Eric Guyer was on a mission. The executive pastor of Frontline Church needed to buy 300 new chairs for his downtown Oklahoma City congregation. After conducting research and selecting three vendors to make the first cut, Guyer asked each company to send one chair apiece for a trial run—more accurately, a trial sit.
The trial helped eliminate a poor quality product. "We knew one of the samples would have broken within the first six months," Guyer says. "If we had purchased 300 of these chairs, we wouldn't have been able to return them. But we only bought one and tested it for a week. That ended up being a good deal for us. That's why we don't buy anything in quantity until we've tried it out."
Frontline's "try before you buy" approach is one example of how a church can flex its buying muscle to get the best deal possible and to stretch a purchasing budget that is always limited, especially in difficult economic conditions. Whether your church is buying an item as substantial as a new building or as tiny as a box of plastic spoons, keeping a sharp eye out for the best deal will help guarantee the best stewardship of God's resources.
To add the highest degree of potency to their buying power, churches must successfully answer one basic question: How can we find the ideal combination of price, quality, and reliability of both the product and service of a vendor?
If you shop at a grocery store to buy buns for the church picnic, the price on those buns is non-negotiable. In many other purchasing situations, though, a church has flexibility in negotiating with vendors.
"The price is never the price. There's always wiggle room," Guyer says.
These negotiating strategies can help churches get great deals:
Let the vendor know what you need: Vendors are better able to hit the target if you provide them with a detailed list of requirements. This information can help vendors suggest the best fit from their roster of product offerings and prices.
"Give vendors honest, straightforward information to help them," advises David Fletcher, executive pastor of The Chapel in Akron, Ohio, and founder of XPastor.org, a website and ministry for executive pastors. "Tell the vendor you will be getting two or three quotes on this particular sale item and that you will be checking back with them."
Haste makes waste: Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, needed to make a decision on how to purchase copiers. Randy Helm, the church's director of operations, says the church carefully explored all of its options. "We slowed the process down and took our time analyzing the situation. Each time we did that, they came back with a better deal," he says. "Not being too quick to come to a conclusion helped us."