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Stewardship Strategies for Congregations in Challenging Economic Times

The following is an archive of an online discussion that took place on May 13, 2009. This discussion was moderated by Laurel Amabile, Director of the Unitarian Universalist Association's Annual Program Fund.

Laurel Amabile, Moderator: Greetings! I want to welcome you all to our first Association-wide online stewardship discussion on a timely topic: Stewardship Strategies for Congregations in Challenging Economic Times.

We don’t have a way of knowing exactly how many of you out in our local congregations and districts are tracking this discussion, but I invite your feedback about the experience. A number of questions have been submitted in advance by congregation leaders all over the country. These will be the basis of our discussion hour. All feedback and questions should be sent to apfdirector @ uua.org.

We've received a wonderful array of questions from congregation leaders all over the country. It proves to be a rich exchange that we hope will be of timely benefit to all of you out in our congregations working in the realm of congregational stewardship and finance.

Introducing the Panel

Now, Let me introduce you to our panel of experts for today’s online discussion.

Dr. Wayne Clark, Director of Congregational Stewardship Services, has served the UUA for more than ten years and is the author of "Beyond Fundraising."

Rev. James C. (Jay) Leach, Senior Minister
Jay is currently serving for his sixth year at the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church of Charlotte, which is now the largest congregation in the Thomas Jefferson District. Jay has a passion for poetry and an ever-deepening interest in the American Transcendentalists in general and Emerson in particular. His partner, Rev. Melissa Mummert is also an ordained UU minister, serving as an Affiliated Community Minister in Charlotte. They are the proud parents of Emerson Anne (Annie) Leach.

Angela Matthews, CFRE
Angela has lived and worked in New Hampshire for over 30 years, serving as Executive Director the Seacoast division of the Charitable Foundation, followed by eight years as the Director of Development at Plymouth State University. In January 2009 Angela became the Director of Development at Star Island Corporation. Angela is active in her community, serving on various boards and on the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Northern New England Board as VP for Education for the Chapter. Angela serves as the Northern New England District representative to the UUA’s Annual Program Fund Committee, has served on the New England Leadership School faculty for three years, and chaired this year’s stewardship campaign for the Star King UU Fellowship in Plymouth, NH.

Rev. Terry Sweetser, Vice President of Stewardship and Development and Senior Advisor to the President
Terry is the author of "The Abundance of Our Faith" and has led development efforts for the Unitarian Universalist Association for more than five years.

Jeter Walker, Director of Administration
In his role as the Director of Administration, Jeter oversees the business operations of the UU Church of Charlotte including finance, stewardship, facilities, communications, personnel, maintenance, general operations and budget management. He has previously served in a volunteer capacity as a board member and treasurer at the First Unitarian Church of Orlando.

Events to Stimulate Giving

What events or activities stimulate the highest giving to annual stewardship drives when our congregants are anxious about their finances?

Jeter: Sometimes, as Wayne has pointed out to us, there is the notion that there is universal trouble when there is actually only isolated difficulty. We are in unprecedented financial times, to be sure, but most people are surviving and doing well. Avoiding the idea that “the sky is falling” has been important for us, both in the training of our canvassers and in our own approach to this year’s campaign.

Angela: Our Fellowship had such positive feedback with this year’s annual stewardship drive from the 15 dinners/brunches hosted in members homes. We created an "order of service" with opening and closing words, chalice lighting, blessing before the meal, and a question for all to answer about what pleases us most about supporting the Fellowship. We also watched a DVD of the children's RE program because many adults have no contact with that. We saw mostly increases in pledging and heard a lot of good feeling about coming together in small groups for social time and to focus on our congregation.

