Planned Parenthood Doesn’t Do Bake Sales. Or, Why the Church is Losing the Culture War.
As a fundraiser, I constantly try to educate myself on the best ways to raise money. I read books and blogs constantly, and I’m also part of a couple of professional associations that offer expert advice and support peer-to-peer exchanges on best practices.
It’s not infrequent that I come across a post by a professional fundraiser employed by Planned Parenthood. They are not holding bake sales. They are doing sophisticated prospect research and major gifts development. They know who to ask, what to ask for, and they are doing it. Not only are they asking for money, they are asking their donors to get involved, to advocate for their cause, to become activists.
Or they’re doing advanced computer modeling of their annual donors, identifying donors who are likely to respond to a request for increased giving or monthly recurring giving. And they use artificial intelligence and statistical analysis to increase the amount of donations they get for the money they spend.
They know they are in the business of raising money, and they are using the best tools available to make it happen.
Why are we (the Church) getting crushed in the culture war?
Money is one of the primary weapons that is being used to fight this culture war. Money buys advertising, produces media, pays salaries for staff members who are actively engaged in promoting a vision of humanity. Most local Planned Parenthoods have a marketing department and a marketing budget. How many churches have paid evangelists on staff (besides the pastor)? I’ve encountered… zero.
The churches that I’ve encountered are not on the attack in the culture war. In terms of their fundraising, most are trying to figure out how they are going to stay afloat. They are not thinking about ways to spend their surplus dollars to build a culture of life. They have no surplus dollars. They are trying to keep the lights on or pave a parking lot.
It was not always so. The Catholic churches, schools, and hospitals that are closing all over country were not built by the wealthy (for the most part). They were built by a ragtag bunch of scrappy immigrant Catholics who ignored institutional persecution (like laws prohibiting Catholics from holding public office), and went ahead and did what the Gospel commanded them to do. They gave to the Church so they could worship God in a way that is fitting to His eternal glory, feed the poor, clothe the naked, house orphans, and heal the sick.
What’s Our Mission?
Our mission is to make disciples of the nations, baptizing them into the mystical life of the Church, and teaching them to live the Gospel. Doing this will require resources, and bake sales are just not going to cut it.
Jesus said, “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” (Luke 16:8) Planned Parenthood’s sophisticated fundraising apparatus is an evidence of this scriptural truth.
Prudence is the virtue that enables us to choose the best course of action when seeking a specific outcome. In order to turn the tide of the culture war, we will need both resources and the people that come with them.
Prudence speaks to us. “Learn what is good in the actions of your enemies so you can combat that which is evil.” Our opponents have legions of EVILangelists, who are proclaiming the false doctrines of the supremacy of “choice” and freedom unbounded by good and evil. Where are our legions of evangelists to take the field of battle? How will we supply them?
Ask and You Shall Receive, and Vice Versa.
If you don’t ask, you won’t receive. If you don’t seek, you won’t find. If you don’t knock, the door will remain closed. If we’re driven by the bake sale mentality, we are going to be scraping together quarters and dollars to do battle with a culture of death that is bringing in $5,000, $10,000, or bigger gifts from major gift solicitations.
What are some ways we can turn the tide? Here are some starting points.
- The first way that we can begin is by focusing at the parish level on tithing. God makes plain in the scriptures that the tithe is holy, and that He pours out blessings from heaven when we respond to His command to tithe. Before Vatican II, tithing was a very common practice among Catholics. Tithes built those beautiful churches, schools, and hospitals that are now being demolished. Nowadays, tithing is never discussed, save in that small minority of parishes that has embraced a stewardship way of life. Read more about tithing here.
- The second way we can do battle is through personal ministry fundraising. This means that individual lay people ask for direct support for their own personal apostolate. The recent SEEK Conference sponsored by Focus Ministries provided an excellent guide for how to ask friends, neighbors, and the parish for support to attend the conference. Focus also requires their missionaries to raise their own annual salaries. This type of fundraising also has a scriptural foundation. When Jesus sent out His disciples, He sent them with nothing so they would have to ask for a place to stay and food to eat in each town where they proclaimed the kingdom. The Apostles were all practiced in the art of fundraising. Read more about personal ministry fundraising here.
- A third way, and perhaps the most powerful, is that parishes need to begin to invest in professional fundraising staff to coordinate all of this activity and drive major gifts fundraising. In most parishes that I’ve encountered, the fundraising is the responsibility of the parish secretary, or maybe a part time volunteer. Fundraising is a special skill set, and people who do it well need to be hired and payed a decent salary. I raise about $10 for every $1 I cost the Food Bank. Can you imagine an investment that would give you $10 for every $1 you invest, and do that every year? Good fundraising is about the best investment that a church could make. Read more about major gift fundraising here.
Keep Victory in Mind.
As we’re thinking about how to win this war against the culture of death, we have to keep in mind what victory looks like. We don’t want to destroy our enemies. We want to love them. We want to convert them. We want to do what God has called us to do so well that the light of the Gospel dispels the darkness of sin and error. We want them to repent and be saved.
Victory looks a lot like Mary Magdalene.
May God bless you in the coming fundraising year, as you bear arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them.
Would you like to learn more about raising money for Church and Ministry? Check out Letters From The Almoner, now available on Amazon.com. Image is The Siege of Jasna Gora by January Suchodolski, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, via Public Domain, no rights reserved.