Stewardship and Abundance
12 Steps to Successful Stewardship
How are you managing your Annual Stewardship Campaign this fall? It’s one of the major program areas of the church that is significantly impacted by the new ways we are operating in the pandemic. Your campaign takes on added significance because, let’s face it, your church still needs money.
In my work in church stewardship and development, I have learned that there are some key concepts for the creation and operation of a solid and successful stewardship campaign. I consider them foundational, especially in times of transition. Here they are with some ideas that I hope will help spark your creativity and planning.
1. It’s all about relationships
Strong stewardship programs are built on vibrant relationships – our relationship with God, our church and each other. People give when they are connected to each other, to the mission of the church and to God. We need to nurture these relationships all year long. Don’t give people the opportunity to say, “my church only calls me when they want money.” Develop a plan to touch base with all your members several times a year. This can be by phone, cards, emails and in person. Say thank you, again and again, and especially immediately after receiving a pledge. Have a phone thank-a-thon for simply checking in with people and saying thank you. (Don’t ask for anything.)
2. It’s about prayer, individual and collective
Write a stewardship prayer for your church. Create and distribute materials that support members’ prayer lives. Set up and encourage small prayer groups online. Include families with children in these efforts.
3. Cast a vision for the upcoming year
A year from now, where do you want to be? It should be vibrant and hopeful. Keep it short so that people can remember and repeat it. Splash it on all your materials, print and digital. Donors give to causes that engage them and make them feel that their money, time and talent are being well invested.
4. Design and define your program based on your unique and compelling vision, goals and need
Add information. Donors want transparency about the finances of the church. Information builds trust. Be honest and hopeful. Include a short story about a life changed, a new program you’ve been able to start - share some good news! Show donors that you are a vibrant church.
5. Create materials that share your vision and invite participation
These don’t have to be fancy, flashy or expensive, but they do have to be well done, visually appealing and proofed a zillion times so there are no mistakes. Use more pictures and fewer words. Ask children to draw pictures for the materials. You’re building new givers when you include children and teenagers.
6. Know your people
Not all donors are the same. As much as possible, divide your members, donors and non-donors, into giving groups. For most churches this is best done by just a few people to protect privacy. For example: who makes a significant increase in pledging each year and can be asked to do so again this year? Who hasn’t increased for a year or so and can be asked to increase this year? Who does not pledge but gives regularly and can be asked to continue? Who can you ask to begin giving at whatever level is possible? Always begin by thanking people for their generosity, no matter what their level of giving. Another aspect of knowing your people is that some really appreciate a personal visit at stewardship time and others want to be left alone and will mail in their pledge card. Personal visits are preferable, but not always possible. Phone calls are the next best way to reach out.
7. Preach and teach generosity without ceasing
Some of this must come from the clergy. If you are clergy and uncomfortable with this, please read the bullet point below. (You can also contact me.)
8. Here’s a don’t
Stop apologizing that the church needs money. How else can we hold worship services, offer Sunday school classes, have choir practice, open our soup kitchens or pay our staff? Money is a tool. If the church is embarrassed and uncomfortable asking people to give, then people are going to be uncomfortable and embarrassed giving.
9. Make it easy for people to pledge and give
Surveys continue to find that a large gap between the ways churchgoers prefer to give and the options for giving that churches offer. The question is no longer “should we offer e-giving, but what options will we provide?”
10. Put the pledge form on your website
It can be a PDF document that people can print and return, or it can be a form that is filled out and returned online.
11. If you don’t have time this fall to set up e-giving , do these two things instead
One, promote and work with members to set up recurring payments through their bank. Many people already pay their bills this way. Two, set up a group of people to start the process of e-giving in your church so that it is ready by the new year.
12. Say thank you and celebrate
Maybe you can have a “Thank You” parade and drive by people’s homes with smiles and a small, inexpensive gift.
Carolyn Moomaw Chilton is a leadership development coach with clergy, clergy spouses and lay employees, as well as a spiritual director. She also works as a consultant with churches and vestries in the areas of formation, development and evangelism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The True Meaning of Stewardship by Sarah Townsend Leach, ECF Vital Practices blog, October 17, 2019
- FRG Resources for Stewardship, ECF Vital Practices tool
- Are you Ready? Preparing for Year-end Giving, by James Murphy, ECF Vital Practices blog, October 11, 2019
- Funding Ministry During the Covid-19 Crisis by Jason Smith, ECF Vital Practices blog, March 13, 2020