We aren’t really post-pandemic (the children still need to be vaccinated) but we are looking at a set of realties very different than where we were a year ago. As we emerge into this hard to define time-period, I hope that this article will help you and your leadership team imagine the best ways to connect with your parish and engage your parishioners around stewardship.
Stewardship Through Connection
The tactics described below will help your stewardship campaign. More importantly, they will ensure you have connected with as many people in your congregation as possible. No stewardship campaign should be solely focused on raising funds, ever. After the year we have experienced, it is vital that our first outreach be about the parishioner—NOT about the institution.
With the isolation we have all experienced, this phase of life likely calls for an Every Member Canvass approach. In this style of campaign, the congregation is divided into groups, each with an appointed stewardship leader. The leader is then responsible for contacting the people in their small group and asking directly for their financial support and for their vocal support of the congregational leaders to move the campaign forward.
It’s no surprise that this is the model people are flocking to! Many of us have been using varieties of small groups during the pandemic. I’ve heard of countless phone tree groups, support and prayer groups, and small groups for in-person worship in parks and in parking lots. These groups already exist, and they likely already have a respected leader. Your job is to connect with that leader and—through them—with the rest of their small group. In other words, utilize the small groups already happening, rather than trying to make new groups.
If you haven’t used small groups, then try to identify the groups that have formed naturally. When doing this, it’s also time to figure out who was left out of those naturally-formed groups. How can those who have been left out be integrated into small groups and included in what happens next?
Move Beyond Email
Email alone is not going to break through the noise this year. People are burnt out on electric communication. Of course, having an online giving platform is essential to stewardship, but doing an email-based campaign alone won’t bear the fruit you need. Handwritten letters are cherished. In my own role at the Episcopal Church Foundation, I’m embracing the handwritten letter campaign in order to reach our supporters. Real mail with a personal touch feels powerful in the midst of all this distancing. Better than a letter, what about a letter and a bit of a care package? Get masks made with your parish logo on it. Or send something to help with at home formation. Anything that feels personal and helpful will create a connection. If you can, have your small group leaders organize this so that you aren’t writing too many letters. This would also be a great opportunity for your vestry to be involved.
Once those amazing personal notes arrive at your parishioners’ homes, it’s time to start making calls. Your small group leaders or your vestry once again can help alleviate the load. The point is that before you start asking everyone to give money, make sure that you are hearing from the parish. There aren’t as many people who can walk by you on the way out of church and update you on what’s going on. Fewer people are swinging by the parish office in the middle of the week and “happening” to run into you. It’s important to give the parish the chance to send feedback up the chain.
Every Gift is a Major Gift
Nothing here is earth-shattering. It’s actually the backbone of a major gifts approach for capital campaigns. Every gift is a major gift. Every single nonprofit on Earth is worried about raising needed funds. In order to break through all of that, use the tools at your disposal and leverage your strengths. Your biggest strength is the sure knowledge that God is in this somewhere and that you have created a community with a shared passion for God.