October 23, 2017

Three Types of Giving, part 2

This is part two of a two part blog in which I address a question I hear frequently: “But, what will happen to our annual stewardship pledging if we hold a capital campaign? Won’t it go down? We can’t afford to have our annual stewardship pledging decrease!” This fear is common among so many congregations because, often, adequate time has not been spent talking and educating about the different ways we can give to the church.

In part one, I addressed annual stewardship. In part two, I will address capital giving and planned giving.

Capital Giving

Capital campaigns come along much less frequently – every five, ten, or more years. (I had one congregation tell me that they had not conducted a capital campaign in over 60 years!) The reason is that capital campaigns identify and raise funds for an extraordinary project or projects. Perhaps the roof needs replacing, a new building must be built, the organ needs replacing, a new ministry or staff position requires seed funding, the endowment must be established or increased, or debt must be reduced. All are viable projects for a capital campaign.

In making a pledge to the capital campaign, individuals are asked to make a pledge above and beyond their annual stewardship pledge, which means that people often give from their assets to the church. These pledges are to be fulfilled in a longer amount of time that the annual stewardship pledge, as well; often the pledge pay-out period is 2-5 years, though some households choose to give a lump sum contribution.

To continue the story, once we talked about the various types of projects that could be included in a capital campaign and that the large, extraordinary investments made at that time can help a congregation to live more fully into what God is calling them to do and be in this world, there was palpable excitement in the room. Talking and educating about the types of fundraising had begun to transform fear into possibility!

Capital Giving Cheat Sheet:

  • What: written pledge for a specific financial contribution
  • When: once every five, ten, or more years
  • Why: to fund a specific (set of) extraordinary project(s)
  • How much: it is reasonable to ask for as much as 2-3 times an individual household annual stewardship pledge; often gifts come from assets, not income

Planned Giving

Planned gifts are gifts made out of one’s estate, often given to the church at the end of one’s life. (ECF has wonderful resources for beginning or bolstering a planned giving program!) Consulting an attorney and/or financial advisor, individuals can include the church in their wills, donate the balance of 401(k) accounts or life insurance policies, give real property, or use other types of sophisticated giving tools to contribute.

Individuals will more than likely only make one planned gift to the church, at the end of his or her life, so it is also called “end of life giving.”

Returning to the story, this is a way of giving that I am excited to bring more prominently into the conversations of this church. As we talked more about planned giving, another parishioner spoke up to remind everyone that they already had a small endowment funded by a gift to maintain the beautiful garden pathway on the church’s grounds. Someone has already started to “pave the way,” so to speak, for a planned giving initiative! Now it will be up to church leaders to intentionally promote it as a way for all to leave a legacy and financially support the parish beyond their life on earth.

Planned Giving Cheat Sheet:

  • What: pledge made to the church using legal documents under the advice of attorneys and/or financial advisors
  • When: end of life (most often)
  • Why: the ensure the sustained health of the congregation after one has passed away
  • How much: individuals can leave percentages or fixed sums of any amount

The idea of the three-legged stool is that if you take away any one leg of the stool, it will no longer stand. Now, while your church may still “stand” on one or two of these legs, is it as stable without three even, sturdy legs? No. We (all Episcopal leaders, not just the “experts”!) must preach and teach about all three types of giving in the life of a vital congregation, at the optimal season in the life of the church.

Back to the beginning… The answer to the questions that concerned parishioner (who turned out to be a diligent member of the stewardship committee!) posed in the beginning of the article is that if we (the campaign leadership from your parish supported by me, your ECF capital campaign consultant) are communicating effectively the difference between annual stewardship and capital campaign pledges and what they accomplish in the life of the church, people will keep their annual stewardship pledge steady year-over-year – or even grow it! – while giving an additional gift to the capital campaign if they are able. They might even feel so connected to the future of the congregation that they make a planned gift in their estate plans, to boot!

Simply spending five minutes talking about the three legs of the giving stool at that church last weekend has begun to deepen that congregation’s understanding of the ways they can support their beloved parish now and into the future, whether or not they discern that now is the “right” time for a capital campaign. With the intentional implementation of processes and programs for each of the three types of giving, they will see an even more financially stable and united faith community in years to come!