Asking Effectively

Frequently, parish leadership discusses the challenge: “How can we increase parishioner support for (the parish budget, a new ministry, a building project…)?” We would do well to examine how we ask for funds from stewards, drawing from nonprofit fundraising research and experience in our Orthodox Christian environment.

Don’t forget to ask (personally). The number one reason people give is surprisingly simple: they are asked! From time to time, the call to give may seem “obvious” and may have been broadcast through the bulletin and from the pulpit. But unless a steward is personally asked, ideally in the most individualized way possible, they will not likely take the action of giving.

Be clear about the type of support you seek. Three categories of giving include: annual, long-term, and planned.

  • An annual gift (often simply called “stewardship”) is a gift given from our annual income, to support the annual operating budget. A parish does well to encourage stewards to give this gift on a weekly or monthly basis, rather than in one lump sum.
  • Long-term projects with large fundraising goals (such as startup funding for a major new ministry, construction or major facility improvements) normally require gifts above and beyond annual giving. Often these are pledged and given over a longer time period (ideally, three to five years), perhaps from appreciated assets instead of income.
  • A planned gift may be the greatest single gift any of us may give, once we fall asleep in the Lord, when all that we have accumulated through our life is distributed to others. A planned gift can be as simple as designating a church as a part beneficiary of a will or life insurance policy. Of course, an estate or tax planner can provide many other ways to give these gifts.

Include both practical and spiritual information. Some parishioners will read or listen to every word for inspiration; others will merely skim and look for the “bottom line.” Provide what both audiences might need! On one hand, be sure to provide practical information about the fundraising goal and the need. On the other hand, don’t forget to convey that we seek not to merely “help to pay the church bills,” but to afford an opportunity for all of us to give back to God of what is His and to grow in this habit throughout our lives.

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