Crowd Funding for a Church: How to Dodge 63.73% Fail Rate

Here’s a classic scenario: a small church in the south Chicago suburbs with a thriving congregation of young families wants to restore the sanctuary to original splendor.  Due to an unfortunate renovation, the walls are white, stained glass is missing, statues are gone and the altar has the appearance of a sofa table from an alternate reality IKEA.  The 70’s are calling and they want their church back.

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How do you hide a 1970’s Catholic altar?
Hide it in a living room.
Just kidding. No homeowner could be that tacky.

No problem.  Just call some liturgical contractors and get bids to buy new windows, install a communion rail and rebuild the high altar.  Might as well hire a decorative painter to cover up all that white and get a proper pulpit too.

A quick search around the web reveals some names of Illinois companies specializing in religious work.  A marble altar and communion rail set can be sourced from Deprato RigaliAltare Design, LLC seems like a good choice for a carved, wood pulpit.  Decorative painting will be bid out to Murals by Jericho.  A week passes and the bids are on the table.

Man can't believe how much custom woodworking costs

This is the face of a man who just discovered how much green it takes to replace the artwork discarded by his predecessors as garbage.




Pro Tip:  Before starting a major church renovation, check to see how much it will cost to replace what is being destroyed. Restoration is often more economical than reconstruction. Avoid Remodeler’s Remorse and dodge the pitfall of trendy renovations that will be passé in five years. Those $25,000 make-overs aren’t such a bargain if they have to be repeated every few years.

A financial decision of this proportion calls for some American-style action:  gather a committee and talk about it.  After two months of reasonable, level-headed discussion in which everyone voices their opinions in an equally loud voice, the group comes to a “consensus” of several ideas.

Idea #1:  Squeeze everything we want into a $10,000 budget.


  1. Can raise the funds with two special collections.


  1. The restoration will allow for fresh white paint, new tempered glass windows and an upgrade to the latest style in sofa tables from modern day IKEA.

Idea #2:  Too costly.  Forget the idea and do nothing.


  1. A body at rest tends to stay at rest.  Reaffirm the power of inertia!


  1. People forget why they are in church and decide to host Star Wars dress-up parties instead (yes, that is a thing).

Idea #3:  Just add some fake plants and felt banners and save a lot of money.


  1. Applying Velcro strips to the altar will make it easy to swap banner colors.


  1. The 90’s are calling and they want their church back.

Or as an alternative, present the idea to the people whose donations are actually funding the project and see what their reaction might be.

The concept of crowd funding is not new.  It’s as old as the days when somebody first passed a collection plate.

Those dollar bills (or whatever they used back in the day) become significant when hundreds of people are contributing.

In this digital age crowd-funding makes people think of the internet and Kickstarter but that’s for techie startups, not religious institutions.

Or is it?

The Franciscan order would disagree.

Campaign to Restore the Roman House of St. Francis.

Monk walking through field

“Back in my day, we had to walk ten miles to town to beg for alms in the streets.”

If people are shown a means of achieving a lofty goal, they will make the effort to achieve it.  Just read the article below to understand how much even one man can accomplish.  A former Trappist makes a vow to build a church if he survives his illness.  He does, and proceeds to start making it happen with whatever means are available to him.

Man Spends 50 Years Creating Cathedral from Junk

A thousand people combined could do so much more.  It just takes someone with initiative to get them inspired.

The king of crowd-funding is the all-or-nothing Kickstarter.  According to the statistics gathered since that site launched, 63.73% of campaigns fail to fund.  Nobody wants to be a statistic in the failure section so what can be done about that?  What are the key attributes of a successful project? A big idea that people will rally behind and an existing base of supporters are two key factors driving successful campaigns.

With the first attribute, the problem is that Kickstarter in itself is a sort of gauge on the popularity of the idea. No one can be positive it’s going to be wildly popular until after the project has launched. One thing for sure though, if the idea is mundane and uninspiring, the chances of success are lower. Who wants to back a project that offers something they see in their everyday environment?

The pre-existing group of supporters is critical. With crowdfunding, you don’t just toss a project on the net and watch dollars pour in. This initial group of people will get the first funding started and will spread the word to their friends. Early momentum is important since statistics on Kickstarter’s site show that a project that gets 20% funding has an 78% chance of succeeding.  If the parishioners and their friends and family can raise the first 20%, that’s a good sign the project will be funded when it goes live..

Get those plans written up, make a professional-looking presentation and start gathering the interested locals into social media to prepare for launch day.

Kickstarter Stats are here for those that want to reference them.

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