We de-emphasized dollars when giving weekly progress reports and instead focused on percentages. Fortunately, all the reports showed increases over the prior year with the same group of pledges. We had an inspiring sermon on the Sunday of the kickoff after which we handed out brochures and a pie chart showing distributions to support all our programs rather than a summary of the budget with the unattractive heat, lights, etc. Support of programs is far more visionary. The Stewardship Committee and helpers were highly visible in giving reports, facilitating at dinners/brunches, and encouraging attendance at events. They are as individuals well-liked in the congregation so it's easy for them to ask people to do things. In summary, it's all about RELATIONSHIPS.

Terry: The most important part of any event you hold is remembering to ask for the money. Sometimes in the excitement of creating new ways to build relationships, we forget that we have to make an “ask.”

Another effective, non-canvass time, activity is making sure people know how you spent the money they gave. Folks need to know their generosity was important in making vital programs happen. Regular updates on how money was spent also remind people between fund drives that doing most everything costs money.

Engaging Youth

How can we engage our children and youth most effectively in our stewardship activities?

Jeter: In Charlotte, our stewardship campaign theme was “Cultivating Lives of Generosity” and our graphic was of a child standing in a flower pot. To chart the progress of the campaign, we made one wall of the Fellowship Hall a “garden” from which flowers bloomed representing those who had pledged. Most of these flowers were made by the children in our CYRE program. As members pledged, they wrote their names on these flowers, often assisted by the child.

Angela: The children should host coffee hour a couple of times a year, do at least one service project a year at the church, participate in one of the fundraisers of the congregation, and have an offering at least once each month where they would give from their own savings or allowance or for work done at home.

Laurel: There is a growing number of good resources available to help our children and youth learn about stewardship and practice generosity. This is a developmental process directly linked to learning by observation and experience as well as through explicit teachings. The family and home are the most influential environments for learning stewardship and generosity, followed closely by school and religious community.

We can help our young UUs learn and practice these values in our congregations. Recommended practices include sharing the stories and visual resources that clearly communicate and exemplify the value of helping, sharing, and altruistic behavior. This practice can begin in preschool years.

It is important for our religious education programs to link the stories and examples of philanthropic behavior to the teachings, values, and the people of the faith. These can be introduced in elementary school years through giving and services activities related to the holiday celebrations and traditions. Children learn through hands-on activities and structured learning experiences in safe and supportive environment.

Our middle and high school age youth benefit from a variety of service-learning activities. This is also a good time for teaching effective interpersonal skills and reflective thinking necessary to develop qualities necessary for mature relationships: empathy, caring, and responsible behavior toward others.

I have compiled an extensive listing of resources to promote stewardship, giving, and generosity for all ages, including a list of children’s picture books and ideas for activities. Please email me and I will gladly send it to you as an attachment. You can also look in the Giving and Generosity section of the UUA website in the Annual Program Fund pages.

Terry: You have all made great suggestions about resources that I hope people will use. What I’ve noticed is that NOT involving children/youth leads to a sense of isolation among donors. If all parts of the community are involved in sharing resources (music, children/youth, social justice, small group ministries…) there will be a greater sense of abundance.

Changing Attitudes of Scarcity to Abundance

Jackie V., Stewardship Contact Person (142-member congregation) asks: How do congregations change an attitude of scarcity to one of abundance?

Terry: A good starting point is creating an attitude of APPRECIATION. Ask church leaders to remember the amazing successes of your congregation, times when factually and emotionally you exceeded yourself (do this without lists your failures too). Appreciate your successes and explore them. What was the vision? How was it planned? How can you celebrate these great moments? I believe that people give to vision, not need; the first is abundance, the second is scarcity. Abundance begins with appreciation.

Laurel: I believe this is one of our greatest challenges, for beliefs, values, and attitudes take a lifetime to develop. Influencing and changing the beliefs, values, and attitudes—particularly about money and resources—takes time, encouragement, and opportunities for personal and community reflection. Talking about our beliefs and attitudes about we have, what we care most about, and how we make our giving and saving and spending choices is essential to a significant change in congregations. There are several good resources that can be used by individuals (all ages), in small groups, and in the context of worship services. Again, I have compiled an extensive resource list which I am happy to send to you.

