We raised more than $2 million but we were still 15% short of the goal. Should we accept long-term financing and just “suck it up” as missing the total need?
As we reached the final months of the appeal, rather than accepting less than what we needed, campaign leadership re-engaged our efforts. We asked two members who chose not to give to the appeal for a challenge gift. One of them stepped forward with a $100,000 challenge gift for more contributions over and above what was already committed. A zero dollar donor to the original appeal became a six figure challenge donor!
Those who were generous to the original appeal were invited to extend their gift. Those who didn’t engage the first appeal were invited to new or increased gifts. The entire congregation was engaged to reach what I consider “excellence” rather than accept a shortfall.
Rather than accepting anything but complete success has led this congregation to needing to inform donors what will happen with gifts in excess of the total need. What a great way to enforce an abundance mentality.
I think the most important thing is securing gifts for ministry is to inspire people to want to give. Answering the question “how will my gift advance the Kingdom of God” is critical in helping people feel that their gifts make a difference.
I think we often fail to inspire our donors and therefor they think we just want their money. Sometimes we add an exclamation point to the end of a sentence that isn’t actually inspiring and we think people should be excited.
People want the money that they earn to make a difference. If your cause doesn’t make a difference, they will either keep it for themselves or they will give it so someone else who will make a difference. So, cast a vision for how gifts to your organization are critical in advancing your mission and your donors will be inspired to give more than you think you even need.
Was I really, in a gathering of congregational leaders? On Tuesday, February 7, 2017 I had to ask myself that question.
We had gathered to evaluate the results of the fall, 2016 stewardship campaigns of the twelve congregations that had covenanted to walk together through the program we call Stewardship for All Seasons. I knew the program would lead to growth. I was overwhelmed at what I was hearing.
My previous experience as congregation leaders gathered to talk about financial giving was a focus on scarcity. There was lamenting about layoffs, cutbacks, and mission going unfunded. Without exception on February 7, 2017 that was not the story!
Two congregations had members pledge more to the ministry for the next year than the total giving for the previous year without consideration of the non-pledging households. Several congregations experienced numerous givers who had provided gifts of less than $5 per week in 2016 who pledged $30, $40, or more per week in 2017. Three congregations saw pledged revenue increase more than 22%. Four congregations experienced the number of families pledging increase by more than 20%.
Mission support, that is gifts from these congregations to their judicatory increased by at least $30,000 for the coming year. Mission support from these same congregations had been on a downward trajectory in the years prior to our work together.
These congregations exceeded their goals. They far exceeded my expectations. What had been a scarcity mentality for the church was now being described in terms of abundance and significant ministry into the future.
I was in awe. This was a vision I had hoped for. This year, I was blessed to see it become a reality, at least for these 12 congregations.
We do have a God of abundance. With vision and quality work, we can live into that abundance. What a blessing this was to hear about what God would be able to do through these congregations in the year ahead.
CFRE, M. Div., Partner
Click here to view my GSB website
As the stewardship workshop came to a close, she raised her hand as God had laid something on her heart. She shared that she was one of those people who did not take her giving seriously. She suffered through the annual stewardship appeal waiting for it to end. She didn’t want to serve on council because of the guilt she felt over not tithing. She shared that she felt shame for not being generous.
As she spoke, I could tell that she felt a tremendous sense of relief. She shared that her parents never taught her how to give because money just wasn’t talked about. In an email to me the next day she shared the following: “I need to refocus my treasure to where my heart already is. Living in two different worlds isn’t working. I know I am not the only person in the church in this situation so maybe my stepping out and being transparent will encourage others. Its very scary but I feel God’s hand in this.”
Often, without noticing or trying, our stewardship efforts cause shame. Not because we ask people for too much, but because we don’t treat them as a person. We need to focus on growth. We need to ask people to move from where they are to where they can be more generous. We need to challenge people but not offend them based on where they are.
Stewardship should be life-giving as we attach the treasures that God provides us to the ministry that touches people’s lives. By doing sloppy stewardship, we cause shame. By taking the time to treat people like individuals, we can help them grow and help them move into that abundant life that Jesus talks about. I often tell congregational leaders it is okay to treat people different as long as they don’t treat anyone better.
CFRE, M. Div., Partner
Click here to view my GSB website
I don’t necessarily enjoy being on Facebook, but it does keep me connected. I am part of several denominational Facebook communities where pastors can share questions and get support. I normally just skim my way through, but the stewardship posts normally catch my attention, and they often get my blood pressure going.
The other night, someone posted that they were so excited that the congregation decided not to pledge this year! I was furious and perplexed.
Studies show that those who pledge give many times more than those who don’t. The same people who complain about pledging are willing to get married and take out mortgages—both forms of pledging. By not pledging, we proclaim that something is not important.
If we believe what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, your heart will follow,” then for our organizations to get the hearts of our members, they have to be investing their treasure in them. The average donor gives less than 3 percent of their income to the church. The median member gives 0.9 percent. Therefore, the majority of our members are not investing their treasures in our organizations or churches.
We need to expect more of our constituency, not less. It is about their hearts. I’m not interested in not having the heart of my people in my organization, therefore I am not willing to let people not pledge. Our organizations deserve our best. If they don’t, then we need new leadership in our organizations.
