February 4, 2014

Culture and How We Give

I once was asked to do an annual giving workshop at a parish which housed both an Anglo congregation and a Hispanic congregation. Viewed as two separate entities, there was concern about the lack of pledges submitted by those who attended the service spoken in Spanish.

The workshop was held on a sunny morning---primarily attended by those expressing concern from the Anglo congregation. I heard messages such as “there seems to be a lack of education around giving in the other congregation” and “I don`t think they realize how much is needed to keep our building afloat.”

While I was listening to their concerns, I heard the sound of shovels, men’s voices, and subsequent digging. Five men and their sons from the Spanish speaking service were landscaping the church’s front yard, using materials they had purchased and donating their time.

The irony was not lost on me. 

It begs the question, how does culture impact how and what we give? What are we willing to let go in our process and take on from others?

I was working with a different parish in a primarily blue-collar suburb. This parish struggled each year with pledging until the rector made an important discovery. Used to budgeting weekly, his parishioners felt uncomfortable with filling out a pledge card with monthly or annual amounts. His parishioners needed pledge cards and envelopes to reflect their weekly budgeting needs otherwise they didn`t feel as though they could commit to a gift. 

If we consider fundraising as a ministry, our responsibility then becomes learning how to meeting our friends and fellow parishioners’ particular needs. Instead of expecting our donors to conform to rigid practices, how can we stretch ourselves to make it an easier/more joy filled process to give?