Climate Change–Fundraising in Faith Communities

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Increasingly, the effects of environmental climate change are felt in North America and around the world.  The intensity of storms, drought, and temperature are having a greater impact on our daily lives and crisis planning is no longer an afterthought in regions hardest hit.

Similarly, there has been steady climate change in many denominations and faith-based organizations in North America, particularly with regard to giving and fundraising. According to the Giving USA 2013 report released in June, overall giving to religion was down last year by nearly two percent (-1.9%) after a modest post-recession increase in 2012. This does not bode well, since overall charitable giving has rebounded by another three percent (3% adjusted for inflation) to pre-recession levels, with healthy increases in several categories.

Faith Community leaders–this notable drop in giving to religion should be a matter of great interest and concern to you.

For decades, religion received the largest share of charitable giving in the United States, and still does, but to a shrinking degree. This correlates with the decline in membership and attendance in Mainline Christian Churches. However, many faith communities report that donors are increasing the amount of their monetary gifts. There are simply fewer donors in their flocks.

Here is what we know about the other climatic changes affecting fundraising and things faith communities can do about them:

  • Baby Boomers have hit middle age. They are not as active in faith communities as their parents had been, tend to view institutions and authority with suspicion. However, they generously invest their volunteer energy and charitable dollars in social justice causes and community organizations that improve people’s lives and circumstances.

Studies indicate the more people are actively engaged in meaningful ways, the more they give to those organizations. Find ways to connect with this generation’s interests by encouraging voluntarism, community-building, high quality worship and programs. This means clarifying a compelling vision that has appeal for seekers as well as the faithful. It is essential to ensure top notch membership practices and faith development programs are in place.

  • Young adults have eclectic religious and spiritual interests, many referring to themselves as “spiritual, but not religious” and choosing to remain unaffiliated with religious institutions. They like the freedom to explore a variety of belief
    smart phone and moneysystems and spiritual practices and they steer away from intolerant attitudes and oppressive dogma. As a group, young adults think globally, supporting international causes that make a tangible difference in people’s lives. They are actively engaged in social networking and prefer using internet technology when making their gifts.

This represents our biggest opportunity for growth and giving in faith communities.  Faith  communities could grow and prosper if they offered what generational surveys and research tell us people are seeking and will invest their time and resources to actively support. It is important to remember that relationships are central to effective fundraising and stewardship, so always take time to get to know people and what is important to them as individuals and families.

  • Wealth is moving from generation to generation—BIG TIME. This represents over $40 Trillion passing to Baby Boomers from their parents. This makes planned giving opportunities much more timely and relevant to aging Baby Boomers.

There is no time to lose for congregations and faith-based organizations to establish and market planned giving programs! To begin with, you should have clear and comprehensive gift acceptance policies in place, as well as trusted financial advisors and legal counsel to assist you in the proper handling of gifts. Most denominations and community foundations have cost-saving planned giving services and information to help organizations and donors understand their options.

  • Today’s donors expect financial accountability, clear and accurate reporting for how their donations are used, and appropriate recognition of their gifts. There are myriad books, online resources, consultation and training available for current best practices. (Some great resources are listed below.) Get your eyes and hands on them and use them!

There is no lack of information about best practices in fundraising and no excuse for ignorance in this realm of faith community finance. Ask for help or consultation from a qualified professional if you don’t know where to begin.

We can learn new ways to adapt to the forces of change. We can equip ourselves to be better prepared for fundraising challenges by adopting current best practices before they arise. 

Laurel 2012

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Laurel Amabile, CFRE | Giving Speaks Consulting

Recommended resources:

Developing Fundraising Policies and Procedures. Barbara L. Ciconte, CFRE. Association of Fundraising Professionals. http://www.afpnet.org

Giving USA Reports.  http://www.givingusareports.org/

Religion Among the Millennials. Pew Research Center. 2010. http://www.pewforum.org

Leave a Legacy.  A toolkit compiled by Marion V. Grimes & Susan T. Siwiec, APR. Sponsored by The Western New York Planned Giving Consortium, Inc.            http://tinyurl.com/lrsj9ku

Planned Giving for Small Nonprofits. Ronald R. Jordan & Katelyn L. Quynn. 2002. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Planned Giving Resources for Unitarian Universalist congregations can be found at the Unitarian Universalist Association: http://uua.org/giving/planned/index.shtml and UU Umbrella Giving opportunities: http://uua.org/giving/47673.shtml

Fundraising Events—Money Makers or Energy Drainers?


