What is the current state of charitable giving? There are definite signs of improvement in the U.S. economy, yet the effects of the recent recession appear to be lingering with regard to giving to religious and other charitable organizations. In light of our tightening family budgets, we must be more resourceful, efficient, and responsive than ever in our stewardship practices.
What trends are affecting us? Technology presents new challenges alongside immense potential benefits. With the heightened use of the Internet and the advent of social networking, there is an increasing dependence on computer and smart phone technology. The changes in online communication and information sharing are happening at a startlingly rapid pace and we must adapt our practices in order to keep in step with these ever-evolving changes.
What must we remember? Giving is about relationships. Fundraising and stewardship are about giving, and therefore, attention must be focused on our relationships as a multigenerational community. Generosity springs from the heart. It is not a rational matter, but a relational matter – an emotional response to that which inspires and motivates.
Why do we give generously to our congregation? First, we give as individuals who are grateful to be part of a faith community. We care deeply about the principles and values of our faith, and in affirmation of our congregation’s mission, ministries, and programs that make a difference in our lives, and in our local communities and society at large. We give because our congregation and wider faith are worthy of our deepest commitment and greatest generosity.
How might we respond to these trends and priorities?
1) Increase online visibility—your congregation’s website must be visually appealing, with content that reflects your mission, values, and ways people of all ages can be involved. Include a compelling message about the importance of stewardship and means for online pledging and/or giving. Exploring other websites for good ideas and features. Resources for website development– content ideas, blogs, and video clips, go to http://www.uua.org/leaders/leaderslibrary/leaderslibrary/55397.shtml
2) Make use of electronic communication and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to promote your congregation. Email, electronic newsletters, and social networking are primary means of communication for younger generations and increasingly so among middle and older adults.
3) Establish or Develop a Planned Giving Program—there is a current shift in generational giving patterns and a significant transference of wealth underway. For info on setting up a planned giving program: http://www.uua.org/giving/plannedgifts/100780.shtml
4) Budget for Growth and Advancement, not Maintenance and Decline—align your budget to reflect your congregation’s mission, values, priorities, ministries, and programs. For advice on congregation budgets: https://givingspeaks.wordpress.com and http://congregationalstewardship.blogs.uua.org