do, and what you stand for as an organization. Doubt about the integrity of an organization’s brand promise almost always has a detrimental effect on giving, regardless of the effectiveness or competency of the fund development staff. Establishing and adhering to a clear focused brand is foundational in your ability to communicate who you are, what you do, where you are going, and how you will get there.

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CULTURE refers to the collective attitudes that characterize and impact the ways that an organization’s people will perceive one another and work together. A “development-friendly” culture provides a fertile soil for giving to flourish. Dickerson, Bakker & Associates has identified six ingredients that together comprise a vibrant, development-friendly culture, and—if consistently applied—will significantly improve your organization’s ability to consistently garner high-level investments from major donors.

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While mainstream donors may be satisfied with a simple understanding of what an organization does, major donors are more interested in what an organization achieves, or—more specifically—will achieve with the money they invest. Major donors want to know how their investment is helping bring about positive change in the lives of people. Major donors increasingly condition giving upon delivery of impact metrics, often requesting information on outcomes even before investing. Organizations that are serious about achieving success in major gift development will therefore do best when they embrace a culture that supports and encourages outcomes thinking.

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