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Do you look forward to your annual fundraising events, or are you exhausted by the thought of them?
 

Are your event volunteer sign up sheets full of names or blank spaces?

Is your budget so dependent on your fundraising events that if you don’t make the goal you must make serious cuts in expenditures?

Most congregations and charitable organizations conduct at least one major fundraising event annually. A good many hold six or more events every year, sometimes running two or more concurrently. Often these events have been happening for several decades and are considered an essential part of the organization’s funding, no matter what and no matter how much money is raised.

“It’s just what we always do. We depend on this event to make our budget.”

hands out for moneyFor example, when I am visiting a congregation, it is not unusual for me to hear announcements during the service for the youth group’s fundraising luncheon that afternoon, urgent pleas for donations of goods and services to the auction next week, and requests for support of the local soup kitchen. This may be followed by the offering which will be shared with a worthy cause and a dismal update on the annual pledge campaign. After the service, I go to the fellowship hour, where there is a basket out for contributing to defray the costs of coffee, a table for selling tee shirts or fair trade products, and bulletin boards with posters and appeals for all of the above. These may all be worthy requests for support, but a fundraising culture this diffuse can lead to serious “donor fatigue” on the part of the congregants. The people lose a clear sense of the mission and are overwhelmed with the barrage of requests. No wonder many congregations struggle with stewardship and finding energized people to run their annual stewardship campaigns and pledge drives.

What if fundraising events were focused on mission, the needs of the wider community, and for social justice?

How might your congregation could transform the culture of giving and fundraising activities? Consider the following suggestions…

  • A master fundraising plan will be developed annually by the Stewardship Team and key staff leaders and approved by the governing board. All funds raised must be handled and accounted for in accordance with the policies established by the board.
  • Each fundraising activity or event will clearly reflects the mission, vision, goals/ends of the organization—or it won’t happen.
  • A timeline is created with the activities and events intentionally spread out over the course of the year, allowing ample time for advanced planning and publicity (and recovery time).
  • Each fundraising event is planned and conducted by a competent team of volunteers who work in collaboration with the appropriate staff, board, and committees. Avoid volunteer burnout by grooming leaders to take the reins after two or three years.
  • A significant portion—if not all—of the funds raised will be used for the ministries and outreach activities of the congregation that will directly benefit the surrounding community and society at large.
  • Careful record-keeping should be expected, with timely reports to the financial leaders and administrative staff. All funds should be accounted for and processed through the congregation’s established systems.
  • Every fundraising activity will be thoroughly evaluated for its qualitative benefits (strengthening relationships, community-building, awareness-raising) and return on the investment of staff/volunteer time, supply and equipment cost, and amount of money raised. If the benefits and dollar amounts do not produce a significant offset to the investments, consider modifying or eliminating it in the future.
  • Spread the affirmations around as much as the work. Thank everyone involved in the event’s success and share the story of making a difference.
  • Have fun along the way! Fundraising activities are enjoyable and meaningful at their best.

Let’s use this forum as a way to share your most successful fundraising event experiences and ideas for transforming the fundraising culture in our congregations. You are invited to share your stories as comments here on Giving Speaks, or via email to givingspeaks@gmail.com.

 sparks flying

Related Resources:

Renee Herrell’s Blog. Caution: Men in Heels. Oct. 2009. This post features a fun and creative fundraising event and the pros and cons of charitable events for fundraisers to consider.  http://reneeherrell.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/hello-world/

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.

Visioglobal-sight-world-vision-vector_GkJY-gv_n                                              

  • 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/