How VIVE Church raised $8 million in 2 months
Eighty thousand square feet. Two thousand seats. Production ready facilities. Close to spheres of influence and some of the world's biggest companies. Perfectly located in nearby Palo Alto. For VIVE Church, the specs of this building aligned perfectly with their vision of growing the church's presence in the Bay Area. There was just one small hiccup – how were they going to pay for it?
It's no secret that the Bay Area is one of the most expensive, fastest-growing regions in the country. Home prices hover around $1.5 million on average, and an influx of skilled workers has brought increased competition in both the job and real estate markets. Suffice to say, finding space isn't easy.
When VIVE's lead pastors, Adam and Keira Smallcombe, made the huge leap from Australia and sold everything to plant a church in the Bay Area, they knew it would be an uphill battle. Yet a faithful, committed journey of trusting Jesus over the past nine years has produced a thriving church that improbably exists in the nation's hub for technological distraction.
While Silicon Valley works hard to create algorithms and apps designed to keep you hooked on your screen, the Smallcombes have opted for the opposite route. They recognized that having a tangible, physical, in-person space is an important key to building a healthy church community in a transient city. Moreover, they knew that as the world inched back to normalcy, people would be hungering for a space they could encounter God and community.
In the early days, the church rented buildings and was able to launch 10 locations around the globe in the process, including far-off destinations like Honolulu and Rome. In turn, this rapid rise of congregants led VIVE to begin fundraising for a permanent, church-owned campus in nearby Palo Alto, home to Tesla, Facebook (Meta), Google, and a myriad of others tech giants.
As expected, the price tag for a building in Palo Alto was a cool $32 million, and to have a chance they'd need at least a $12 million down payment. They already had $4 million in cash available, but still needed to raise the remaining $8 million.
With clear communication and vision, trust in God and the community, and unexpected forms of donation, VIVE boldly embarked on a journey to acquire a building that would serve as a vehicle to accomplish their mission.
Could they achieve the seemingly impossible?
The first step was to clearly communicate the vision, or the why behind the building. When someone hears the church is going to spend millions on a building, the first reaction is often an eye roll. Why don't they just figure out somewhere else to meet?
As mentioned before, the church was longing to deepen its roots in the city. That's hard to do if you're constantly ducking in and out of different buildings that can never truly be called home.
Secondly, the Smallcombes had a calling to plant specifically in the Bay Area. According to Pew Research center, only 42% of Bay Area residents surveyed said they had a definite belief in God. And within the immediate vicinity, 98% are unchurched, meaning they profess no faith. For them, the impetus to spread the love and message of Jesus was pressing.
Moreover, the church wanted to break down stereotypes of what it meant to be "religious" and emphasize the beauty of relationship with Jesus. So much so, they started their church with a campaign called "Not Religious? So Are We."
But beyond just meeting the needs of the present, the church wanted to set up a legacy and support system for generations to come. The seeds planted now would result in a huge harvest for the future community, but those seeds needed to be planted right away.
Adam Smallcombe was passionate about the urgent need to create a space for building up, training, and edifying people to build God's Kingdom.
"This building will enhance every aspect of VIVE Church as the global ministry headquarters accelerating the development of leaders and church planters, creating ministries for youth and young people, establishing Bible College and seminary trained ministers that will set the church up for an exponentially greater reach and impact than ever before," he said.
Pastor Adam’s passionate messaging needed to be dispersed throughout the community in a way that captured his genuineness and intentionality. They had to make sure they were on the same page as the people who'd eventually be sharing and partaking in this space as one community.
To use a corporate reference, a business wants to make decisions that will make its stockholders happy, and the most effective businesses develop strategies for making sure their constituents are both in the loop and aware of future plans.
Here's how VIVE's CFO, Aaron Williams, put it:
"We had to execute clear communications about why we [were] doing it and how we [were doing it. This is for [generations] to come. This [was] for legacy and to be a launchpad for other locations. It was just the beginning."
Williams went on to say that in addition to benefiting VIVE's mission, the goal was also to impact the local community around them. But in order to benefit the community over the long-term, they needed their help in the short term.
When you break it down, raising $8 million over 60 days means accruing an average of $133,000 per day. That's enough to make your palms sweat, and feels like a daunting goal. For some churches and nonprofits, raising $100,000 in a year is a challenging feat. However, Williams and his team set out to appeal and pitch to the community at large.
"We [had] to engage everybody…our community, leaders in the area, CEOs in tech companies , singers, athletes, et cetera," Williams said.
The church knew it had a leg up because of the relationship they'd built with the community over the past nine years. Pastor Adam, known to be a man of his word, strove for transparency in all of his communication. A social media campaign was launched with candid appeals as to why meeting this financial goal was so important.
