Stories that Create a Giving Culture

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Who among us is not drawn in by a good story?

Stories are the best way we share our experiences and the lessons we learn in life.  Families and communities pass along their traditions, beliefs, and moral values through storytelling.  For centuries, stories and wisdom tales have been shared around campfires and dining room tables, out under the stars, and in temples, mosques, and cathedrals all over the world.  We tell stories to explain the origins of the universe and to explain the mysteries of life and death.

Storytelling, at its best, conveys the rich diversity and texture of humanity, creating a safe and sometimes therapeutic space for challenging assumptions and fostering  tolerance of differences among people.   Well told stories touch our spirits, warm our hearts, and leave lasting images in our minds.   Sharing our soul-filled stories is another way of expressing gratitude and demonstrating generosity.

It should be no surprise to us that storytelling is a very effective tool in nurturing generosity and teaching stewardship in our faith communities.  Sacred texts around the world are a testimony to the power of the story in teaching and learning religious values.  One way to promote generous behavior is to tell the stories of how giving made a difference in your life or others’ lives.  For example, as part of a year-round stewardship program, you can invite people to share their stories in the context of worship, small group ministry, religious education, in digital or print form.

Here are a few ideas for you to consider as you plan your stewardship activities for the coming year:

  • Share stories in worship–this may be a testimony about how the congregation or faith has touched their life in positive ways, a wisdom tale for all ages to enjoy, or a guest whose organization has been the recipient of your congregation’s generosity.
  • Host a storytelling event–hold a potluck dinner or picnic at your facility, open to the community, and invite participants to come ready to share a story that conveys at least one value of the faith tradition.
  • Design a story display board–invite people to write their generosity stories down, along with their photo and perhaps some art work.
  • Create a video or visual story–convey your faith community’s stewardship values and generosity through the use of technology, posting video stories on YouTube, on your congregation’s website, blog or Facebook page.
  • Offer a story prompt–Give your constituents a theme or first line of a story, and let them create a community story.  This could be a part of a small group activity, religious education class, or just a big graffiti board people can write on as they enter the building or enjoy fellowship hour.

The summertime is a great time of year for stewardship leaders to polish their storytelling skills–around the campfire while toasting marshmallows, on the riverbank while fishing, or at an informal gathering of friends.  Share your story and invite others to share theirs; this is how the bonds of family and society are strengthened.  This is a wonderful way to include children, youth, and elders in multi-generational community!

Here are some tips for enhancing your storytelling:

  • Reflect on a memorable experience from which you learned and grew as a person–
    if it holds meaning for you, it can be meaningful to others.
  • Stick to the heart of the message you want to convey and avoid too much detail.
  • Lift up a unique angle or unusual perspective that will pique the listeners’ interest.
  • Engage as many of your listeners’ five senses as possible1507 Hands Sm 123rf to bring the story alive
  • Be sensitive to your audience’s diversity using inclusive language so that all feel a part of it.
  • Use the opportunity of telling your story to connect your experience with your faith teachings and values in ways that others can relate to personally.
  • Tell the story without reading it whenever possible–practice, practice, practice to feel more confident, but realize storytelling does not demand perfection.
  • Engage your audience with movement, song, sounds, or repeated phrases that makes them part of the story.
  • Have fun!  Your enthusiasm and enjoyment are contagious.

 If you have a story or link to share, please leave a comment for the blog host with your contact info.

Resources for Storytelling:

Cogdogroo–StoryIdeas:  http://cogdogroo.wikispaces.com/StoryIdeas

Learn to Give:  http://learningtogive.org/materials/folktales/

National Storytelling Network:    http://www.storynet.org/resources/howtobecomeastoryteller.html

Recommended Stories for All Ages:

Resources for Multigenerational Stewardship & Generosity

Unitarian Universalist Stories of Generosity & Multigenerational Worship Resources:

http://www.uua.org/finance/fundraising/stories/index.shtml

http://www.uua.org/giving/apf/51886.shtml

http://www.uua.org/worship/multigenerational/index.shtml

http://www.uua.org/worship/by_topic.php?topic=Stories

http://www.uusc.org/worship_resources

Pearmain, Elisa Davy, editor.  Doorways to the Soul  1998.  The Pilgrim Press.

