Client Stories

Kentucky Derby Museum

Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” The Executive leadership of the Kentucky Derby Museum was taking no chances. They had diligently completed a strategic planning process in 2014. The only problem with the plan was that it had been created with a short-term focus so many of the goals and objectives the plan outlined had already been achieved. Patrick Armstrong, President of the Museum, was just beginning the second year of his tenure. “As we reviewed the plan, we realized that we needed to update it and recreate it with a longer-term perspective. We wanted a plan to guide us for the next 3-5 years.”

After a call for proposals and presentations was completed, The Covenant Group was selected to lead the process. Lauren Baldwin, Office Administrator, recalls “We became aware of The Covenant Group through the referral of a Board member who had worked with the firm on a strategic plan with a different organization.” In addition to a more long-term perspective, other goals for the desired outcomes included ensuring that the Museum’s mission, core values and vision were still relevant and that the process would build stakeholder engagement.

The work to achieve these goals began with an online stakeholder survey. Baldwin partnered with Covenant Group staff in the survey process. “The survey was great. The Covenant Group helped make the survey process really easy.” She added, “It accomplished what we wanted by giving all of our stakeholders (staff, Board, donors, volunteers) a chance to be involved in the process and share their input.” Armstrong mentioned that he was pleasantly surprised with the survey results. “They were overwhelmingly positive. That is a great place to begin this type of process because it helped us build buy-in and gave everyone a chance to share in the formation of our direction.”

With the plan finished, the Museum is well on its way to implementation. Both Baldwin and Armstrong agree that they have put in place a process of checks and balances to ensure that “the plan is not put on a shelf and forgotten about”. Baldwin reports that they have a tracking process that helps keep individuals and teams accountable to the tasks and timelines set forth. They also discuss the plan at weekly and monthly meetings to keep it fresh in everyone’s mind. Some positive outcomes of the process have included building communication across departments, strengthening the staff and bringing people together.

Both Baldwin and Armstrong describe The Covenant Group’s process as efficient and effective. In fact, Baldwin calls the amount of time we saved “invaluable”. She continued, “It was so nice to have an experienced, knowledgeable facilitator leading us and helping keep us on task.” Armstrong adds, “Len very effectively gathered input from our internal resources which helped steer us in the right direction.”

Both agree that they would recommend The Covenant Group to other organizations. “They are friendly, accommodating and responsive. Trying to do this process without help is kind of like being in a boat with no paddles…it is not nearly as productive.”


Sojourn East, Louisville

The old saying goes, “There’s no place like home” and the congregation of Sojourn East was ready to find out what it would be like to have their own space. They had selected a great facility that would serve the needs of their growing church well for years to come.  The only thing standing between them and this new building was the $3.25 million needed to acquire the property. Sojourn East Pastor, Kevin Jamison decided to call The Covenant Group to help make their vision of home a reality.

“We were familiar with the work of The Covenant Group as they had helped another Sojourn site complete a very successful campaign,” recalled Jamison. Although we interviewed 2 other firms, The Covenant group stood out because of their competitive pricing, strong reputation and the fact that Len Moisan and the rest of the team knew our congregation well.”  Jamison added, “We liked the fact that The Covenant Group was readily available. We could meet Len for coffee and get his advice.”

Jamison admits that he did not enter the campaign without some hesitation. “I was afraid that we would not be able to raise even $2 million.  It was a big test of faith on my part as a leader.” He noted that The Covenant Group’s expertise and experience were invaluable and helped put his mind at ease. Jamison likened Len to a personal trainer. “He kept us on task and didn’t let us get off the path. I knew he cared as much about the success of the campaign as I did. He provided us with a logical, straightforward strategy.  It was clear enough for me to follow on my own, but without his guidance and at times gentle prodding, I know I would not have kept to the plan.” Jamison laughed as he added, “It is like with personal trainers when you really want to eat ice cream, but they make you eat salad.”

Sticking to the plan paid off.  Jamison reports, “I was blown away at Commitment Weekend. We raised $4.25 million. Enough not only to acquire the church home we wanted, but $1 million more to put in a reserve fund for additional projects as needed.” Jamison’s faith was not the only positive outcome of the campaign. He adds that the process cultivated in his church members a deeper sense of ownership and the accomplishment of knowing that “God did this through us.” He also reports, “We have grown in stewardship, confidence and unity and we have experienced new levels of giving and attendance.”

