Building a Foundation for a Fundraising Campaign
By Marcia Shetler
This article was originally published in Giving Magazine Vol. 17 in 2015. You can access the full issue here.
Nearly a decade ago, a colleague of mine attended a professional growth event at the Indiana University Fund Raising School. He brought back a souvenir for me: a small paper cube with short words and phrases that are important for organizations to consider as they prepare to conduct a fund-raising campaign.
I still have that cube, and it sits on my desk. As executive director of a nonprofit charitable organization, I am reminded of the many aspects of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center that need attention and cultivation— stewarding—for ESC to be at its best.
Many of the inquiries I receive from congregations and organizations who are interested in the services offered by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center Capital Campaign Network focus on just one of the six sides of the cube. They want to jump right into the fund-raising component, sometimes out of duress, sometimes because of what they perceive as a short time window, and sometimes because they truly think that is the place to start. However, the other five sides of the cube are worth exploring. If your congregation is considering conducting a special fund-raising campaign, I invite you to consider these characteristics and questions.
- Are the messages of stewardship and generosity communicated well and often?
- Is stewardship understood as supporting the budget or equipping for ministry?
- Do people inside—and outside—your congregation describe you as generous and welcoming?
- Is your congregation financially supported by the majority of those who are members and/or regularly attend?
Matching Money and Mission
- Does your congregation have a clear sense of its mission, and does it enthusiastically support that mission?
- Has conversation about the potential campaign taken place through the appropriate leadership channels?
- Is there clear understanding about the goals of the campaign and how it will strengthen the congregation’s mission and ministry?
- Have a financial goal and a basic timeline been determined?
- Is there a plan in place to regularly update the congregation about the special campaign?
Vision and Visibility
- Has the congregation considered how a special campaign might enhance its visibility in the community?
- Are there individuals and organizations with similar missions and visions with whom the congregation might establish a relationship?
Processes, Policies, and Practices
- Do your congregation’s accounting and gift- receipting practices and policies meet legal and ethical standards?
- Has the congregation considered whether the special fund-raising campaign necessitates development of new policies (e.g., a bequest policy)?
- Are financial reports regularly shared with the congregation?
- Does the church board or leadership team understand its legal and ethical obligations?
- Does the board or leadership team take ownership of its responsibilities regarding developing and carrying out the congregation’s mission and ministry?
- Is there strong and widespread support for the campaign by both members and staff?
- Has the congregation chosen persons who can provide significant leadership for the campaign?
- Has a campaign committee been chosen?
- Is there a job description for the committee?
- Has the involvement of staff been determined, and do any adjustments in workload need to be considered?
Vehicles and Strategies
- How does the special fund-raising campaign fit with the congregation’s ongoing giving strategies?
- Are there new giving opportunities that should be developed, such as legacy gifts and online giving?
- Who will be responsible for inviting persons to give?
Special fund-raising campaigns can be high points in a congregation’s life, but they should focus on more than just the fund-raising. Take the time to plan well and be mindful of your congregation’s vision and mission, your culture of generosity, and your transparency related to the important legal and ethical matters of your church. Build a good foundation, and your special fund-raising campaign can take your congregation to new places of witness and ministry, serving God as you are called!
Marcia Shetler was the executive director and CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center.
Giving Magazine was a premier stewardship resource published by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (ESC) from 1999 until 2020. The magazine served Christian faith communities throughout North America, providing thoughtful, practical, and inspirational content on faith and giving from thought leaders and practitioners alike. Giving was published annually from 1999 until 2018 (volumes 1-20), and then quarterly in 2019 and 2020 (volumes 21-28) in digital form only. In 2021 ESC closed its doors and committed its archives to the care of Lake Institute on Faith & Giving. For further information on ESC or its archives, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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