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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Holiday Giving–Five Ways to Experience the Spirit of Generosity this Season

2012-07-06 14.05.54 The Holiday Season at its best is filled with joyful giving, loving relationships, and spirited celebration. At least this is what our favorite Christmas music, old movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and December TV commercials tell us. We hold onto these warm sounds and images, in part because they inspire hope in our lives and help us adjust our attitudes toward others in positive ways. However, our super-charged consumer culture creates intense pressure to spend, entertain, and give gifts, sometimes heightening our expectations to idealized proportions. This can add stress to our lives and begin to seem out of control and overwhelming for many of us. But, if we can pause for a moment to reflect, we have the opportunity to experience moments of true generosity and the spirit of the season.

Five ways experience the spirit of generosity during the Holidays:

1) Experience Gratitude—Take some time to reflect on the people and things in your life for which you are grateful. This is easier said than done during the busy-ness of holiday preparations, but it can actually help relieve some stress and bring a fresh perspective. Start by taking a deep breath, close your eyes, push the negative, painful thoughts out of the way to focus on the simplest gifts received, then expand from there: a smile, a cheerful greeting, finding a shiny coin or lost item, cuddling with a pet, a hug from a loved one….

2) First Things FirstKnow who and what is most important to you and adjust your expenditures of time and energy accordingly. Our jobs, homes, and other tasks and responsibilities require our attention, to be sure. However, no amount of time spent shopping, decorating, cooking, or cleaning is more important than time with your loved ones, friends, and time for yourself. 

3) Values GivingYour giving should clearly align and demonstrate your deepest held values in harmony with your gift recipient’s whenever possible. In addition to giving someone a tangible item, think creatively, and have fun connecting values with gift giving. Donner all ears

Is your sister an animal lover? Make a donation to her local humane shelter in her honor.

Does your mother like to reuse and recycle? Get a gift certificate to her local thrift shop.

 

Is your friend experiencing illness or stressful life circumstances?  Offer to do some household chores or make her a cup of tea and visit a while.

Has your father devoted years of service to his church board? Create a book of pictures and mementos and/or make a gift to his church in honor of his years of service.

4) Receive WellThe spirit of generosity is nurtured early in our lives through our experiences of receiving, initially through the love and attention of a trusted caregiver. Our attitudes about giving and generosity are largely shaped by our family culture and religious teachings. These are complex messages and not always positive. It is not uncommon to feel unworthy of someone’s gift, or awkward about receiving a gift with nothing to give in return. In most cases, those giving the gift experience pleasure in doing so. Practice gracious receiving and watch someone’s eyes light up!

5) ThankRemember to express appreciation and gratitude for the gifts that bless your life, whether they may be simple and small, elaborate and substantial, or somewhere in between. GivingThanks-floral

My wish for you is that, together, we help expand awareness about the power of philanthropy and giving as a means of transforming our world and the lives of its inhabitants. I have found that happens one choice at a time, one act of giving at a time, one person at a time.

May it be so for you and yours this season of giving and light!

Laurel

Giving Speaks volumes about life, love, and community~

Inspiring Generous Giving in Congregations: Antidotes to Donor Fatigue

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     Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching people the joy of giving.   ~Hank Rosso

The members of our congregations make our faith what it is.  As one looks out into the pews, the faces you see possess an energy, commitment, intelligence and engagement matched by few other groups of individuals.  Along with their shared values and faith, each person that gathers together each week gives of themselves to make the celebration of this liberal faith tradition possible.  Some contribute their talents and expertise in leading the congregation to greater fulfillment of its mission; others contribute their wisdom and compassion in bringing forth the very best of their fellow worshipers.  Most also give generously of their wealth, whether great or small, to provide the resources necessary to support and grow the congregation that inspires them.

At times, however, these same individuals may experience what is commonly referred to as “Donor Fatigue,” a situation in which these supporting members reduce or entirely cease their financial support of the congregation.  Though certainly many household budgets have been challenged by the contracting economy, this drop in giving may be caused by any number of reasons: perhaps there is a lack of trust in the congregation’s ability to steward the resources effectively; concerns over inadequate staff, space, or budgets; or anxiety and conflict arising from differing theological perspectives or strategic priorities.

