October 10, 2017
Asking – and Asking Rightly
My brother is very careful about money. Prudent, frugal, penny-pinching. He married a Roman Catholic woman right after graduating from Indiana University, and, after about 25 years, he converted. Their younger son is now a Roman Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
A few years ago the Archdiocese was doing a major capital fund drive. My brother, knowing he would be visited, had given careful, prudent thought to what he might agree to contribute. When he told me the story, he said, “When they came for the visit, they mentioned a number that was far more – far more – than what I had been thinking.”
“So what did you do?” I asked.
“Well, I gave it,” he said.
The number may have been more than he was thinking, but it was certainly not an impossible number. In fact, it is a sign of disrespect to ask someone to give far less than they could or to say something wishy-washy like, “Whatever you feel like doing.” Nothing feels better than giving a gift to someone or something you love, and it is an important part of a capital campaign to give people the opportunity to learn that they can be as generous as they have always wanted to be.
However, we must ask rightly. The Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) has a 3 phase methodology that includes a third phase of solicitation consulting. During this phase, the gift evaluation meeting is an opportunity for the rector, perhaps another lay leader, and the ECF consultant meet to figure out the number we will ask each parishioner to consider as the level of their gift to the campaign. This is the occasion to make sure we ask rightly.
In one parish the Senior Warden was the development officer for a local college. She and I went through the parish list at the gift evaluation meeting. The parishioners ended up pledging 97% of what we had set as the target.
It is amazing, if you have prepared carefully and asked rightly, how frequently people will do exactly what you ask them to do. And they will feel great as they do it.