March 14, 2019

Anxiety in Fundraising

Anxiety is a constant in leadership roles and in congregations who are stretching to accomplish something worthwhile. If there isn’t some anxiety, you likely didn’t reach far enough.

A great way to deal with anxiety is to bring it into the open – expect anxiety, and ensure concerns and ideas continue to be heard. Common worries include:

  • everyone worries about political and economic uncertainty; a constant in modern times - leadership worries that they'll be tarred by the failure of a capital campaign
  • parishioners worry that no one else will "step up" as fully as they have
  • parishioners worry that they have been led into a financial folly by a minority or leader
  • parishioners worry that if they stretch too far, they will fall short on other desires or needs

Some antidotes for these worries include:

  • spend the time for consensus to form around a common vision in the Discernment process
  • leverage the information gathered in a Feasibility Study, sharing to instill confidence
  • be confident - recruit volunteers and schedule new ministry activities that will be enabled
  • invite volunteers into all aspects of the project so that it becomes even more OUR project
  • continue to communicate; update the congregation on status often, share everything
  • have a contingency plan for if funding falls short – which projects delay or change

It is also important to acknowledge when real limitations exist. Each type of fundraising is different, the overall economy, taxes and individual situations change. While parish leadership can provide some guidance, parishioners should also seek professional advice.

  • Annual Funds / Stewardship often comes from cash flow or income – so unemployment or loss of business or extraordinary personal expenses affect these gifts.
  • Capital Funds often come from savings or assets – so interest rates, stock market performance, etc. affect how people fund gifts. If there is worry about the future, it often makes sense to accelerate gifts before market impacts, or to make gifts from asset segments not affected. For example, if stocks crash, bonds or cash may be a better source.
  • Endowment Funds often come from estates – timing is uncertain, though there are many tax advantaged mechanisms to accelerate gifts from estates even while living. Consider appointing a Planned Giving Shepherd and/or create a Legacy Society.

I know if you believe in your vision and follow the prescription to limit anxiety above, people will rise above most adversity to deliver incredible results.

The original text of this article has been edited to reflect ECF's current programs.