During late April and early May of this year, the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving conducted the survey “Faith and Giving in the Time of COVID-19.” Respondents included clergy and lay leaders, staff from the judicatory level, nonprofit executives and development professionals. More than half of the participants expressed the opinion that the greatest challenge over the next six months will be on issues of stewardship – fundraising and financial management.
Now most congregations are preparing to launch their annual stewardship campaigns, while dealing with the current financial challenges. We all know that even when we are able to once again have in-person meetings, we will be living a ‘new normal’ — not returning to the normal of pre-pandemic life.
How does one prepare for a stewardship campaign under current conditions? As Disciples of Christ, we are called to serve and to give generously. For this reason, consider the following:
Pay attention to your mindset
Are you living in survival mode with stress, anxiety and depression? Or, are you cultivating a culture of generosity and gratitude? As a congregation, what financial, facility, intellectual and human assets can you offer?
Educate and prepare
Are you talking about stewardship only during your campaign or are you teaching it throughout the year? How is church leadership involved with and supporting the stewardship campaign? Is there a stewardship committee in place?
Strengthen your community
Are you a congregation in which people feel welcomed, cared for, and connected? Are you encouraging a sense of community, even when you can only have virtual meetings? Are you aware of people’s needs and personal situations? Are people struggling financially or feeling isolated? Are you checking in on each other? Are you celebrating anniversaries, birthdays, and graduations together even if only via Zoom?
Focus on your vision and mission
For what purpose has God called your congregation to be here? Whom do you serve? What ministries are you offering your community? Are you caring for the children? Are you mentoring youth? Are you helping the homeless? Are you feeding the hungry? Are you in partnership with other organizations to meet your community’s needs? People will not be interested in giving to your annual stewardship campaign simply to maintain your building or make loan or utilities payments. But, if you show them what a great ministry the church is doing, they will be enthusiastic about providing resources that make a difference in people’s lives.
Plan the use of your resources
How will your stewardship campaign funds be used? What are the priorities of your congregation? Are there established ministries that need to end? Are there new ministries that need to start or expand? For example, is now the right time to expand your food and pantry ministry? How about holding workshops to help people find jobs?
Consistently communicate your vision, mission, and ministry
Can anyone check out your website and social media platforms? Can they be invited to your video conferences? Do you make your e-newsletters, emails, and testimonials easily available? Can people contact you or those with whom you work? For instance, can potential donors learn directly from school staff that your resources helped students get school supplies? The goal here is to have everyone in the congregation share your mission and priorities without hesitation.
Provide different ways to make contributions
In addition to receiving offerings by mail or scheduling in-person drop-off appointments, consider online and text giving. You can also look into the options of giving through a mobile app or of automatic withdrawals made directly from bank accounts.
Be grateful and celebrate
Celebrate God who gives us comfort and strength to move forward. Celebrate those have quietly sacrificed to care for the friends, neighbors and strangers both inside and outside of your congregation. Have virtual parties to highlight the generosity of those who served on the stewardship committee and those who gave generously to your campaign. Be sure to send emails or thank you notes.
For a printable handout of these suggestions, please click here.
Finally, the theologian Henri Nouwen reminds us that “Every time I take a step in the direction of generosity, I know I am moving from fear to love.” As followers of Christ, we are generous because we recognize that “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”[i]
Rev. Rosario Ibarra provides congregations with culturally relevant strategic planning, building planning, capital fundraising, and loan and investment services. Her fiscal expertise is geared toward meeting congregational building planning and funding needs, for both Spanish and English-speaking congregations. Rosario grew up in Lima, Peru, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. She went on to receive a Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California and work in the fields of public relations and finance. Rosario lives in Los Angeles, CA, serving congregations in the western United States (including Hawaii and Alaska).
For 137 years, DCEF has offered mission-driven building and capital planning services to congregations and organizations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. Together with our investors and partners, we are Disciples helping Disciples.