Now at home in their new facility, Jamison reviews the entire experience from start to finish. “There is a lot of fear going in to a fundraising campaign. Len’s presence brought peace of mind and gave us the confidence we needed to move ahead with God’s plan without timidity.” Jamison describes The Covenant Group as professional, efficient, polished and strategic.  When asked if he would recommend The Covenant Group to other churches seeking counsel, he is quick to respond, “Yes, I would and I have. I am glad to do it.” Then he adds his own bit of advice, “But if you hire The Covenant Group you are wise to do what they say.  If you follow their plan, you will be successful. Not only are Len and his team good consultants, they are also good friends.”


Highland Presbyterian Church Louisville, KY

 

Labor Day of 2015 was memorable for Cynthia Campbell Pastor of Highland Presbyterian Church.  “It was during this time we discovered a crack in the main truss of the roof of our sanctuary,” she recalled. In fact, the damage was so severe that the congregation had to relocate worship services to a different building on campus until the roof could be repaired. “We were faced with the question of how to pay for it?”

In response to the urgent need a taskforce was formed to evaluate launching a capital campaign. Part of their due diligence included researching and interviewing consulting firms.  “The Covenant Group stood out because they were local and had a good grasp of Louisville’s philanthropic landscape.  They also had an impressive track record of campaign success and were highly regarded by several of our members.”

In addition to the roof project, the committee compiled a list of other projects that needed to be addressed. “When we combined all of the projects together they totaled $4.7 million. Although the feasibility study revealed that achieving this goal could be a stretch, church leaders were adamant that we needed to tell the congregation all that needed to be done and what it would cost.”  Campbell states that there was considerable apprehension among congregants about undertaking another campaign so soon after a campaign begun in early 2006 (which ran into the recession). “People were discouraged by the results of that effort and the fall-out lasted a long time.” 

This campaign was different from the start though. “The most helpful thing The Covenant Group did was provide us with a very organized, clear process.  It was so well laid out” Campbell complimented. “We just had to follow the instructions and by doing so we were successful.” Comparing her past experience with institutional campaigns Campbell remarked, “the process worked as well as any I have ever seen.  Providing the campaign manuals helped us not waste time trying to decide the next steps …we knew exactly what to do and when to do it.” 

She describes The Covenant Group as “professional, engaging and flexible. They let us modify the model as needed to better fit our church.”  Campbell continued, “Success depends on the organization’s fit with the consultant. Can the consulting firm adapt to match the ethos of the congregation? The Covenant Group was a great match for us.” The campaign was completed on a very compressed timeframe, January to May of 2016, which also included doing a feasibility study up front. In June, church members received the exciting news that the $4.7 million goal had been surpassed.

Campbell reports that in addition to the financial results, other benefits have come from the campaign’s success.  “We have seen member involvement increase, there is a renewed energy and positive feeling of success among members and we will be back in the sanctuary by September of this year.” And as for the campaign leadership once hesitant about the campaign, “they refer to the entire process as ‘painless’ and ‘actually kind of fun’”.  Campbell concluded by saying, “I have hired and fired a lot of consultants during my career.  However, given the process and the results, I would absolutely recommend The Covenant Group to others seeking campaign counsel.”

 


Prince of Peace Catholic Church, Madison, IN

Prince of Peace Catholic parish had an urgent need.  The steeple of the church was falling down and required emergency repairs.  In addition to the steeple work, the church also needed exterior paint and other updates.  After concluding a feasibility study, the church set a goal of $1.5 million.

Pastor Chris Craig states that the goal represented a significant stretch.  “Past campaigns the parish had conducted raised an average of $900,000.”  Although another firm had helped with the feasibility study, at the recommendation of the Archdiocese, Prince of Peace parish decided to hire The Covenant Group to provide counsel during the campaign.

