How to Get Every Parishioner Involved in Your Appeal

The following topic on getting every parishioner involved in your appeal for beginners is a continuation of the Almoner’s blog, a series of fictional letters written by a parishioner to his parish priest about fundraising. You can read all previous letters of the Almoner: https://catholicfundraiser.net/category/almoner-blog/

How to get parishioners involved

Dear Fr. Jacob,

Fantastic news! Who knew that you would be able to raise $29,000 in such a short time? Having the right story and the right approach makes all the difference, doesn’t it? I’ve been at the parish for nearly a decade, and we have never had a fundraising drive like this. Stop and think about the size of the bake sale needed to raise $29,000.

Inconceivable! It would be physically impossible for our parish to bake 58,000 brownies in two weeks. We don’t have enough ovens!

I think you can go ahead and pull the trigger on replacing the furnace right away with what we’ve already collected and close any gap with the emergency reserve. Though, I think that if you do two more weeks of lunch meetings for major gifts and mention how close we are to the goal at the next several Masses, you’ll raise the rest without any problems. You have momentum on your side.

People jump on moving trains

You have blown everyone’s expectations out of the water. If you had asked them a month ago if it were possible to raise $43,000, the parishioners probably would have laughed you out of the parish. Respectfully, of course, because they love you. (But they would have thought you were crazy.)

Now the game has changed. I expect several more sizable donations to come by Sunday, and you’ll be able to tell everyone that you broke the $30,000 mark in under three weeks. This momentum will get even more people excited and encourage them to give more gifts, particularly at the lower levels. They will want to be a part of making this exciting moment happen.

People like to be a part of something successful. Even parishioners who are typically reluctant to get involved, when they see that the train is moving, they want to jump on and be a part of it. Who wants to miss out of doing that big event that everybody got involved with? Nobody.

Get ready to celebrate

This could be a watershed moment for the parish. I think, no matter what happens, next week you should announce that we are having a potluck or picnic to celebrate. We should organize an event that will thank everyone who may have just given the biggest gifts EVER to the Church.

Why? One thing that jumps out to donors is showing the right amount of attention to say, ‘thank you.’ Here’s an easy way you can do this. Ask Steve if the Knights of Columbus will sponsor coffee and donuts after the 10 AM Mass in two weeks for a “Thank You” celebration. You can have the parish pay for it and get the Knights to the legwork. We have got to celebrate. You have to make a big deal about this.

This major ‘crisis’ might just become a turning point for this parish. You are changing the way the parishioners think about St. Catherine’s. The difference between being the kind of parish that raises $400 from a bake sale and the one that can raise $40,000 in less than a month is incredible.

The way they perceive themselves, you, this Church, the mission of the Church, can be totally transformed by this event. Rather than everyone thinking we’re just a ‘sleepy little Catholic Church in the Bible Belt,’ we can think of ourselves as ‘that resourceful little Catholic Church that can do something big if we put our minds to it.’

All things work together for good for those who love God and called according to His purposes

And here’s the big lesson. God is in charge. Fundraising might have been one of your least favorite things that you’ve had to do as a priest. I understand. Major gifts can give even seasoned fundraisers a case of the sweats. But God has given you an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, and you did it. Even more, it paid off. I think it’s just great.

The next step after the “thank you” donuts is to figure out what to do with this new momentum. I’ll give it some thought and prayer.

Blessings,

Nathan

P.S. I know it’s cheesy, but the old classic ‘Fundraising thermometer’ might work to help take this over the top. It’s a good visual for people who haven’t yet given to see how their gift can make a difference. Since we’re already 3/4 of the way to the top, I think it will be an encouragement to receive those last few gifts.

Plus, use blue ink. We are raising money for a furnace, and it will point out the fact that it’s COLD in there. Write the headline, “Turn on the Heat!” above the thermometer. It’s just too perfect.

Nathan Krupa lives in Augusta, Georgia with his wife Mary and two sons. Nathan writes about fundraising at https://thealmoner.com. He has raised money by writing grants for Golden Harvest Food Bank (www.goldenharvest.org) for five years, and is a member of the Parish Council at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. He is also a member of the Alleluia Community, an ecumenical covenant community.

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How to 10x Your Number of Major Gifts in One Weekend

The following topic on major gift fundraising for beginners is a continuation of the Almoner’s blog, a series of fictional letters written by a parishioner to his parish priest about fundraising. You can read all previous letters of the Almoner: https://catholicfundraiser.net/category/almoner-blog/

major gift fundraising

Dear Fr. Jacob,

That’s awesome! Don’t worry, I set the bar high for you, and this is a great result. Five 1-on-1 meetings for your first week? Six more scheduled for next week? Two gift commitments already? Fantastic. That’s $6,000 you didn’t have a week ago.

Only $37,000 more to fundraise.

So here’s what I think you should do now. The heat is on (figuratively) because the heat is off (in actuality). We do need a new furnace immediately. You should continue the major gift requests in the coming weeks, as hard as it is, but now you have new arrows in your quiver.

