Many years ago, my church choir director, Joel Johnson, taught me about the danger of doing anything that was just SO-SO. No, it wasn’t about the mediocre singing of a Bach chorale (although that did come up); rather, it was working hard and getting the Same Old-Same Old results.
Does your church do SO-SO stewardship? SO-SO stewardship looks like this: months are spent writing the fall campaign letter; a church member gives a message from the pulpit in the fall about the importance of giving or tithing; return envelopes are distributed; the stewardship team waits for weeks for the pledges to come in; and then, everyone lets out a sigh of relief when the fall stewardship campaign is over and the budget is passed in January. And in the next year the process is repeated all over again. SO-SO stewardship.
Fund development professionals know that good fundraising hinges on cultivating donors all year around, like tending a garden: you plant the seeds, you water and feed them regularly, you keep the weeds out, and you harvest the bounty when the time is right. Here are a few ways to take your stewardship campaign from SO-SO to WOW:
- Talk about money! Remind people monthly – quarterly at the least – that the programs of your church are blessed by the financial contributions people in your congregation make, and that ministry only happens with their support. The more people are aware of what their money supports, the more likely they will be to give generously.
- Know your donors. As a pastor, it is critical you know who your donors are and engage them frequently in conversations about the church. Find out what their passions are, and explain how they can help grow that ministry with increased financial support.
- Listen carefully. Often the criticism you hear about how things are going at church is the best indication about how people feel they can make a difference in the life of the congregation. Ask questions like, “what could we do differently/better.”
- Thank people for their gifts promptly. If you wait too long, some donors will think the church didn’t need their gifts after all. Sending a note, making a phone call, or dropping an email shows them that you know they are supporting the work of the church, and how much that means to the congregation… and you!
It can be hard to know where to start on this journey from SO-SO to WOW. I recommend beginning with an assessment of how your practices around money and fundraising compare to other faith communities. The Congregational Economic Evaluation can help you identify which best practices you already do and which ones you could work on implementing.
Together, we can move our Minnesota churches towards WOW Stewardship Fundraising!
The Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ stewards God’s gifts and leverages our resources to accomplish our collective mission in the world.