“When we first met Len, we could tell he was personally invested in our success.  He was committed to the end result and helping us achieve our goal.”  Pastor Craig described The Covenant Group’s process as “energizing”.  He continued, “They really motivated our leadership, who were a bit reluctant at first.  They helped us define our needs clearly and then they helped us get the parish involved.  We had over 200 volunteers engaged at some level.  The campaign went from ‘we have to do it’ to ‘a genuine excitement about it’ and the spiritual aspect became a key component.”

Father Craig described Len’s leadership style as “very hands on.” He adds that “the process empowered me to become much more confident in fundraising techniques and in striving towards larger goals.”  As Celebration Weekend approaches campaign leaders are thrilled to announce that more than $2 million has been raised!  “We are shocked.  This campaign has been much different than past campaigns.  People are doing more, digging deeper.  We already have significant funds collected and in the bank.  We will begin renovation work next month”.

“One really smart concept The Covenant Group recommended was the 5-year pledge period” commented Father Craig.  “By allowing people to spread their pledges over a longer period, people were able to give more. They are choosing weekly and monthly giving options.  We have seen gifts grow from $20,000 in a 3-year campaign to $50,000 in a 5-year campaign.”  The longer period has really made a difference.  He further noted that they are now working to try to get as close to 100% participation in the campaign as possible.

When asked if Father Craig would recommend The Covenant Group to other churches seeking counsel, he responded.  “Absolutely! I may be at 2 or 3 more parishes in the future.  When I am in a situation where our church needs to raise money, they will be the first call I make”.


21st Century Parks, Louisville, KY

The story of 21st Century Parks began with a successful founding campaign that raised $25 million. Dan Jones, President and CEO of the organization recalled, “We had a clear vision and outline of the project, but we knew we needed to raise more money and to strengthen our case for support to take it to a broader audience.” Upon the recommendation of Bill Juckett, Board Chairman, Mr. Jones engaged The Covenant Group to conduct a feasibility study.

“We needed a more formal test of the market and to put the whole project on more solid footing.” Jones added, “The feasibility study process provided us with valuable research, data on what percentage of donors would give a second time, a clear campaign structure, valid recommendations and a target amount to raise.”

Jones mentioned that another benefit that came from the study was the recommendation to add a seasoned, experienced Director of Development to the team. The Covenant Group helped the organization recruit Christen Boone who was just putting the finishing touches on a successful campaign at Actors Theatre. “Christen was instrumental in helping the campaign transition from theory to action. Since she had already worked with The Covenant Group on the Actors’ campaign it was an easy relationship that helped the campaign build early momentum.”

Jones described The Covenant Group as being vested in the campaign’s success. “Many consultants finish the study, give you the report and then leave. The Covenant Group was so involved. They continually touched base to ensure that we were on track.” He continued, “They are highly competent, very experienced and knowledgeable. They provided a broad perspective by equipping us with useful data on other campaigns and best practices in the field. All in all, they are excellent.”

Jones calls the campaign a huge success. He is proud to say that 21st Century Parks achieved all that they wanted to achieve through the campaign. “As a result of the funds raised we have been able to buy 3700 acres which will be built into a 4 park system. It will open within 3 years.” Comparing the progress of this campaign to those of peer cities, Jones marveled, “There are at least 5 or 6 big park projects going on now nationally. The only one that is 100% financed is here in Louisville. When you compare the size and the pace of our campaign to those underway in much bigger cities like New York and Chicago, it is so unique and amazing what we have been able to accomplish. The Covenant Group’s work contributed a great deal to that success.”

Jones closed with a hearty recommendation. “Of course I would recommend The Covenant Group to other organizations. There is such a good spirit in the firm. It was such an easy working relationship. They are true professionals. Flexible, available… I have nothing but the highest appreciation and regard for Len and his associates.”


Covington Catholic High School, Park Hills, KY

Covington Catholic is a Blue Ribbon award winning, all-male high school in the Diocese of Covington. Recognized at state and national levels for academic and athletic excellence, the 604-member student body continues the legacy of Brotherhood; Faith; Excellence; Innovation; Service; Spirit and Teamwork that has defined the school for more than 90 years. It had become apparent to school leadership that the time was right to take steps to improve both academic and athletic facilities.  Sue Finke, Director of Institutional Advancement remembers, “There was interest in adding tennis courts.  We had also purchased a building for which we needed to define the best use and there were other projects as well.  We hired The Covenant Group to help us with outlining a campaign plan and structure to take us through a $4 – $6 million campaign.”

