It was time to organize the annual stewardship campaign and the pressure was on. The Rev. Christina Neilson, minister of the Southwest Unitarian Universalist Church in North Royalton, OH, originated the idea for a new concept she calls Speed Pledging, modeled after the popular speed dating trend in social networking among adult singles. It turned out this was a fun way to engage one-on-one stewardship conversations without the pressure of a long, complex campaign process.
The smaller congregation Rev. Paul Langston-Daly serves tried the Speed Pledging approach and reports a positive outcome. Paul describes the questions his congregation used and how the responses offered valuable feedback for leaders to use in future planning.
The questions Paul’s congregation used were designed to help people engage with the dramatic changes of the past year: hiring a minister 3/4 time, moving to a beautiful location (from the Elks Club) and making a commitment to growth. Everyone seemed to have a good time, getting to know each other better and raising nearly $28,000, up from $22,000 the previous year and $18,000 the year before.
The congregation used 3X5 cards to record the responses of those they engaged with for each set of questions. The process was informal, with an invitation for people to pair up and then switch conversation partners after a five-minute bell rang. The process was conducted three times, one round for each question.
After the rounds of one-to-one conversations, the leaders handed out pledge forms and invited people to make their pledge. Many did pledge that evening, but some took the forms home to think about it. And people appreciated the opportunity to talk about the congregation and its future.
The responses were gathered and used by the board to gauge how the congregation was doing and to get a sense of where people wanted to go in the future. It was very helpful for us in planning that year.
Elements of organizing the Speed Pledging process :
• Choose the campaign theme and schedule events as early as possible (such as Conversation, Community, Commitment)
• Newsletter articles and other publicity several weeks in advance and throughout the campaign
• Sermon series that introduce a range of stewardship themes
• One mailing—reduces the amount of paper used!
• Potluck dinner –begin the meal with a blessing by the minister or key stewardship leader
• Stewardship Leader makes the pitch for congregational giving
• Establish teams of 2-4 people for the ask
• Prepare envelopes for each family
• Written pledges go in envelopes and are collected in a bowl—Dessert comes AFTER the pledging!
• Mugs with congregation’s logo or the campaign theme are given to each participant
• Conversations are set up with two rings of seats facing each other—five minutes each, then partners switch seats around the circle.
• Conversations are framed by three types of questions that encourage expansive thinking: values questions, potential questions, and wishes questions.
• Introductory question: Why do you come to church on Sunday?
Record the themes that emerge in the responses shared and seek feedback about the process. This can be done by giving each person index cards for recording responses.
Post Speeding Pledging Clean Up:
• Mailed pledge cards to all who didn’t attend or not yet pledged.
• Letters and calls to follow-up the mailing.
• Thank you notes to everyone pledging.
• Pledging event for all those pledging 2.5+% of income or other high mark of giving as set by your congregation.
Remember: This is the beginning of a conversation, not the end.
Exploring various models and approaches to annual stewardship campaigns? Check out the results of the recent Giving Speaks poll on the topic: http://poll.fm/3hkep