Where to Draw the Line on Fundraising

Q. We're concerned about all the ways that members are getting asked for money at church. There are the musicians that bring tapes, Girl/Boy Scouts/school fundraisers, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the collection plate, the service auction, regular/capital pledges, a church used book sale, youth group fundraisers, the spring and fall church rummage sale, plus other occasional items. Where do you draw the line? I guess I'm especially interested in the kids who run up with pleading eyes asking you to buy popcorn or cookies or pizza on behalf of their schools.

A. "At the Uintarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA (870), all fundraisers must be approved in advance by the board, which has largely delegated the function to the finance committee," says Steve Owen. "The general guideline is that the fundraiser to be approved be unlikely to hurt the operating pledge drive, or compete with the major church fundraising events."

"Generally, the appealing kids are out of luck. The Finance Committee turned down Girl Scout cookie sales," says Owen, "on the basis that there are so many similar sales projects—Boy Scouts, soccer teams, school bands, etc., that it's impossible to draw a nonarbitrary line."

Beverly Moore, at First Unitarian Church, Louisville, KY (261), believes in offering many financial choices. "A frequent response to the plethora of fundraisers is a fear that people are being asked too much." However, in the book 44 Ways to Expand the Financial Base of Your Congregation, Lyle Schaller points out that many congregations have found that the more choices people have to give (or spend) money the more they will give and it is likely to raise other participation as well. He says that people deserve the choices to give to causes they choose. However, I would look carefully at fundraising that goes to another entity than one's church.

About the Author

  • Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

For more information contact interconnections@uua.org.

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