At my church, we’re approaching the beginning of our annual pledge drive. Like a lot of mainline churches, we spend a couple of months every Fall talking about the church’s finances and asking members to make a pledge for what they will give the next year. This year, the committee that handles my congregation’s finances wants to think a little ‘outside the box’. They want to try something bold and new to attract more donors and inspire people to increase their pledges (though, I suspect, not too bold and new).
And I’m not against that. I have bold, new, innovative, outside the box ideas.
But here’s the thing: boring, consistent, proven fundraising practices will beat the bold, new, innovative, outside the box thinking every time.
So we’ll try something different this year, but I’m also going to ask us to try these boring and proven fundraising best-practices:
Justifying our budget. I really want people to understand what their gifts to our congregation do. Not just in terms of line items, but accomplishments. The money that goes into the utilities timeline helps the preschool that we host stay comfortable in the winter. The money that pays my salary makes sure that funerals happen in a timely manner and that confirmation class gets taught. The money that goes into the faith formation budget keeps Sunday School going. Stuff like that. I don’t think we’ll get down to specific dollar amounts, but we can draw the lines between dollars given and things happening.
Asking people to give. We have some people who pledge every year… and we have some people who give without pledging. I want to remind people about the importance of giving outside of our annual pledge drive, and encourage those folks who don’t pledge to think about their giving regularly.
Sending pledge reminders and updates. We have people who pledge, and I think that most of them are pretty good at keeping up with their pledges through weekly or monthly gifts. But I’m also sure that some people struggle to remember to turn their pledges into gifts. I hope to send out pledge reminders at least three times a year.
Thanking people for their gifts. We just started this practice, and a couple of people have already gone out of their way to thank me for thanking them. Every quarter, we will send people a thank you letter for their gifts the previous quarter. This will let them know that we appreciate their financial support of our church. And it will also be part of the next item: reporting to people about the impact their giving had.
Reporting about the impact of gifts. This is related to the first item. But while justifying our budget looked at the finance side of things, this is about putting the donor first. I want to tell people about what their gifts actually factually did. As in, this quarter, your gift funded a confirmation class, or paid for the organ on a Sunday morning, or got a certain amount of food to the local food pantry. Again, I don’t think we’ll get down to specific dollar amounts, but we can draw the lines between dollars given and things happening.
All of these are boring. None of these are sexy. But, when you put them together and do them consistently, they work. And let’s be honest, when it comes to fundraising for your church, would you rather be bright and flashy? Or have the amount of money that you need to work on your mission?