When Pledges Don't Meet Goals

From Steve T., Treasurer (154-member congregation): What do we do if our annual stewardship pledges do not meet our income and budgetary goals?

Jay: I suppose the obvious answer is—cuts have to be made. But, this is also a potentially rich teachable moment in the life of your congregation. You may have members who assumed the necessary pledges would come from others. You may have a reluctance to articulate adequate expectations. You may have an ineffective way of introducing new members to a life of generosity in and outside of the congregation. Whatever your particular issue or issues may be, you can use this “crisis” as a time to challenge the congregation to a deepened understanding of what it means to be generous.

Angela: In the short term, adjustments must be made. In the long term, it seems a conversation on the subject money and responsibilities for the congregation is in order. Can the congregation do more financially and are they not accepting their share of supporting their spiritual home? Does the congregation understand what it costs to fund the programs they enjoy? Do they understand the depth and breadth of those programs? On the flip side of that, there are many questions about viability. Does the congregation need to sell its present building which might be too big or too old to be energy efficient? Is the level of staffing more than the size of the congregation can support? etc.

Wayne: The congregation has two options when their annual budget drive goal is not met; They can choose to settle for the amount committed, or they can decide to ask congregants to increase their giving to meet the initial goal. This is a congregational decision, not a governing body decision. In my experience, congregations that decide to ask again to make up the shortfall have a very good chance of reaching their goal. By the way, this conversation and vote needs to be conducted in a formal congregational meeting, with advance notice given to all.

Terry: These are all good suggestions. But I think this is also a time for an analysis of congregational successes. What worked and why? What would we do to get more of what worked even if we had to make cuts.

It’s also the right time to talk to your major donors and find out what is working for them and why they are willing to be so generous.

Stewardship as a Continual Activity

From Eric B., Treasurer (500-member congregation): What are ways to make stewardship a continual activity, instead of the once a year pledge drive? We send out quarterly statements, but are looking for other methods of fostering a generous community of contributors throughout the year.

Jeter: Michael Durall’s book, Creating Congregations of Generosity provides a lot of information on this topic. We aspire to a year-round stewardship effort but have found it difficult to make a meaningful transition. During the fall and winter, articles on generosity and our need to have people make good on their pledges were run in our newsletter, appeared on our website and were included in various emails that were sent. We also had a meeting with our top givers to explore the feasibility of adding to our professional staff. This meeting had a great influence on generosity immediately following and on the pledge campaign as a whole.

Terry: The first step is keeping spending transparent though the year. Let people know you are spending the money they gave and voted to spend. Do it in every newsletter. Be positive but clear about what things cost, even in the summer, and what outcomes we expect. We must all be willing to measure more against predicted outcomes. You need to this before any serious work on year canvassing can implement.

Laurel: I think this can be accomplished by an intentional planning and education process initiated by congregational leaders like yourselves and set into motion by scheduling a variety of stewardship experiences into your master calendar of activities and worship themes. Most congregations have fundraising activities and service opportunities throughout the year, but there are also opportunities to build stewardship messages and topics in weekly services, activities in religious education classes, small group ministry sessions, and publications. In addition, a new culture of year-round generosity and stewardship can be promoted by having new member information sessions and packets that include explicit and positive messages about congregational finance and ways they can contribute.

Wayne: Chapter seven, (“Forward Through the Ages: A New Stewardship Development Program”) in Beyond Fundraising, provides information about creating a year-long stewardship program. Instead of just focusing on money, Forward Through the Ages advocates for a five-prong approach to stewardship. The program includes a focus on 1) stewardship education, 2) joyful giving, 3) ministry and good works, 4) the annual budget drive and, 5) planned giving. A seven-site demonstration project is entering its third and final year. By the end of the project, best practices will be discerned and shared with all UU congregations.

