“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.
Advent is a season of longing. I think many feel it is a season of waiting, and I see that as an element, but I see it as an element of longing. Inherent in longing is “not yet having” and so…waiting is needed for that for which one has the longing. We do not long for a Savior. We have one. We are simply re-enacting the longing the way we re-enact the last meal with our various liturgies and enacting of the Eucharist story of Jesus’ self-humbling and teaching of the value of a meal together.
In the “last supper” or “mass” or “Eucharist” or whatever theological term you have chosen to explain the mystery, the point Jesus seemed to be making is that one must become a servant first. Humility is the power of connection. Then, once humility has been exercised with some real, meaningful, tangible, evident action of a way of being; then, and only then, can one connect.
And then Jesus asked us to tell the story while eating a meal, and used wine and bread as a symbol of “meal.” Why wine and not an apricot daiquiri? I guess because wine was available.
Fundraising is nothing more than connection. It is a deep and abiding function of self-offering and acceptance of a gift. What is Advent if it is not God’s self-offering? And what is the death and resurrection of Jesus if not a willingness on Jesus’ part to claim that gift?
It is Advent. I am a potter and so I made pottery (chalices and patens) in blues. I made some for clergy in New Mexico; for friends with whom I have deeply connected. I see the irony and the power behind this act. I made the patens with a triple glaze so that a celestial halo was created deep into the midnight-blue of the base glazes. I wanted this set to express mystery and longing, and yet to be used for connection.
It is Advent and as a writer of books on fundraising, I get a lot of emails in this season about “our fall campaign…” Only 10% of the emails and letters I get are celebrating a successful campaign. Most are asking about a failed one. “What do we do now?” “How do we meet our 2018 budget?” “What do you think we did wrong?”
From a distance, I’m not sure. But I do have one suggestion for a successful fundraising effort in a church, be it for the annual pledge campaign, the major gifts, a Bishop’s project, or planned giving programs (or even for raising new members) and it is this: do what Jesus did.
If clergy arrive with and alongside (not in front of) their congregation with a hot towel and a bowl of hot water, on their knees, in humility, to wash their feet, and then if they connect deeply through pastoral care, visiting, teaching and great (not good) preaching, then and only then, the actual tools about which I speak and write (pledge cards, events, etc.) will have an effect. However, if the clergy and Bishops of our church do not connect in humility with the people long before they ask for money, then I agree with our congregation when they give their money to the United Way, the SPCA and their local agency caring for people experiencing homelessness.
Jesus came to set us free. We are not here to long for freedom. We are here to engage freedom. Do you want to raise money for mission? Then connect with your people and then, and only then, will they be willing to invest in a worthy mission.
Using pledge cards and special events to raise money is like using a blender to make a daiquiri. It only works if you plug in the blender.