March 10, 2016

Discovering a Sense of the Future

Why do relatively few parishes mount capital campaigns or have planned giving programs?

Well, it is very difficult to work toward a goal you don’t think is possible. It is impossible to work toward a goal you don’t even believe exists.

The leaders of most parishes are consumed with the difficulty of funding the operation from month to month, year to year. With the strong cultural headwinds that face institutional religion today, many leaders have lost touch with the idea that God wants a long-term future for their parishes, and that they have a role in bringing that future to birth.

Capital campaigns and especially planned giving efforts grow out of a sense that we have a future for which we need to prepare.

We mount a capital campaign because we want to maintain and update our facilities so that they can support future ministry possibilities. Capital campaigns are forward-looking, even if most of the projects have to deal with deferred maintenance.

Planned giving is even more concerned with funding the future ministry of the parish. If we think about it for just a second, we realize that it makes no sense to ask a parishioner to leave a bequest to the parish so we can use it to plug a hole in that year’s operating budget. Treating a bequest that way undermines your future planned giving efforts. Why would anyone leave you money if that’s what you plan to do with it?

Take a lesson from universities and other not-for-profits. The only credible planned giving pitch promises that donor that their gift will be added to an endowment so that the income from the gift can help propel the organization forward for years to come.

So think about it. Raise your eyes from the urgency of the now, and ask yourself: do I think my parish has a future? You may discover in yourself the conviction that yes, despite the current challenges, I do think God wants to give my parish a future. If that is how you and other leaders feel, then you will be able to start planning for the long-term. You can start cooperating with God to bring about the future God wants your parish to have.

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