Minister's Role

From Trish (203-member congregation): What should the minister's role be in the annual canvass/stewardship campaign?

Angela: The minister must first and foremost be comfortable with the subject of money and speaking openly about what it takes to provide the level of programs and services to the congregation. Inspiring sermons on the topic of generosity, abundance, support of this congregation and this liberal faith are essential. Often, the minister must visit with those who provide the greatest level of support to the congregation. The minister also must be prepared to make his/her own commitment and model for the board and members by talking of that commitment.

Jay: As the senior minister, my role starts long before the campaign. My first responsibility is to model generosity. On the day I accepted the call to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, I stated that my partner and I would be making a pledge of 5% of our gross household income to the congregation and would be putting another 5% into community causes that are important to us. I believe firmly that I can’t lead a congregation some place I am not willing to go myself. So, if I have an expectation of generosity from our members, I have to model it as the minister.

Then, I lead our session called “Discovering the UUCC,” an introduction to the congregation and to UUism for potential new members. One part of that is a session called “Opportunities and Responsibilities of Membership.” I state unapologetically at that time that we ask all of our members to aspire to a pledge of 5% of gross household income. We find being straightforward about this from the beginning changes how people think about membership here.

I don’t limit my emphasis on a life of generosity to the “campaign season.” In worship and sermons throughout the year, I am regularly talking about the spiritual benefit of a life of generosity. I’m not hesitant to talk about money, but my emphasis is much greater than that. Real generous giving on a consistent basis comes from people who are generous in many ways. One of the Ends of this congregation is: “We cultivate lives of generosity, sharing from our personal abundance.” That’s the big picture of which an annual pledge is but one part.

In the campaign itself, I speak each year to a gathering of our most generous givers. I know the success of the campaign resides with them. So, I underscore the opportunities that are ours and I always reference the pledge that I am making. I will, on occasion, meet one-on-one with one of our larger givers, challenging him or her to make a more substantial pledge. Often, people don’t give what they can because they haven’t been asked to do so.

Finally, along with our Director of Administration, I sign a letter thanking each pledger—a letter that includes the amount of the pledge. This sends a subtle message that pledges here aren’t a secret, that I am fully aware of pledges our members are making. I would never alter how I minister to anyone here based on a pledge or lack thereof. However, transparency and integrity around pledging only benefit the goal of a successful campaign and the larger goal of more faithfully embodying the Mission and Ends of this congregation.

Wayne: In an ideal world, I would prefer that a minister take a very active role in the annual budget drive. However, not all UU ministers are comfortable with a fully-engaged, roll-up-the-sleeves approach. I believe that the key to a minister’s role is a mutual clarity of understanding. To be more specific, ministers and their governing bodies must reach a mutual understanding of the scope of the minister’s role. As long as everyone is on the same page and has the same expectations, all will be well. Things tend to run amok when the minister believes that her role is related to A, B, and C while the governing body expects her role to be A, B, C, D, and E.

Terry: I agree with both my colleagues strongly. It goes with out saying that every minister brings different gifts to the congregation. Still, because the health and vitality of our societies need effective fund raising, I believe all practicing ministers must expand their skills in this area. At least know how to cast a vision; listen to major donors; be generous yourself; learn to talk about money, create a culture of appreciation and transparency.

One-on-One Stewardship Conversations

Maureen H., Executive Director (409-member congregation): How effective are one-on-one stewardship conversations compared to other methods? Our congregation has not engaged in one-on-one stewardship conversations/visits in several years, and is thinking about returning to this strategy.

Terry's responds: No doubt, from my experience in the congregation and as a major gift officer for the UUA, one-on-one CAN be the most effective way to go. Certain rules apply though: no one canvasses who hasn’t pledged at the suggested level; no one has to see more than 4 donor units; hard cases are eliminated from the visit list; and really train the canvassers to ask for the money.