Sue mentions that, “For those of us who don’t do this everyday, The Covenant Group instilled confidence in us. They helped us get through the fear and apprehension by providing us and our volunteers with training and motivation.” A key component to the success of any campaign is the strength of its steering committee.  Covington Catholic recruited a solid team of 53 committee members and 6 co-chairs to lead the campaign.

She credits The Covenant Group’s training as a crucial factor in the campaign’s success. “They trained our volunteers on how to make calls and the right ways to develop and keep donor relationships. In addition to the peer-to-peer solicitation training, Finke also states that keeping the campaign on task was vital.  “They were able to apply the right amount of pressure.  If a task was not completed on time, they took an encouraging approach rather than one where they seemed upset or disappointed.  She adds, “We realized they were not just taking us through a process, but they were really vested in it. They were our biggest cheerleaders and made it feel like a team effort.  We were not left alone to try to figure it out ourselves.”

From the beginning, The Covenant Group laid out clear expectations regarding their role in the solicitation process. Finke explained, “We initially expected that the firm we hired would do more of the calls for us, but that was not the case. They taught us how to do it ourselves and that was for the better. We have built lasting relationships with donors and we will continue to steward these relationships long after the campaign is over. This is a new approach to fundraising for us.”

The basic needs goal was set at $4.5 million. Just 18 months into the five-year campaign that goal has long been surpassed. “We are just short of $7.5 million and we are not finished yet”, said Finke excitedly.  When asked if she would recommend The Covenant Group to other organizations seeking counsel she laughed. “It’s funny…the last consultants we worked with we fired…we asked lots of questions but never got the answers.  That was not the case with The Covenant Group. They were informative, direct and involved. We would absolutely recommend and use them again!”


Home of the Innocents, Louisville, KY

The Home of the Innocents offers hope for children, youth and families in crisis by providing care, shelter and support.  Unfortunately, demand for their services has continued to grow.  At a time when the Home was landlocked and overcrowded at its main facility and three other facilities across Louisville.  In order to meet both the immediate and future challenges, the Home desperately needed a new location.

That’s when The Covenant Group got involved.  Thanks to a strong capital campaign, the vision for a new facility has been realized.  Gordon S. Brown, President & CEO, stated it this way, “We called on Dr. Moisan’s company to help us plan and manage a successful campaign, and we believe their involvement was critical to our success.  We have already raised over $23 million and we will definitely exceed our $25 million goal … The more than 1,000 kids we serve every year will have a new home.  It is an exciting new beginning.”Read more


Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church, Brazil, IN

Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Parish has been serving the people of Brazil and West Central Indiana for more than 150 years.  However, in more than a century of ministry, the church had never undergone major renovation.  “We faced a crucial juncture”, recalls Pastor Father John Hollowell.  “Either we would repair the structure or tear it down.  We could not wait, something had to be done.”

To help guide them through their first ever campaign, church leaders received a list of firms recommended and approved by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. After interviewing the three firms on that list a unanimous decision was made to engage The Covenant Group.  “They just seemed like the best fit for us,” Father Hollowell stated. Immediately the feasibility study process began.

The son of the President of a Catholic High School, Father Hollowell understood the importance of the feasibility study.  “Watching my father conduct capital campaigns and having experienced them myself, I know how crucial it is to include the feasibility study as part of the overall campaign”. He added, “The study was beneficial in helping to educate the parish about our plans…having an external source to help answer questions, communicate the vision and conduct the interviews really built consensus and momentum.  People saw our efforts to involve them, educate them and maintain transparency.  This helped them feel good about making a pledge.” At the completion of the study, parish leaders decided to move forward with a $650,000 campaign.

“Professional, prompt, individualized” are words Father Hollowell uses to describe The Covenant Group.  “They really tailored the campaign to specifically fit our church.”  He continued, “Many times people who met Dr. Moisan and Joe Cecil throughout the process commented on how easy they were to talk to; how relatable and genuine.”

To date, the campaign has raised $1.1 million.  “It truly is a miracle”, says Father Hollowell.  Annunciation has only 200 families and is located in an area that has experienced its share of economic turmoil.  “People were committed from the beginning, but at that point even raising $650,000 seemed like a stretch to many parishioners.  To nearly double that amount is incredible!”

