“Fearless Fundraising” is a series on church fundraising by Charles LaFond, an Episcopal Priest, author and master potter living on a farm in New Mexico. Charles is the author of many books including Fearless Church Fundraising and now, Fearless Major Gifts: Inspiring Meaning-making. For more information, videos and model documents go to fearlesschurchfundraising.com
Many ask what they should be doing on Sundays during the last half of a Pledge Campaign. The answer is that you need to be discussing the pledge campaign openly, directly and regularly to the congregation on Sundays alongside the media and paper communications plan you are using. But this communication can be tricky because a church or non-profit is always asking for one pledge while donors are paying to fulfill the last pledge. Here is how this works…
Assuming that you are managing a campaign in the Fall months (mid-September until the Sunday before Thanksgiving) you are right there, right now. If you plan your pledge campaign for other seasons then this is something for your files and for when the time comes but it will also help you plan the Sundays of your pledge campaign any time of the year. Some churches, for example, are those in which a seasonal congregation exists, and so need to move their campaign out of the Autumn months and into Advent or Epiphany. That is perfectly understandable, however it is important to manage a campaign which runs and ends BEFORE your budget begins. In other words, if your budget begins and pledges need to be paid in January, then the campaign needs to end and pledges need to be in PRIOR to that start date for payments or else you are going to loose payments on pledges. For Example, if your next budget begins in January, then your campaign for pledges needs to have ended by December or earlier so that those who have pledged are ready to begin making payments in the first month of the period (January – December) in which they have made their pledge. Also, you need to slip a year-end campaign in there in late December for major donors.
If, for example, next year you want to host a pledge campaign (always 8 weeks long or more) in Epiphany (January 2018) or Lent (February, 2018) or Easter (April, 2018) rather than Fall 2018 that is fine as long as you are raising pledges for the following year. This means that communications need to be carefully planned out because the reality (unideal but unavoidable) is that while you are collecting on the last campaign pledges, you are asking for pledges for the next budget year. Your donors know you need to do this, but be clear about which pledge you are engaging them.
Once you have this part clear in your head, you can, with confidence, broach the subject of the fundraising (stewardship if you prefer that language) in your Sunday liturgies and services. I suggest that you create a plan for the 8 weeks in advance. Ideally this is done in May for the campaign you plan to manage in September, October and November (for example.) But planning can be done now if you are in a pinch and need to plan October, November and the December campaign closing.
In each Sunday service (Mass, liturgy…whatever you call yours) you will want to have various communications because different people understand different messages in different ways. Here is a brief list of some Sunday communications basics:
- An insert in the bulletin each week highlighting a ministry which is moving, inspiring and paid for through pledges.
- Include in the notes of the bulletin, how the campaign is going (about 30 words) and list some key statistics.
- Every week, make sure to announce your campaign ending celebration, the date, the time and the nature of the “you don’t want to miss this!” messaging.
- Weave pledging and money into sermons but be creative so that they are not eight stewardship sermons. It is best to ask yourself in advance “What 15 of the 52 weeks of the year will I preach directly about fear and money?”
- In verbal announcements, be sure to address the campaign directly by referreing to the bulletin insert and the bulletin comments about the campaign. Remember that most families today only attend church once a month which means they hear about your campaign only twice. The YMCA and Red Cross will talk to them four times each year and their schools, eight. So do not be shy.
- I suggest that you host a ministry minute each Sunday in which a parishioner spends three scripted minutes telling the congregation why they love their church (inspiring similar thoughts in their congregation.)
- And lastly, please do not hand out pledge cards on a Sunday in church and ask people to make their pledge while sitting in their pew. They need time to think, pray, discuss budgets with spouses and consider their investment. Never short-sheet the discernment this way and never ask people to write pledge numbers down while seated 4 inches away from their pew-sitters on either side. The pledge is not secret, but it is private.
In the end, the message is this: “Have a communications strategy for each Sunday, written out, in advance. Then follow that plan. You can go to www.fearlesschurchfundraising.com for some communications plans and samples.
Jesus came to us as “The Word” not as ‘The thought.” So words must be important. Manage them with great care.