Jeter: Most of the expert advice that I’ve received is that one-on-one stewardship conversations are the single most effective way to conduct a campaign. One source I recall cites that individual conversations are the most effective method. This is followed by conversations with small groups of people and, at the bottom of the list, mass mailings, etc.

Our approach in Charlotte has been to use the one-on-one conversation as the primary approach. In the year that we did not undertake this, our collections were more disappointing. We have found, moreover, that using all of the techniques listed above helps ensure success. One difficulty with using canvassers for each pledging unit is that it is difficult to find enough people to get the job done effectively. We have found over the years that we must concentrate on those members most likely to pledge and spend less time on those who are harder to convince. Training canvassers to do an effective job is essential and motivating them with communications and other incentives has been very important.

Wayne: Gosh, there is so much to say here. Let me refer folks again to Beyond Fundraising. Chapter five is titled “Personal Stewardship Conversations” and makes the case that one-on-one conversations are clearly the most effective approach to an annual budget drive. The chapter lists several other approaches and indicates the likelihood of success when using each of the techniques.

Generating Fun, Interest, and Money

 From Anne, Chair Canvass Team (155-member congregation): What are others doing that generates interest, is fun, and brings in money? How can we change our face-to-face canvass to keep it fresh?

Laurel: I have participated in a number of fun and engaging annual stewardship campaign events that involved all ages. These include everything from an offsite dinner and celebration event to a day-long outdoor festival to inspirational worship services followed by a reception. I have heard of congregations that have worked together to create a large quilt as a culminating stewardship event, and others that hold musical or theatrical fundraising events open to their wider community. Events of this sort can best be accomplished by building them into a year-round stewardship program with strong leaders and lots of people involved in planning.

Terry: It’s all good as long as you clearly ask people for the money (specifically ask them for what you want!) AND if you canvass the BOT and the major donors face to face.

Funds Follow Members?

 From Jean: We are stuck in a slow growth pattern and want to grow and attract more members and then funds follow the members, right? Recent news articles have described the downward numbers in Christian congregations, so where are they?

Laurel: I meet several times a year with ecumenical stewardship representatives from around North America. What I hear from many of my stewardship colleagues is that overall membership numbers may be down, but per member giving has increased over time in many of their denominations. We have seen increased per capita giving levels in UU congregations as well, though not quite at the same rate as incomes have increased over the same period of time. Rather than relying too much on the assumption that numerical growth will automatically result in greater income, focus instead on providing meaningful worship experiences, relationship-building, and high quality membership and faith development programs. Alongside these community activities, clear information should be available about congregational stewardship as an important aspect of membership.

Terry: Laurel is right, it’s a mistake to link growth with more money. Truth is that in the short run, growth can cost more in services than it brings in money. Focus on doing this well.

Low Pledges from New Members

From Michael J., Incoming Congregational President (146-member congregation): We have many new members many of whom are young. As a group they pledge at a low level or not at all. What can we do to reach these members and convince them to pledge at a higher level?

Angela: Engagement is key to success with this age group. Begin by enlisting the support of a small number of young volunteers who are prepared to pledge and do so at a higher level than their peers. Have them plan an approach that they think would be fun for their group - maybe a BBQ at one of their homes which includes pledging at the end of the evening. The focus would be on the question of what their needs are as young members of a spiritual community and what they want to both get and receive from it. The minister should be present at this function and facilitate the discussion. A member of the board and a member of the membership committee should also be present to help follow through on ideas that emerge.

Jeter: Our experience has been that our newer members are often better supporters than those who have been here for a while. This may be because we have endured a culture of scarcity here in the past in which our expectations were simply too low. New members who attend one of our discovery sessions are told that our expectations are that 5% of household income is an appropriate pledge to make here. I firmly believe that higher expectations produce higher results.

Terry: I agree, new members can be at the highest giving level. To get that to happen though, they must know what’s expected and asked for it one on one before they join.