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Fundraising When You Are Feeling the Squeeze

cutting moneyIs your organization feeling the squeeze in its funding? Are you having to focus more on cutting expenses than on developing your programs and services?

You are not alone. Here are some tips from professional fundraisers that can help…

Fundraising professionals agree that success unpredictable economic times involves intentional planning and attending to foundational philanthropic practices.  The following is a list of core elements for your organization to have in place to build resiliency and help manage the challenges as they arise:

  • Compelling Mission Statement—a clearly articulated, dynamic and impactful mission appeals to people’s interests, creating value for the organization and its mission in their minds and hearts.  

Most people want to make a positive difference through their actions and their charitable giving. They want to know their contributions will make a difference because your organization is making a difference in people’s lives and communities. Leaders must be prepared–individually and collectively–to articulate the organization’s mission, purposes and vision in appealing and compelling ways to elicit heightened levels of engagement and generosity among your supporters.   

  • Assess and acknowledge your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges (threats), building on your strengths and opportunities while strategically managing your weaknesses and challenges.

Self-awareness is key. Conduct a thorough and candid analysis of your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats/challenges (SWOT). Translate the results into an action plan that will maximize your strengths and opportunities–these are your organizational assets. As leaders you can use this self-awareness and knowledge to plan realistically and work effectively to navigate the challenges and overcome the barriers to success.

  • Avoid dramatic shifts in fundraising methods and staffing.

Most organizations rely on their professional and support staff to maintain week-to-week functions, particularly record-keeping and finance. Some organizations have a smaller infrastructure and leaner staffing. At times of heightened financial anxiety, the needs seem to increase and feel more urgent, sometime prompting desperate actions. Staff and Board leaders must work with intention to employ effective fundraising methods and stewardship practice that will sustain the organization over time. 

  • Keep public relations and marketing strong.

Work to increase your visibility through a well designed website, public witness, media coverage, and partnering with other organizations with common values. Experiment with social media venues, crowd-funding, and other innovative and lower-cost technology. Pay close attention to what modes of communication people elicit the best response–do more of what works best with your constituents and donors.

  • Build support by spreading the enthusiasm about what the organization is doing.

As leaders, it is essential to talk in positive ways about your organization:  what you are excited about, how the organization is supported financially, and what you are doing to make good things happen. Avoid the vortex of negativity or doom and gloom about your financial limitations. You are the public face and voice of the organization and its mission.  Your enthusiasm for your mission and the positive difference your organization is making will catch peoples’ interest and inspire their generous support.

  • Inspire trust in the leadership of your organization. Practice accountability and authentic communication.

Share information about how contributions are used to fulfill the organization’s mission and purpose.  Educate donors and volunteers about the importance supporting your mission and the causes you stand for over time.  Don’t gloss over the rough spots, but don’t over-focus on your limitations. This information should be readily available upon request or in general ways on your website.

  • Meet and communication with donors regularly, informing them of the organization’s needs.  Invite questions, feedback, and ideas for improvement.

A relational approach to fundraising is essential to sustain the highest levels of generosity and giving to the organization.  Regular personal contacts throughout the year via phone, email, and postal mail are critical to promoting strong relational ties to the organization, the wider faith, and partner organizations. Individual volunteers and donors need to know they are valued and important to the organization beyond any financial contributions they make.  Saying “Thank You” in as many ways possible is a priority. 

Remember that fundraising requires a highly relational approach that demonstrates your organization’s commitment to its mission and to those whose lives are touched by its mission.

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DEFINING YOUR FUNDING PRIORITIES–Identify up to 6 fundraising priorities, with 3 action steps for each priority area:

Priority #1

Priority #2

Priority #3

Priority #4

Priority #5

Priority #6

Once you have identified your funding priorities, put your annual development and stewardship plan in writing using the following format and information:

  • Generate your compelling case for funding support
  • Write up a concise one-page description of each priority area/program for sharing with donors and funders
  • Estimate the costs of funding your programs and operations
  • Identify your funding sources–individual, groups, businesses, grants, foundations/corporate giving programs–estimating the revenue goal for each
  • Create materials or presentations about your funding priorities with the interests of each donor or group in mind
  • Develop a timeline for your plan
  • Know what you will track and measure for successful outcomes
  • Evaluation of the plan at regular intervals
  • Adjustments that could be made if necessary
  • Celebrate any and all successes!

