Running an “Annual Stewardship Campaign” is like taking your normal offertory and enrolling it at a local gym and getting it a personal trainer. Stewardship campaigns can significantly increase the amount of revenue that comes in through the offertory by combining different strategies to encourage people to give.
The basic structure of the Stewardship Campaign is not new. I’m not sure which came first historically, but it is very similar to the annual fundraising campaign that practically every United Way across the United States does every year. The model has been adapted to the special needs and environment of the Church.
A focus on stewardship
When running an Annual Stewardship Campaign, the focus is more on the ‘why’ than on the ‘how’ or the ‘what’. Having a stewardship focus as a parish means that you are intentionally teaching your parishioners to be good stewards of the gifts that God has given them.
‘Time, Talent, and Treasure’ form the core ask of the Stewardship campaign. There’s a reason for this. The ‘Stewardship’ perspectives sees everything as a gift from God. The Stewardship Campaign seeks to engage every element of each person’s life.
A Stewardship Committee
Annual Stewardship Campaigns take too much time for a Pastor to handle alone. So parishes that use the campaign model recruit parishioners to help manage the details of the campaign. This core group of ‘stewards’ will have a huge impact on whether your campaign is a success or not.
A specific and brief time frame
Nothing kills a campaign like running on and on. Like a marathon that stretches beyond mile 26, the longer the campaign season lasts, the more likely the parish will collapse before it hits the finish line.
When you’re running a stewardship campaign, materials can range from very simple to very complex. On the simple side would be pledge cards placed in the pews during the campaign season. On the complex side, personalized pledge cards that are mailed to every registered household. You’ll also want displays for the Narthex (posters and banners) that tell people who it is Stewardship Campaign Season. You can and should include your $$ goal as well as you ‘why’ for your campaign.
Preaching and Volunteer Testimonials
One reason parishes do a Stewardship Campaign is that it sets up a season during the year where they feel comfortable talking about money and getting involved. It would be too much if you did it year round, but if you do it during a set focused time period, people are willing to listen. Preachers and pastors have the responsibility to teach the parish about good giving practices, but should do so in a way that gets people excited about giving to God’s Kingdom. One way to do this is to have parishioners share testimonials at the end of mass about how important the stewardship way of life is to them and how fruitful their giving to the Church has been.
Whenever you ask people for money and they respond, you need to thank them. It is just common courtesy, and it is especially important in fundraising. A printed note or card is not terribly expensive, and can have a big impact on donor satisfaction.
In the more comprehensive versions of the Annual Stewardship Campaign, phone volunteers have been used to follow-up with people who have not completed their pledge cards. Some people might think that this approach is too aggressive, so it’s very important that you have volunteers with a gentle phone manner who don’t think that they’re doing a ‘hard sell’.
Kick-off and Closing events
The primary ‘ask’ in an annual stewardship campaign is the pledge card, so events are just to add some fun and zip to the process. Celebrating meeting your big goal is a fun way to close things up and can be done in a way that appropriate to the time of the liturgical year.