Encouraging New Members

From Marjorie P., Stewardship Committee (367-member congregation): What are some ways of encouraging new members to establish generous giving habits from the get-go?

Jay: Quite simply—inform, educate, and ask. As I stated in an earlier reply, we include a session on our “Discovering the UUCC” session called “Opportunities and Responsibilities of Membership” in which we make clear that we ask every member to aspire to a gift of 5% of gross household income.

Keep in mind, at the point at which most people join, they are enthusiastic about the congregation. I think we make a mistake when we assume new members will be nominal pledgers who somehow become generous over time. Of course that happens with some, but why not invite generosity from the beginning?

If we are really convinced that a life of generosity is a more satisfying, purposeful, and ultimately joyful life, then why would we delay inviting people to that kind of life?

Terry: Jay is right. I do believe that the best way to encourage good giving habits for new members is to make stewardship part of the membership process and to ask for the gift you expect before they join. It is VERY hard to get low first pledges up.

Supplementing the Annual Canvass

 From Duane, Canvass Team (155-member congregation): What are some innovative approaches to supplement the annual canvass as sources of funds?

Background: We are finding it difficult to recruit people to take charge of fundraising events—we have done yard sales, strawberry shortcake sales at a street fair, a plant sale, a fall harvest fair, a fisherman's breakfast, home hospitality for a local college parents' weekend and for graduation, etc. in the past, but many have fallen aside for lack of leadership. Also, our annual service auction has been a major source of operating funds ($15,000 to $20,000), but after several years attendance shows steady decline, donations have become sort of boring (same things every year), and proceeds have fallen off.

Terry: The truth is that all supplemental fund raising is VERY labor intensive. Its purpose should be to build community first and raise money second. It helps if the money is going to be used for something specific so that those interested in that are motivated to work on it.

Wayne: Duane will probably be disappointed in my response, however... Fundraisers are a lousy way to balance a budget. When you stop to determine how much time and energy goes into planning these events, it’s no wonder that congregants get burnt out. And besides, more often than not, congregants are just trading money back and fourth among themselves. Fundraisers are great community builders and they offer a great way to fund external ministries. However, at least 80% of the annual budget should be funded by annual financial commitments.

Facing Sizeable Deficits

From Margaret (437-member congregation) and Ben (105-member congregation): What tips can offer congregations facing sizeable deficits for the coming year and dealing with possible cuts in staffing and other significant budget items?

Jeter: The only way to deal with a situation like this is to be completely serious and transparent about the needs of the church or the congregation. If there is any reluctance to talk about what it takes to operate church and what it costs to have personnel of a high quality, then to that extent you can expect more deficits.

Difficult situations are isolated and are not universal. Emerging from the panic mindset is essential to make any progress. My personal choice in this situation would be to have one-on-one conversations with key donors and to have small group meetings in members’ homes to deal directly with the situation.

Increasing Congregational Giving

 From Trish (203-member congregation): With income from endowment down, we need to increase giving from the congregation just when people are pinched by the economy.

Jeter: I think that members will only give what you ask for. If you assume the economy is terrible then I think terrible results are what you can expect. Our experience has been the opposite.

Building or Expansion Programs

Spencer T., Chair of the New Building Committee (184-member congregation): How are churches with building or expansion programs coping with the economic downturn? Specifically, what are the effects on capital campaigns and on the availability and terms of mortgage loans?

Angela: We are putting an addition on our building and have seen the opposite effect. Giving is increasing due to a sense of pride and anticipation. The two year process leading up to the decision to go ahead was also helpful in setting the tone and the ownership. Many people have to be involved in committees and in the decision making so that in the end the results and decisions are broadly shared.

Jeter: We had already assembled a capital campaign team as the economic situation became more serious. As a result, we changed the focus of the team to one of preparation. The team is now involved in trying to find the most effective ways to conduct a capital campaign and to determine the best practices of those who have succeeded.

