“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.
It is time to plan for planning.
As with dinner, one must plan before cooking something wonderful. I often cook Posole. It takes planning to get it right – the red chilies from the front porch hangings, garlic, pork shoulder, cumin, onion, broth, oregano, bay leaf, and white hominy. These ingredients need to be assembled before their long bake. Posole has to be stirred and then baked in the oven long and slow. Similarly, before you ”bake” your pledge campaign, you need to assemble the ingredients. Now is the time to do that work.
December is a busy month for clergy and lay leaders in our churches. For reasons I have not yet figured out, pastoral care needs in a parish seem to spike in the weeks prior to Christmas and Easter. Collections on this past year’s pledges takes a lot of time and effort if it is done well (letters, notes, personal phone calls.) Collecting pledges at year-end often feels like its own mini campaign; and not doing collections well will simply erode the confidence of your donors. Then there is the preparation for Christmas liturgies and special events. December can be a challenge in a church.
However, this challenging time for clergy immediately precedes a very quiet phase when things go silent and people take a break from their church to travel after the holidays. So now is the time to begin to plan for the effective use of that silent “middle time” between the demands of Christmas and the demands of Easter. Now is the time to plan to plan.
Those weeks between Epiphany and mid-Lent are the church’s window in which to plan next year’s pledge campaign and to plan and evaluate the major and planned gift programs of the parish. And that, in turn, means that now is the time to begin the hard work to prepare for that January – February planning phase. Then there will be management in Easter and the campaign in the Fall.
Here are the basic things you should be working on in the next six weeks
Completely evaluate the fall 2017 pledge campaign (which raised 2018 pledges) as well as major gifts/planned gifts effectiveness:
Study pledge numbers (average pledge, mean pledge, numbers of pledges in various categories by amount, tasks done and not done, attendance at kick-off and closing events, cost of the campaign (real costs and staff / volunteer hourly cost equivalents.)
Manage focus groups (just a small group of people talking) to ask what went well, not so well and should be done differently. Ask them for ideas for next year’s campaign (theme, colors, Bible passages, goals, imagery, content, design, calendars.) If you have a parish of 20 families then one focus group (a tea or lunch with the clergy and vestry) will work fine. If you have more parishioners, then perhaps you manage more focus groups.
Set your goals for the 2018 pledge campaign and then also for the ratio of funerals versus planned gifts received (there should be a ratio of one planned gift for every two funerals you do …so if you did 6 funerals in this past year then you should have realized at least 3 planned gifts or else you are not asking for them in your parishioner’s lifetime effectively or consistently) and also for the major gifts program you are managing and planning. This will inform your budgeting and must precede it.
Recruit the next Stewardship Committee (or whatever you call yours) and thank the last committee with an event. A good ending must precede a good beginning. This is a time to elegantly and kindly dismiss people who are acting out or unproductive.
Develop a draft strategic plan for the next ear of fundraising so that the new Committee has something tangible as a draft to which to respond with edits. Check out my comprehensive model strategic plan for more details.