“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
The dark side of a Pledge Campaign; some encouragement
The middle of a pledge campaign, in a church or any nonprofit agency, is an emotionally challenging time. It is what I often call “the dark side” which is a reference to that uncomfortable time when a spaceship enters that part of the orbit of the moon when it finds itself on the other side of the moon – the dark side – a place in which communications with mission control is disrupted and everyone on board must brave the lonely cold and wait to emerge into the light beyond the dark side – on the other side of the backside of the moon.
The middle of a campaign is always uncomfortable. Will we reach the goal or will we not? Will those last pledges come in on time or will they not? Do people want to fund this budget, mission, project or not? The first gifts are the low-hanging fruit and easy to get confirmed giving an emotional boost to the first month. They arrive fast and they inspire confidence. But then there is this uncomfortable space in the middle in which there is “this dark side” during the second month (or year) when staff are exhausted but still have far to go and the second half of the pledges come in slowly, ponderously, like tired elephants at the end of a march; one big foot-bang at a time.
The dark side of a fundraising campaign – that middle bit of its calendar – can also be frightening to the fundraiser be they clergy in an annual pledge campaign or be they a non-profit executive leading a campaign to end homelessness like the one I find myself managing today. It can be a very lonely time when volunteers and staff shrug their shoulders and look at you, the leader, for some hope.
As I write this article I am sitting in the light of the setting moon – my favorite time of day which is why my pottery studio is called “Setting Moon Pottery.” The land of this farm in New Mexico stretches out before me like a green, soothing leg-blanket in every direction – apples to the West, peach trees to the East, alfalfa to the North and South and that bright, white, bright spotlight of a moon is making its way to the horizon with a musical soundtrack of roosters – hundreds of roosters, in every direction, singing their Te Deum – all in invitation of the sun – a new day.
What a church or no-profit fundraiser does is raise money. What a person being asked for a pledge does is consider their stewardship. These two things happen concurrently. That is how it works today and that is how it worked two thousand years ago as temples, synagogues and schools were being built with contributions, all arriving one day at a time.
So what do we do while “on the dark side” of a fundraising campaign? We welcome the setting of the moon. We celebrate the rising of the sun. A new day. And we get back to work. We keep going and wait for the sunlight to re-appear. We pull out those donor lists and go over them again with a red pen… Who needs a call? Who needs a note? Who needs a visit from a person who has already pledged?”
You see, people love to give to a worthy project – they are thrilled to have made the gift…on the other side of their decision. But they are busy and distracted and then also, they can get gripped with fear on the early side – when they are making the decision. “Will I need this money?” they ask themselves in the early morning darkness. “What if I need this money?” they ponder as their pen hovers tremulously over their pledge card. But then they move past their fears and so must the fundraisers. We just do what we always do when we are in a state of fear. We take another step into another day and pray like hell.
People have been doing this for thousands of years. Here is a reminder that all will be well from the dedication of my book on asking for major gifts,
This book is dedicated to the millions of people in the course of history who have summoned up the courage to ask for a major gift from another person.
From the first cave lent to a stranger running from a Saber-toothed tiger
to the jars given to hold the dead sea scrolls;
from the use of a stable behind an inn for a pregnant traveler
to the cave donated for the grave of a crucified savior;
from the request of a boy with five loaves of bread and two fish
to the request of a fortune from a rich young ruler;
from the jewels and authority given by an emperor and his mother
to the land given for the first hospitals and monasteries;
from the food given to a saint who fed the poor,
to the cathedrals and furnishings given by wealthy merchants;
from royal grants to hospitals to ten dollars donated from a child’s allowance,
from a dowager’s bequest to a pensioner’s
in time of war and times of peace,
in the Great Depression and the Great Awakening,
from the wall given in Capernaum by the Zebedee Family ,
to the Hebrew Temple walls erected by the Anitpater Family;
in every conceivable time of blessing, creation, joy and crisis
good people have asked for major gifts and other good people have discerned an answer. “
image from an icon of Jesus and the rich young ruler