Wishing you great prosperity and success,

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Laurel Amabile, Giving Speaks

 

Other Helpful Planning Resources:

Fundraising When Money is Tight, by Mal Warwick. 2009. Jossey-Bass.

Raising More with Less, by Amy Eisenstein, CFRE. 2012. Charity Channel Press–“In the Trenches” series.

Creating a Compelling Case for Funding

Development Planning Template

 

Celebrating Generosity in Worship Services

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How does my giving shape what is of greatest worth?”  

What level of giving would be most meaningful and powerful to me?”  

These are two of the questions that Rev. Thomas Perchlik, minister of the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis, uses in crafting worship services that celebrate generosity and abundance.

“I have enjoyed using the New Consecration Sunday model as the inspiration for planning services,” Rev. Perchlik reports. “The people love it.  After almost a decade of struggling to get a complicated Canvass process together each year, this seems easy, fun and deeply meaningful.”

The New Consecration Sunday celebration model that Thomas refers to is an integral part of the Christian stewardship program described by Herb Miller, a prolific author and recognized authority in realms of congregational health and effectiveness.

In a nutshell, Miller’s New Consecration Sunday stewardship program design addresses several key issues that some congregations find challenging:

  • Lay volunteer involvement in asking fellow congregants for pledges.
  • Lax organization and planning of stewardship campaigns.
  • Anxiety and stress about raising enough money to fund the congregation’s budget.
  • Negative feelings and reactions to annual stewardship campaigns.
  • Lack of clarity about the teachings and expectations about stewardship within a particular faith community.
  • The minister’s role as stewardship leader in the congregation.

The New Consecration Sunday stewardship program focus is on the religious beliefs, mission, and values of the faith community as a source of inspiration for giving rather than the obligation of funding the budget to pay the bills. Miller’s question to the giver is, What is God calling me to do?

The Rev. Keith Goheen, a member of the UU Church of Mill Creek and JPD Board of Trustees, offers an alternative theological perspective for effective stewardship in other religious communities:

Unitarian theologian Henry Nelson Wieman was keenly interested in ‘The Good.’ His theological/ philosophical imperative involved bringing more (an abundance) of the Good into the self, the congregation, and the world.

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What then is the congregation’s relationship to The Good?

Said another way,

What is its vision and mission, or raison d’tre?

If the principle relationship is best expressed as a haven defined in opposition to the prevailing culture (such as being defined by what we are not: a church, theistic, etc.), then The Good lies in the maintenance of strong boundaries. These boundaries protect the sanctity of the philosophical center while deepening its sense of differentiation.

If the principle relationship is to bring more Good into the world (in which we are a resource for ethical, non-theistic living to our community), The Good is expressed in relationships with community and the perceived need for Good in its culture.

This identity provides an interface through the idea of mission. The campaign is then designed to build enthusiasm for fully funding and potentially expanding the ethical mission of the congregation. This is accomplished by creating a pool of financial resources supporting the activities that bring more of the envisioned Good into being. Individuals giving from personal abundance generate congregational abundance enabling an abundant expression of mission.

The choice about fundraising approaches must be in sync with the members’ relationship to the congregation and their shared sense of purpose.

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Money becomes a tool to empower mission. The focus of the campaign is on impact, not costs.

 

 

May it be so~

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Laurel Amabile, CFRE

 

(This post goes back to late winter 2015. Appreciation goes to the Rev. Sunshine Wolfe, M.Div., Interim Minister, First Unitarian Church of Alton, IL, for bringing the topic of the New Consecration Sunday concept to the UU-Money Leaders for an energetic discussion.)

Related Resources:

Miller, Herb. New Consecration Sunday Stewardship Program (with Guest Leader Guide & CD-ROM). 2007. Abingdon Press. Nashville.

Crossman, Bob. Effective Stewardship is Not Budget Driven. 2012. Ministry Matters website: http://bit.ly/180GUlt

Multigenerational Stewardship & Worship Resources on Giving Speaks.com