January 7, 2014

Attitude Adjustment

The Power of Community in Fundraising – it is NOT about the Money!

In previous blogs, I wrote about how fundraising is ministry. (If you missed them, you can find them here). Even in the preparation for fundraising, parishes can be strengthened and communities energized through this life giving work. ECF Capital Campaign consultant, Andi Tillman tells the following story:

“Once there was church in Long Island. They had been extremely blessed with the opportunity to build their church in a wonderful old stone school building the county was getting rid of it. For years they needed basic repairs and maintenance, yet kept putting them off, telling themselves a story of insufficient resources.

"Then God gifted them with a part-time assistant pastor who had worked with a consultant in 2008 - the hardest point in the economic crash. Her previous parish had not only reached their goals but converted several curmudgeons to passionate service. She relayed that experience to this group, and they reluctantly invited me to make a presentation one cold rainy night.

"This community was thinking small. They were only considering the most basic and fundamental needs for maintenance and function because of their perceived lack of resources. They were dark, skeptical, and fearful. I could see a group of great and dedicated hearts, and remembered the saying 'A cynic is just a passionate person who does not want to be disappointed one more time.'

"When I asked what they needed, they responded, “We need at least $60,000!” stressing the figure as though it was a desperately impossible task. Now, this was a church with a Pledge and Plate of about $130,000 per year. I told them that based on that amount, if they followed the process and engaged their community, as they considered their projects at this early stage they should be thinking in terms of at least $250,000.

"They literally guffawed – well some grumbled. It was a clear case of complete disbelief.

"So, I asked them to take money out of the equation and instead to tell me if they had a feeling what God was calling them to do as a church. They immediately lit up. The group was very proud and aware of the many ministries and outreach they performed well. And, they were especially proud of their role in the local community.

"So, I asked them to see if the congregation agreed, encouraging them to invite members to participate in a dream catching process, asking folks in different ministry groups and the congregation what they thought God was calling them to do, and what was missing or in their way about their church to get there.

"This group went full out, with 15 people getting involved right away to do this work, forming a communication team for the first time ever. In the end, they collected over 500 dreams, and hired an architect draw up renovation plans to support their work and ministries (how far they had moved beyond their initial request to fund desperate deferred maintenance!)

"After this time of discernment, we tested to see what resources were available in the parish. We learned through the feasibility study that they could raise $405,000!!!

"In the end almost 40 people were directly involved. The church not only did the maintenance, and significant renovations and beautifications, but they replaced their ancient boiler – a project they learned the congregation was MOST supportive of, but they thought would have to wait 10 years!

A $150,000 gift was provided because the group listened and responded to an elderly woman’s request for a sink sprayer. It took 30 minutes and $11.63 to do something this woman had been asking for for 30 years!

"Several new ministries were identified and created during this time. One of the most important was a dying support group that is thriving today. The congregation cleared an overgrown softball field and re-started a league for families. Their youth group, which drew 75% NON-member kids from 4 surrounding counties, also got space to do work in.

"Through the process they achieved such a sense of togetherness, fun, and empowerment that they did not even want to separate the initial committee to make separate asks. So most of the congregation came to one big beautiful party on Long Island sound – all dressed up and eating fine food - and raised $397,000 in one evening while singing and eating all dressed up together!

"Many commented on the sense of community that had grown through out the process, and the new appreciation they had for one another’s talents and commitment.

"Best of all was the incredible change in the energy and the feel of the place when you walked in.

"The parish went from hopeless and cloudy (as the night of the presentation) to energized and filled with bright faces, pride and vitality…it felt renovated even before the work had begun!"