March 9, 2023

Four Principles of Pastoral Fundraising

Fundraising is on the long list of things that I never learned anything about in seminary. Or, so I would have told you several years ago. My congregation’s recent fundraising experiences have taught me that I learned a lot about fundraising in seminary, because the principles of effective pastoral fundraising are the same as the principles of effective pastoral care that I learned in seminary and that I continue to hone today.

Principle 1: Focus on the needs of the other person.

Effective pastors know how to keep the conversation focused on the other person, they know how to listen more than they speak, they know how to tolerate silence, and they know how to refrain from judgment. Effective pastoral fundraisers should display the same characteristics. Effective pastoral fundraising is not focused on the church, but on the giver. The goal is to make the giver feel good about her gift, and to create an opportunity for her to impact the future of her church.

Principle 2: You are the only one feeling awkward.

Pastoral fundraising is not a coercive experience. If you’ve been honest with the people you are going to visit, then they know why you are coming – and they still invited you! And, if you’ve done your homework, you are going to ask them for an amount of money that it would be reasonable for them to consider giving. Any sense of awkwardness is most likely in the heart of the asker, not the giver.

Principle 3: Meet your parishioners where they are.

People give for different reasons, and effective pastoral fundraisers need to respect that aspect of their congregation’s diversity in the same way that they respect every other aspect of their congregation’s diversity. Some people give to the church because proportional giving is part of their spiritual discipline. Other people give because they want to advance the church as a community institution. Still other people give with an eye towards achieving particular outcomes. Language about tithing will not be persuasive to someone who wants to invest in the future of the institution. And, language about institutional sustainability will not move the heart of someone who wants to see concrete outcomes. Effective pastoral fundraisers meet parishioners where they are, even as they invite parishioners into deeper levels of devotion and greater levels of generosity.

Principle 4: Believe in God and in the church.

Jesus’ Great Commission is all that distinguishes the church from the constellation of other well-intentioned non-profit organizations in the community. Effective pastoral fundraisers need to be seen as people who have faith in God and faith in the bright future that God has in store for the church. No one wants to support an institution whose best days are behind it, or whose leaders fail to own its core principles.