Congregation in “Rust Belt” Increases Pledges 30%
You don’t have to be in a growing area to see growth and vitality in your congregation. What you do need is energy, focus and a strong sense of purpose. Recently, Andy Crabb, the President of the First Unitarian Church of Youngstown, OH, posted how his congregation had a significant increase in pledges this past Fall. -Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Primary Contact
The First Unitarian of Youngstown, Ohio just had our pledge drive in the fall and got an almost 30% increase in pledges.
We are going to present a balanced budget at our congregational meeting later this month. The keys for us were to have an integrated pledge program and to be as transparent as possible about what we were spending money on and why we wanted more. That doesn’t mean we buried people in financial details, but rather that we explained key points:
- that we wanted to increase our UUA contribution to be closer to fair share,
- that we wanted to have more hours for our office administrator to do the routine communication tasks that everyone asks of her,
- that we wanted to continue to support involvement in community activities,
- that we want to give raises to our staff (including our new, freshly ordained minister) so they see that we have a viable career path for them,
- that we need to operate the building, and
- that we have had shortfalls for the past several years that required late year special appeals and we don’t want to have to do that anymore.
Anyone who wants financial details can have them, but most people don’t need or want them, at least at first, so we didn’t bury them with numbers.
One of our stewardship co-chairs is a new member and she observed that we never talked about money when she first came to us. We’ve changed that. We now bring it up regularly as a fact of life. Again, transparency is the key. No one is trying to get away with anything or trick anyone or be cute about pledging. We all want to see UUYO do well and we are being clear and open about what it takes to make all of the things that we came to UUYO to do, happen.
Key elements of our Stewardship Campaign:
- We had a plan and a financial goal before the campaign started.
- We made a brochure that focused on what we do and why, then stated the costs and the income needs. We spent a little bit ($200 or so) to print up a very nice, quality color 11x17 single fold brochure with lots of relevant pictures and mission stories that really impress.
- During the stewardship drive, we had a special dinner for our biggest givers to thank them and encourage increased giving, especially to help bridge the gap until newer members can reach higher giving levels.
- We personally contacted and where possible met with all other members to review our plans and clearly state our financial plan and goals.
- We promoted automatic giving as a prominent part of our pledge campaign with great success (we use Vanco).
Stewardship is integrated into the life of the congregation by:
- Having an active membership program for new members that gets them involved right away and that presents the same information as we give our members about money.
- Having active worship associates and hospitality teams with broad participation to keep all members involved and feeling connected to and invested in our vitality as a group and promoting this in the pledge campaign.
- Making as many opportunities as possible for members to do things and feel connected to and valued by the church because that is how people come to where they want to give to and support the church.
- Looking for where we had entrenched individuals and/or groups always doing “everything” and bring new people in to help.
- Separating “governance” activities from “mission” activities. Both are necessary, but most people came to us for “mission” activities, so we focus on making sure there are plenty of them and keep “governance” to just where it is really needed.
- Creating opportunities to learn leadership skills. These are valuable in all aspects of our lives and provide great opportunities for personal growth and enrichment of our lives.
In closing - it seems to me that whether we do year-round-pledging or all at once pledging, closely tying the pledge campaign with the members and the activities of the church is critical for the success of the pledge drive. If the pledge drive doesn’t clearly tie to the mission and activities of the church, it will be less effective because the connection with the members and what brought them to UUYO is what really made the pledge campaign a success for us.
-Andy Crabb, President, First Unitarian Church of Youngstown, OH. (UUYO)