Church giving down,
bring in the pros?

Religious News Service reports on the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy findings on Charitable giving in 2011.

While charitable donations from individuals rose nearly 4 percent overall in 2011, according to the annual “Giving USA” report, donations to houses of worship and other religious bodies dropped by 1.7 percent — a decrease for the second year in a row. ... The proportion of the charitable donations going to religious groups has been falling steadily for decades, said Robert Evans, of Giving USA’s editorial review board.

Evans offered several reasons for the decline, including increased competition from a proliferating number of non-religious organizations, a decrease in church attendance, and a general lack of sophistication within religious institutions regarding fundraising.

“Clergy in America have not been sufficiently trained as CEO’s of institutions to be comfortable and conversant with contemporary fundraising technology and techniques,” he said.

Is that the problem in your church -- that the clergy are not conversant with contemporary fundraising technology and techniques? How much of fundraising, particularly for capital campaigns, should be outsourced to professionals who guide the church through a campaign?

Comments (5)

I served as the chair of the Development Committee for a church organization and soon realized I had not a clue how to do fundraising. I went to a Fundraising Day event, sponsored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (http://www.afpnet.org/), and it was a revelation. (Here's part of what I learned: http://teabagsinfusion.blogspot.com/2010/06/what-i-learned-at-fundraising-day.html)

This isn't about bringing in professionals; it's about learning some basic fundraising techniques. And this isn't about capital campaigns; it's about annual giving and donor development--how to treat the people who support our ministries.

Laura Toepfer

Hm.

Isn't the Vestry the group to be "comfortable and conversant with contemporary fundraising technology and techniques"?

I think those skills are not reasonable additions to the already-too-long list of things that clergy have to know how to do.

And, you know, I'm not sure the Episcopal Church is a good fit for the Clergy-As-Manager model. Aren't we trying to go in the opposite direction, towards affirming the responsibility of the laity?

Pamela Grenfell Smith
Bloomington, Indiana

I agree with Pamela Grenfell Smith ... the clergy shouldn't be the ones who are all responsible for everything, although the clergy and the Vestry should be overseers of these things (not lording over them however), and seeing if the gifts of others, laity and clergy alike can be used to further the work of the Church.

From the Catechism, BCP, pages 855-856:
Q. Through whom does the Church carry out its mission?
A. The church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members.

Q. Who are the ministers of the Church?
A. The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.

**Note: I've heard it said that there IS a REASON why lay persons are mentioned first in this response!**

Q. What is the ministry of the laity?
A. The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be;
and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on
Christ's work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.

Q. What is the ministry of a priest or presbyter?
A. The ministry of a priest is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God.

Q. What is the duty of all Christians?
A. The duty of all Christians is to follow Christ; to come together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God.

++++++++++++++

And I also have a problem with implying that charitable giving is, or should be, merely a fundraising techinque... in my experience, it's more a realization of God in our lives, a giving from the heart, in response to a knowing and discovering all that God has given us .. even though we could never give back in equal ways to God.. it is a heart knowledge decision.

Whether clergy should or should not be responsible for fundraising may be beside the point, if we want our congregations to be financially viable. I agree that clergy already have a too long list of things to do, but if churches can acquire enough resources, chances are the individual clergyperson's list can get much shorter.

It's rough because from my experience, most of us don't go into ordained ministry because we want to do fundraising. Boy howdy do I appreciate that. But I also don't think we do ourselves any favors when we avoid talking about money.

Laura Toepfer

Key point on fundraising: Everyone in your organization, whether it is a church or other nonprofit, needs to be part of the effort. Clergy, vestry, laity, and even friends of the parish all need to help pull. And it's both about technique and attitude. Many a parish has struggled to raise money because it doesn't know how to make the ask or have the right tools, while many parishes have had the same issue, but caused by the wrong attitudes. Success is about doing your best in every area, striving to meet others' needs, and working together for the common good.

Eric Bonetti

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