The Challenge of the Conversation:       

Frequently in our culture, the topic ofman-and-woman-talking-vector-illustration_Mkbp2Cwd (1) money and generous giving is effectively taboo, compounding the difficulty of addressing the concerns that the members of your congregation may be experiencing.  Your congregation can help to de-sensitizing the topic by talking about it to the members of your congregation in reflective, non-anxious ways:

  • Having a year-round stewardship program to connect the topics of money, giving, and faith in people’s minds can help to establish and cultivate openness to giving and generosity within their lives.
  • Establishing and communicating clear expectations for congregational membership and giving: a culture of generosity springs from an inspiring vision and high expectations for participation.
  • Facilitating conversations and small group discussions about money and its relationship to individuals, families, and the larger community can help in reducing anxiety in talking about giving and generosity.
  • Offer programs to help develop personal financial skills and decision-making about how one’s money can be used, such as personal finance sessions, debt reduction workshops, or introductions to planned giving.

Vision, Leadership and Accountability

People give to congregations for many reasons, both rational and emotive, that are unique to each person.  However, there are complementary themes that emerge from conversations with generous supporters of the work of heart and mind found in Unitarian Universalism.  You can (re)inspire your members’ generosity by addressing the three concepts of vision, leadership and accountability.

Finally, clarifying and communicating the vision of your congregation and the role that financial generosity plays in its ongoing well-being, active engagement of the ministry and lay leadership in stewardship processes, and recognition and accountability all play tremendously important roles in strengthening the stewardship activities of any organization.

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  • Clarify and be able to communicate the vision of your congregation and the role that financial generosity plays in its ongoing well-being.
  • People want to make a positive difference in the world and to be part of something that changes lives for the better.
  • Examine what the message for giving to the congregation is.  Is it inspiring?  Does it say “Live the Vision!” or “Pay the Bills”?
  • Help people to distinguish between expectations for charitable giving and demands of our mass consumer culture when it comes to the perception or sources of fatigue.
  • How does generosity and giving contribute to the formation of your congregation’s faith identity?  Does it express itself as a spiritual practice of generosity or a mandate of obligatory giving?

Ministry and Leadership

  • Examine the public perception of your ministry and leadership in their ability to bring the congregation’s vision and mission to life.
  • Donors choose to give to organizations that demonstrate their capacity with competent, effective, trustworthy, and accountable leadership.
  • How involved is the ministry in leading and promoting effective stewardship and generous giving within your congregation?
  • The lay leadership and staff can also play an active role in advocacy and stewardship, particularly if stewardship is integrated into leadership development training and workshops.

Recognition and Accountability

  • Support is given to organizations that are perceived to be strong, successful, and worthy of their gifts.  Fiscal responsibility is critical to a congregation’s stewardship success!
  • Report back to your membership on how contributions are used and the difference that has been made as a result of their generosity.
  • Thank people as often as possible and celebrate the achievements that they have made possible.

 S.U.C.C.E.S.S.!

Though exceptionally generous individuals may give unsolicited gifts to the organizations that they believe to be capable and worthy of their support, it is much more common that people must be invited to demonstrate their generosity.  Your members must be asked to make a gift to your congregation!

Making a compelling case to encourage their gifts further enhances the generosity that is demonstrated; helping your fundraising “ask” to resonate with people’s hearts and minds, inspiring their giving.  Elements of a compelling fundraising message include the following:

  • It is Simple:  Keep mission and values central to your message.
  • It is Unexpected:  A pressing need or barrier to overcome can pique donor interest.
  • It is Concrete:  Many people are motivated to support causes that lead to definite and tangible results.
  • It is Credible:  Not only is your congregation capable of carrying out the programs described, but they are likely to have the desired outcome.
  • It taps Emotion:  Your message should move the donor emotionally, with an inspiring message that offers opportunities for transformation.
  • It makes use of Stories:  Narratives and testimonies can readily convey and relate to people’s passion.
  • It is SURPRISING: How generosity touches lives and makes a positive difference in the world–celebrate!

Wishing you great success in your stewardship~


Laurel 2012

 

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Giving Speaks Consulting

For more information about donor cultivation, relationships, and motivation:

Giving – The Sacred Art, Lauren Tyler Wright (available at http://www.uuabookstore.org/)

Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate, J. Clif Christopher

Passing the Plate, Christian Smith & Michael O. Emerson with Patricia Snell

The Spirituality of Fund-raising, Henri J. M. Nouwen

“Fundraising Fundamentals” Blog:  http://fundraisingfundamentals.wordpress.com/