Wayne: Most recently, we are finding that some congregations have deferred a capital campaign but, of those that are moving forward, most are successful. In particular, those capital campaigns that focus on supporting the local community (beyond the walls of the congregation) are being quite successful. During this difficult economic time, many people are more willing to give money to support people, rather than giving money to support building projects. Of course if a capital campaign combines both aspects, the chances of success are increased.

Job Fairs, Community Suppers?

From Lara: What are congregations doing to respond to this economic crisis, both for members and the larger community, e.g., job fairs, community suppers, etc.?

Terry: We are hearing about astonishing things: shelters, soup kitchens, language instruction, immigration assistance, and advocacy. What congregations do is based on local needs.

Laurel: A good number of congregations are seeing the opportunity in this economic downturn for deepening their outreach ministries and pastoral care to those affected by financial crisis or unemployment—both within the congregation and beyond. There are special collections being taken in support of ministerial discretionary funds and support of local relief and service agencies. And, from what I hear, the response has been generous. Many congregations are holding support groups for the recently unemployed. One congregation has decided to refund this year’s contributions to any pledging members who experience sudden unemployment.

Ownership of Stewardship Responsibility

From Marjorie P., Stewardship Committee (367-member congregation): What are some suggestions for stimulating more generous giving and more active ownership of stewardship responsibility by board members?

Jeter: I have been amazed to find that some of our board members are among the more reluctant givers. In my opinion, this is an unacceptable situation and one which must be addressed by leadership. Professional staff can make it plain as to the importance board participation but ultimately it is up to the elected leadership to inspire others to join them.

Encouraging Givers in the Middle

Maureen H., Executive Director (409-member congregation): What are some strategies we can use to encourage givers in the middle of the bell curve to increase their gifts, if they are able?

Jeter: The most effective way to reach givers is the one on one conversation. We have found, again according to expert advice (e.g., Durall and others), that appealing to members’ connection with and expectations of the church is infinitely more productive than asking them to support giving for any tangible purpose such as a new furnace or a new roof. The fundamental challenge that we face is to raise the level of giving and generosity in general and to escape the prison of scarcity. We find that this is best done by asking for a percentage of household income and to keep constantly before the members the value of the community that they’re creating here.

Members Who Don't Pledge

Thea, Stewardship Co-Chair (209-member congregation): What percentage of UU members join our Fellowships and do NOT pledge at all? What is the "industry average" (i.e. across denominations)? How can we reduce that number?

Terry: I suspect Wayne Clark and his team of consultants may have collected some information on this, but what I know is that the percentage of non-pledging members is lower in congregations that deal with money in new member orientation.

Theme Ideas

 From Trish (203-member congregation) and Carol: What are some stewardship campaign themes ideas and creative ways congregations can kick off their campaigns?

Jeter: There are a number of themes suggested on the UUA website which are searchable in the various lists service for finances, money, etc. These are great resources which are often overlooked by those of us planning stewardship campaigns.

Using the Internet for Fundraising

Jean B., Incoming President (145-member congregation): Can you address the use of the Internet and website for fundraising?

Jeter: In the course of our campaigns, we use a combination of the emails and information posted on our website. We try to make sure that pledge forms are available to download and that information about the progress of our campaign is kept current. We have also used merged email with personalized information to encourage members to get their pledges in or to consider increases. Again, this is not a primary method of solicitation but is useful in follow-up and emphasizing the need to respond to the campaign.

We have used Vanco Services for our bank drafts for a number of years and have recently added their website donation feature. While we have not been overwhelmed with new donations made in this way, we find that the ability to make a donation online is becoming more and more an expected feature of any fund-raising effort. And, to be sure, we have received a number of dollars that we would not have received any of her way. The link to make a donation is posted on our website, is included in our emails and is generally available in every way that we can think of.

For more information contact apf @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, July 14, 2011.

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