Fundraising is NOT a Spectator Sport

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The 2015 Superbowl game was one of the most exciting EVER!

Even for someone like me, who knows very little about the rules of football and rarely watches, I got swept up in the spectacle of the amazing plays that culminated in the Patriots’ magnificent win.

Football is one of those bigger-than-life spectator sports that has the power to capture the attention of a nation and much of the world. Like football and apple pie, philanthropy is a part of the fabric of the United States. Charitable giving in the United States totaled $335.17 billion in 2013, with seventy-two percent (72%) given by individuals. Over 95% of American households give to charity. The average household contribution is $2,974. Just over thirty percent (31%) of charitable contributions are to religious organizations.

It’s common for congregations and smaller charitable organizations to focus their fundraising efforts on big fundraising events and seeking grant funding. While fundraising events bring in chunks of funding, they are time- and energy-consuming and subject to the variables in today’s world—weather, timing, competing events, volunteer involvement, and the economy. Applying for grants can be large investment of time for the return and the field is filled with aggressive competitors.a-group-of-people-having-a-good-time-on-music_My4L080d

As members of your congregation, you might imagine yourselves as a part of the Team of 72%–the individuals engaged in funding their organization, together. Rather than being spectators or attendees, you actively engage in the sport.

You and your peers are valued players, making the difference in the outcome for the betterment of the whole. You train and practice and challenge yourselves to new levels of success.

Go, team!

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Resources for further exploration of this topic:

  • Atlas of Giving (USA) 2014 and 2015 forecast:  http://www.atlasofgiving.com/atlas/9564728G/9564728G_12_14.pdf
  • Giving USA 2013: http://givingusa.org/product/giving-usa-2014-report-highlights/     Giving-USA-2014-Highlights-final-secured
  • Ahern, Tom. Seeing Through a Donor’s Eyes. Emerson & Church. 2009.
  • Burnett, Ken. Relationship Fundraising. Jossey-Bass. 2002.
  • Christopher, J. Clif. Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate: A New Vision for Financial Stewardship. Abingdon Press. 2008.
  • Durall, Michael. Beyond the Collection Plate. Abingdon Press. 2003.
  • Warwick, Mal. Fundraising When Money Is Tight. Jossey-Bass. 2009.

 

Stewardship Leaders—A Valentine for You!

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Dear Ones Who Raise and Steward the Funds~

We may not tell you every day how much we appreciate all that you do to raise (and give!) the money to sustain us. We realize that much of what you do is for our success and benefit, but it often goes unnoticed with everything else going on around our faith community.

We know that you put your heart into your effort, because you love this congregation–what we believe in and value and stand for in this world. And, you have formed meaningful relationships with the givers among us—those who choose to generously support our ministries and programs.

On this occasion of Valentine’s Day, we take the time to express our admiration and affection to you, for you enable our congregation to make a difference. We can remember that the very origin of the word Valentine means strong and healthy. This is what you do for us: keep our community strong and healthy.

Your efforts are worthy and we thank you!

To express our love and gratitude on this occasion of Valentine’s Day, we pledge our generous financial support and partnership in the venture and responsibility of stewardship.

With grateful hearts,    

                Your Congregation

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There’s No Better Time for Good Stewardship

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There are times in the life a congregation when giving and cash flow takes a dip. When this happens, leaders get alarmed, panic sets in, and the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth begins. The temptation is to take quick action to alert the congregants about “the budget crisis” and urge everyone to give more money immediately to mitigate the distressing circumstances. If that doesn’t work, the budget slashing begins. The leaders’ impulse, of course, springs from their dedication to the congregation and a strong sense of duty to maintain its financial health and well-being.

I have observed this pattern many times….

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Resist those reactive impulses. Slow down. Gather more information about the circumstances affecting the congregation’s bottom line. Take a more strategic and thoughtful approach.

In his latest book, The Church Money Manual, church consultant and author of several excellent books on stewardship, J. Clif Christopher provides guidance to clergy and lay leaders, based on years of experience and insight.

Here are the highlights of Christopher’s wise advice:

  • Gather membership, attendance and giving data from several years back to the present so that you have a better view of the facts.
  • Notice any fluctuations in the giving patterns, exploring any circumstances that may explain the rises or dips. Were there fewer Sundays this year in September than last year?  Did storms force a closing or lower attendance last winter? Were there special events two years ago that drew more families?
  • Attend to relationships, noticing if you have not been seeing some of your loyal attendees or highest contributing members. Rather than speculate on the reasons why, make contact with these folks and find out what is going on for them.  Are there hurt feelings, misunderstandings, or pastoral needs? Ask for their honest feedback, and listen with care.
  • Clarify the congregation’s mission, purposes, and priorities. People give to an inspiring mission and vision for the future, so convey it in visible and engaging ways.
  • Once your leadership team has compiled and assessed your findings, formulate a stewardship strategy for communicating with the congregation and individual donors using time-proven approaches outlined in all of Christopher’s and most fundraising books.

Seek always to align your congregation’s mission, message, and relationships–and the resources will flow!

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