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Fearless Fundraising #13: the fatigue of the campaign

Fearless Fundraising #13: the fatigue of the campaign

“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


If you are managing your pledge campaign in the September-November time-frame, then you are now entering the final phase of the campaign.  If you have some other time-frame such as Advent or Epiphany for your campaign, then simply come back to this in the 6th week of your eight-week program.  Be careful though…you should have your campaign complete with all pledges confirmed and the full amount raised at least a month before your new fiscal year begins or you risk placing the donors in the position of having to play catch-up on the payment of their pledges.


The final phase of the pledge campaign is complex on an emotional level.  You may be feeling resentment or fear, anger or frustration.  That is normal, but it will bleed energy you need to accomplish your goal.  If you are like most mere mortals, you may be feeling all sorts of feelings as a leader whether spiritual such as clergy or temporal such as a campaign or stewardship chairperson or Senior Warden.  This is a season in which your morning prayer or practice is essential.  If you do not have a spiritual practice of prayer, meditation or worship, then get one.


If you are on schedule and the campaign is at the 90-95% mark on both funds raised and active congregants participated, a week before the final celebration (parish dinner, collection or Cornucopia Sunday…whatever you do to celebrate the end of the campaign) then you are doing well.  For many churches however, that success is not so easy to achieve, especially if you are new in the culture-change you are attempting to accomplish in your church around best practices (BP) and standard operating procedures (SOP) regarding campaign management and stewardship teaching.


If you are short of your goal, the first task is to do the math, fast.  Add up all the LYBUNT (last year but not yet this year) and PYBUNT (past year but not yet this year) names of those who have not yet pledged, but did last year or a previous year.  These are the people most likely to get you to your campaign goal.  Usually they are frequent attendees, or generous but not attendees.  These people need personal phone calls from the Rector or Vicar, ideally preceded by a hand-written note mentioning the end of the campaign and mentioning to expect a phone call.  This note and call are also good times to invite the called person to attend the celebration which ends the campaign.  For scripts on these calls go to the Annual Pledge Campaign in the Resources of the resource project found at .


If you are in a very large church or non-profit, you will want to have a phone-a-thon to reach all your LYBUNT and NYBUNT past donors, however the best practice is to do the phone-a-thon in the 5th week of the campaign and then in the 7th or 8th week do the smaller Rector’s/Vicar’s note-writing and phone calling to bring the campaign to closure.  Another valuable tool is the end-of-campaign challenge in which one of your major donors agrees to use their pledge as a challenge.


For example, if you are trying to raise $100,000 and you have a $10,000 or $5,000 pledger; that pledger may wish to make their gift into a challenge which will motivate those final pledges as a matching gift challenge.  If you have raised $80,000 and still have $10,000 to go, then simply announce that you have a $10,000 pledger (anonymous or not – depending on the donor’s preferences) who is willing to challenge the congregation by matching every new pledge in the final two weeks or week of the campaign. That level of pledger probably pledged early, so when they pledge, meet with them personally in their living room and mention that you may need to hold out their pledge and use it (with their permission) as a challenge to the end of the campaign.


Campers…er, Pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago,

One final word on the word “campaign.” Many dislike it because it has military connotations and because “the church is different” from other non-profits.  The church likes to be pathologically unique.  It is not so unique given that it is populated by humans.  I visit many churches and many non-profits to preach and teach.  Each one pulls me aside and whispers that “our church is very different from all the others…your strategy might not work here.” I smile politely and get on with the planning.


“Campaign” comes from the word “camp” in which a group of people (warriors…yes… but also travelers, pilgrims, and explorers) camp out and gather in the village green to “be together” and encourage movement towards a goal.  Sure, warriors did this; but so did missionaries.  So too did Jesus.  Jesus camped with his followers often; by the sea, on a mountain, with bread and fish, even once a small family “camped in a stable” with an unfolding “goal” as God crashed into humanity.  So, I would say, renovate your understanding of “camp, and “encampment” and “campaign” to allow for a movement of campers on a campaign to unveil the Kingdom of God. That is what you are doing.


You are raising money for mission.  It is a campaign with strategy and planning, with mutual encouragement and support among a team of people trying to move towards a desired goal.  Do not be afraid of planning, encampment, mutual support, evaluation, reports, progress design, even skirmishes – they are not unspiritual.  Instead be afraid of failing to raise the money you need for mission and also failing to encourage the people of your church to give their money away.  Both are your goal.  Both are worthy.  Both require a real, hard-won campaign.  If you do not want a campaign or if you are using a canned program, well, good luck, but ask yourself the Dr. Phil question: “Is your plan working?”




image from Outdoor Minded Magazine


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Having run two of these campaigns as a vestry stewardship chair, and also being a senior warden three times, I really get this. A sort of late campaign “fatigue” often sets in – particularly among those “in the pew” who in most cases have already pledged and don’t want to hear about this anymore. This is especially true when appeals are made during worship time – money “grubbing” seems a bit crass and “un-sacred” (this attitude sometimes affects me, when I’m not on the vestry – like this year!). Stewardship “pitches” also seem to “artificially” extend the length of the service – and those “trapped” in the pews can feel like “hostages” (help! – call the FBI – I’ve been kidnapped!). And if the rector is not satisfied with the overall amount pledged, sometimes he/she will “nag” the congregation on this matter well past Stewardship Sunday – up to and including Christmas!

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