Father Hollowell is pleased to report that the campaign has “totally rejuvenated our parish”. He added, “When you hit a goal like that, it builds such a sense of community.  It makes you realize there are a lot of other people who share the same vision.” Other positive benefits have included increased offertory giving as well as an upturn in special donations and volunteerism.

“Recently, we started a Society of St. Vincent De Paul outreach. The campaign helped our parishioners see how blessed we are. The momentum built by the campaign is spilling outside the walls of our church and benefiting others in the process.” When asked if he would recommend The Covenant Group to other churches seeking counsel, Father Hollowell simply concluded with “One hundred percent”.


Kentucky School of Art, Louisville, KY

The Kentucky School of Art at Spalding University (KSA) started four years ago with a vision.  Founder and Chancellor, Churchill Davenport, wanted to bring an innovative, first rate school dedicated to the visual arts to Louisville.  Through partnership with Spalding University students have a unique opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities with a concentration in Art and now a Bachelor’s in Fine Art.  Since its inception in 2009, enrollment at KSA has grown to more than 100 students today.

However, as a young, start-up organization, keeping a steady stream of operational capital can be a challenge.  Meghan Greenwell, Director of Institutional Advancement, states: “We had an influx of capital at the beginning, but then we hit a lull.  We needed a way to stabilize support and grow our donor base. We decided the best way to do that was through a capital campaign.” Before moving ahead with the campaign, KSA leaders sought the help of fundraising counsel to conduct a feasibility study.  Meghan recalls, “We interviewed several firms.  The Covenant Group really stood out.  Len made us immediately comfortable. He had such a great attitude.  We really believed that he wanted to partner with us in this journey. It was clear he understood higher education as well as our unique position.”

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St. Mary of the Knobs Catholic Church, Floyds Knobs, IN

St. Mary of the Knobs (SMK) parish had outgrown its church facility. Built in 1906 for 160 families, by 2005 the facility was serving more than 1,000 families. It was clear to the parish leaders that they needed a new church building. Pat Byrne, one of four campaign co-chairs explained, “With the growth of our school and church ministries and our future needs we knew the current facilities could not accommodate us. We had to act.”

Initially parish leaders had considered another consulting firm to help with the campaign. However, after one informational meeting with The Covenant Group they made their decision. Father John Geis, Pastor at SMK reflected, “The Covenant Group inspired us from the beginning. We saw it the first night we met with them. They were excited about our campaign.” Father John explained further, “We didn’t want a firm to come in, train our volunteers and then leave. The Covenant Group was there working alongside us throughout the whole process.”

Byrne credits the pre-campaign planning process of The Covenant Group as a key to the campaign’s success. “The feasibility study and the focus groups were invaluable,” said Pat. “They helped us listen to our members, determine the needs and priorities and communicate openly.” The feasibility study revealed that $5 – $6.5 million (at the high end) could be raised, but the parish needed both a worship center and a multi-purpose facility with a total estimated cost of $8.3 million. The Covenant Group suggested putting the full project in front of the parish, even though it was a significant stretch knowing that the projects could always be phased. Campaign Co-Chair Gary Libs added, “The Covenant Group process gave us the tools to communicate and showed us how to get people on board.”

Thus far, contributions total more than $10.9 million, with additional pledges continuing to come in. Pat Byrne recalled, “No one anticipated we could raise this amount. Even the Archdiocese is surprised. The funds raised represent about 15 times our annual giving. But it’s not just the financial results.” All of the Co-Chairs commented on the positive impact the campaign has had on the parish. Bill Sprigler noted that the church is more unified. “People are not in a hurry to leave church. They stand around talking more than they did before the campaign.” Father John adds that he has seen families return to the church that had stopped attending and he feels “a renewed and energized spirit among the staff.” Libs called the campaign, “the most exciting thing to happen in our parish in the last 100 years.”

Father John and each of the Co-chairs enthusiastically affirmed that they would unequivocally recommend The Covenant Group to other churches seeking campaign counsel. Gary Libs concluded, “The Covenant Group is superior in their profession.”