Drawing from Isaiah 54, "Spare No Expense" became the rallying cry, and members of the community shared their heart on why they were giving without reservation to the cause.
While the initial honesty, transparency, and pitch to the community was a boon to giving, the church knew it still needed to explore other avenues. A relatively unexpected one arose when a member of the church asked if he could give via a stock donation.
Not seeing why they couldn't accept it, the VIVE financial team began exploring stocks and cryptocurrencies as new forms of giving. With both of those options, however, the process isn't as straightforward as writing a check or sending someone money on Venmo. There are some technical, complicated aspects of facilitating the transfer and ensuring both parties feel comfortable and safe with the transaction.
Nowadays, you can simply visit this link if you want to donate credit, debit, stock, or crypto to VIVE Church. It's pretty straightforward and involves a few short button clicks and entering your email.
This simplicity and accessibility helped harness the giving of the deeply generous VIVE community. In turn, Overflow was excited at the possibility of showcasing just how much giving can be maximized when people have the right tools and knowledge of how to give effectively.
Soon into their partnership with Overflow, the church saw immediate results. Just 45 days into accepting stock and crypto donations, they were able to raise $6 million, 90% of which came as a direct result of Overflow's assistance. Half of that $6 million given was stock, a unique asset that has the potential to grow and be a revenue source for quite some time.
"I know for a fact that without Overflow we wouldn’t have raised the $3M [in stock]," Williams emphasized.
The proof is in the pudding, but it's important to remember this wasn't a wave of a magic wand or an overnight change. Overflow implemented practical, specific steps to smoothen out and streamline the process, such as helping to handle errors that donors didn't have time to worry about.
As the saying goes, time is money, and it is an increasingly precious resource in our busy, overloaded culture. For VIVE Church, the impact went beyond strictly financial donations. It cleared a pathway for their team to focus their time on other areas and not have to worry about administrative or logistical hassles.
According to Williams, Overflow helped save their administrative team 4 to 6 hours a week. Instead, any questions or concerns could be directed to Overflow's team of dedicated representatives.
"The customer success team is amazing, super responsive, answers all questions, and is easy to reach. They are probably one of the biggest reasons [Overflow] is much better than the other platforms we used," he said.
The story has a happy ending: VIVE Church closed on the new property, meaning they've officially secured the building after a journey of enduring, promoting, connecting, and trusting. They'll soon move into their building and carry out the vision that once felt like a pipe-dream.
The Nitty Gritty
You may be reading this thinking: "that's a heartwarming story, but how did Overflow streamline this process, other than just raising awareness and making a platform to donate new assets?"
When VIVE Church put the responsibility of crypto and stock donations in Overflow's hands, it wasn't just a one time transaction. Overflow became VIVE's dedicated team and provided customer support, donor engagement tools, and handling of financial details.
The biggest takeaway from VIVE's success in this campaign is that donors want to know they can trust the process. If something works for us reliably, we tend to use it over and over again. In other words, we like to take the path of least resistance. On the flip side, if a donor feels like it's challenging to give, they may not follow through, even if it is their heart and intention to give in the first place.
Opening up a variety of giving avenues and offering support while embarking on that giving journey has emboldened donors and increased the retention rate of donors. Especially in areas like San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Jose, and beyond, the means by which people acquire and give money is changing. Many are paid bonuses through stock, or use cryptocurrencies as their primary investments. Therefore, the reserves they have to give are often tied up in other areas, and cash donations become less appealing.
Additionally, donating stock or crypto means you don't have to pay capital gains tax on it. For an $80,000 investment, for instance, that would be $12,500 saved.
Many see cryptocurrencies as the currencies of the future, and Overflow is helping VIVE and other churches and nonprofits adapt with the times. It's clear from VIVEs building campaign that you can accomplish massive goals if you open up the right pathways.
Think of it this way: if a water source was blocked in a variety of directions, you'd want to clear out as many obstacles as possible so that the water could flow smoothly and effortlessly. Yes, the desire to give still needs to be present, but it's a heck of a lot easier to align people to one mission if you give them options as far as how they can take part.
VIVE Church's building campaign might seem like an anomaly, but this same situation can be a reality for other churches and organizations with big goals and dreams. More often than not, it just takes a little boost to launch an already well-thought out idea. In VIVE's case, Overflow was that added boost.
You can't force anyone to give or completely alter someone's attitude or heart towards giving. However, you can make it more appealing and more accessible. It's a two way street. When nonprofits have the relief of not having to divert their time worrying about the details, and when donors can feel confident about the ways in which they give, you open up a whole new world of possibilities.