I was speaking with a group of pastors the other day. The topic of stewardship came up, as it often does when I am in the room. We talked about how larger portions of congregation budgets are being provided by fewer donors. There used to be the 80/20 rule that 80 percent was given by 20 percent of the people. Recent studies have shown a shift to 90/10, and worse.
The critical problem occurs when these large donors leave, either because they move, they get mad, or they die. Making up the difference from a few large donors can be nearly impossible for many churches.
When you have a large donor or several, you should celebrate. However, you should work exceedingly hard to raise up other donors. Just because the Smiths will write a check at the end of the year to balance your budget, doesn’t make that a good thing.
In fact, when you have that situation, growing your donor base should become even more critical. I suggested to these pastors that they encourage these large donors to use their gifts to help raise up other generous donors. This can happen by matching or challenge gifts. Even better, it can happen by personal witness and faith sharing by the donors who understand generosity. If we are going to replace these donors someday, we have to be teaching the next generation how to become like them.
I recently led a workshop in a large banquet hall. I was invited in as the speaker. I was excited to be with this group. I knew of a few in the group who had been eagerly awaiting my presentation.
When I arrived, the hall was set with large round tables very far away from the podium and screen. I shared with the event organizer that the set-up wouldn’t work. Half the group would be seated with their backs to me. This seating arrangement wouldn’t allow for good dialogue as I made the presentation. I majored in hospitality, and this really bothered me.
She winced. Then proceeded to share why she couldn’t ask the event staff to change the set-up without a huge fight. So, I started to change the set-up myself, only to be told that I couldn’t do that. We had to leave the set-up as it was.
So, who is in charge? Not the speaker, not the event organizer. Unfortunately, not even the guests are in charge in this situation. In this situation, it is the support staff who run the show.
Who is in charge where you are? Or maybe better, what is in charge?
Are you the church leaders who only talk about mundane issues like whether the coffee is good or whether to pay the organist an additional $10 per month? Maybe you just talk about how far behind the budget you are.
Or, are you an organization that launches new programs because your program director thinks would be fun, not because the market you serve needs the program offered? Or, do you just offer what the marketing department says it can make work, even if it isn’t fully aligned with your mission?
The strategic plan needs to be in charge.
Whether you are a church, a hospital, a camp, or a Fortune 500 company, the strategic plan should guide you. For faith-based organizations, in the planning you should welcome God’s guidance and then follow it as the plan is implemented. Your plan comes from your mission, which is to serve your market as best you can. Your plan makes sure that your support staff are focused on what is most important − your mission.
I’m amazed at how offended people can get when their fundraising plans are questioned. I’m not talking about the person who questions everything you have ever done and never gives more than $30 per year to the church. Questions don’t mean someone isn’t supportive. In fact, questions can be a sign that they are interested and are just making sure your project is worthy of a gift.
I just worked with a congregation that raised more than $3 million. This was more than the base goal we established. One of the $500,000 gifts came from someone who asked a lot of questions. Some of the leadership wasn’t sure about these questions and got frustrated by them. One person in leadership wanted to dismiss the questions and not answer them.
We did answer them. Each question. I bet there were 12-15 of them. Some were hard questions about missteps that happened a few years ago. Others were about when the project would take place. There was a question about how sustainable the project would be. I remember many questions about quantifying the impact the project would have on the community.
Each question helped assure this member that the project was worthy of a major gift. Each question assured him that leadership had a good plan. Each question helped him know that God was guiding the project and it would be a blessing. His questions helped him know where to invest.
Would you buy a car from a salesman who didn’t answer your questions? Would you invest in a mutual fund without having your questions answered? Why would donors invest in your project if all their questions don’t get answered?
I have found that people who aren’t asking questions aren’t considering a major investment. We need to encourage questions. If people aren’t asking questions, we likely have a bigger problem: we likely haven’t engaged our audience!
Universal Studios will never do a marketing campaign that says, “We don’t have a Mouse.” Coke will never say, “We don’t make sports drinks.” An attorney won’t run a commercial that says, “We do it all but the accounting.”
Why do so many 501(c)3 organizations define themselves as non-profits? Or, worse, why do churches define themselves as who they are not like?
Mission isn’t about what you are NOT. It is about what you ARE. If you define yourself by what you aren’t, someone else will come in and do what you do better, and you will lose your mission to others. Define yourself by what you are, by what problem in the world you want to fix. How do you make a difference in the world?
I’m doing a strategic plan with the ELCA Youth Ministry Network as I am volunteering on a leadership team. We are having lots of fun and envisioning a transformed church because of the work we do. We are spending little time on defining what we aren’t. Our ministry vision is about what we are and how we make the world a better place because of our vision.
To have an effective congregational strategic vision or an effective strategic plan for your organization, work from what you are good at. What you do. Not what or who you aren’t. That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that you don’t make a profit. It matters that you make a difference.
Before I became a consultant, among other things, I served as General Chair for a congregational stewardship appeal. Task number one was to interview consulting firms. I had bad memories of that from my time as a parish pastor!
My first question and the question that I think is the best to ask when interviewing potential fundraising consultants:
“What is the largest gift you have ever personally given, to whom did you give it, and why?”
Our first consultant was a deer caught in headlights. He stumbled around for a few minutes, grimaced, and then told me about a $1,000 gift he had given once. I questioned him a few times and he couldn’t do any better.
The interview was over.
He had no integrity. You cannot ask others to become generous if as a consultant if you aren’t generous yourself.