It’s time for ‘Follow the Leader’

This Sunday is the first that everyone in the parish will find out about (and experience) the death of the furnace. Even though it is consuming all of your attention right now, most of the parish has no idea. I think that you can use the two gifts that you have already secured to help raise most, if not all of the rest, of the money relatively quickly.

At the end of Mass, you can tell the story about how, by God’s providence, you were able to prevent the furnace from burning down the church with its dying breath. Then tell the parishioners about how two donors have already stepped up and committed to funding $6,000 of the $43,000 that it will cost to replace it. Be grateful for their generosity and thank them. (You don’t have to mention their names, but I’ll get into more detail about this further in the letter.)

Then ask your parishioners to consider making a donation to help replace the furnace. The gift commitments that you have already gotten should be one of the central points of your announcement. “Why?” you ask. Because people always follow the leader.

Great(er) expectations

When you mention that you are raising funds to buy a new furnace, people will initially think, “Well, how much cash do I have in my wallet?” That is great, don’t get me wrong. But 200 twenty dollar gifts only bring in another $4,000. It simply isn’t going to be enough. That’s less than the two donations that you have gotten so far.

When you tell people that two of their fellow parishioners have already given $6,000, it will completely recalibrate their ‘give-o-meter.’ Even if they can’t make a $1,000+ gift, you’re setting much higher expectations and opening their eyes to the idea of making big donations. They might give $100-$500 instead of $20.

In fact, the best approach is to ask both of your major donors to share why they are happy to give such large sums. There’s an old fundraising proverb, “Donors give to givers.” It makes sense if you think about it. If I’m asking you to give to a cause, and I can tell you that I’ve already made a significant gift to the cause, my request will be more credible. You are more likely to give when someone you know has given.

The scenario works with larger gifts. If I’ve given $100, and I ask you to give $5,000, some part of you will think, “Who does this bozo think he is?” If, however, I gave $10,000, and I ask you to give $5,000, you might think, “Wow, he’s generous. I want to be like him.”

Now, if the two donors won’t want to speak, I understand. It’s intimidating, but when you do ask them, explain that their testimony will make a tremendous impact on the other parishioners. They will be more willing to give larger donations by witnessing the donors’ passion and generosity for St. Catherine’s.

If it might encourage them, I can find the research which shows that this method works well to help inspire people to respond.

Blessings,

Nathan

P.S. A 40% success rate on asking for major gifts your first week is pretty much walking on water. You should be very encouraged. We’ll have the heat back on in no time.

Nathan Krupa writes about fundraising at https://thealmoner.com. He lives in Augusta, Georgia with his wife Mary and two sons. He has raised money by writing grants for Golden Harvest Food Bank (www.goldenharvest.org) for five years, and is a member of the Parish Council at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. He is also a member of the Alleluia Community, an ecumenical covenant community.

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Major gift fundraising for beginners

The following topic on major gift fundraising for beginners is a continuation of the Almoner’s blog, a series of fictional letters written by a parishioner to his parish priest about fundraising. You can read all previous letters of the Almoner: https://catholicfundraiser.net/category/almoner-blog/

Major gift fundraising for beginners

Dear Fr. Jacob,

That’s terrible news!

I thought the technician told us we could get another two years out of that furnace. I’m sorry Father. This is not what you need right after Christmas.

However, I do not think we should deplete our ‘rainy day fund,’ not yet at least. I think maybe God is giving you an opportunity to ‘put out into the deep.’ I’m talking about major gift fundraising.

What is major gift fundraising?

Major gifts fundraising is based on the idea that it takes less effort to ask for $10,000 than it does to ask for $5, two thousand times. To succeed, you just have to ask the right people, at the right time, in the right way.

I suggest we start with something I call ‘introductory major gifts’ because a full blown major gifts campaign takes a lot more time, energy, and stress than you have right now.

Start with the right people

Major gift requests can give even the most hardened fundraiser a case of the cold sweats, but I don’t think this will be all that bad.

You only have to raise $43,000 to fix the furnace. I just got a grant for exactly that amount, so this is absolutely doable.

A few gifts should be enough to take care of this whole problem. We just need to be asking people who can give sizeable donations.

Step 1 – Getting Organized

The first step is to ask Carmen to pull a report of the top 30 donors over the past year. This may sound counter-intuitive, but study after study shows that your biggest gifts will come from your biggest givers. Why? Because they already support the Church at a high level, and they will respond warmly to a request for a big gift.

Even if they have to say no, they’ll feel honored that you thought that they would be able to make a larger contribution. These parishioners also are likely not to give you the cold shoulder or interrogate you.

Step 2 – Book Appointments

The next step is to take your list and make 30 phone calls. I recommend you do this yourself. You may have to call multiple times because you should not leave voicemails asking for donations. Asking is always best done in person.

When you call, just say, “Hello, this is your parish priest, Fr. Jacob. First off, I want to thank you for being such a huge supporter of the church. I’m calling to see if you can help me. I have an unexpected problem to start the year: the furnace has gone up in smoke. I’d appreciate if I could speak with you in person. When on [day] would you be able to have a cup of tea with me?”

If you do have to leave a voice message, only say, “Hello, this is your parish priest, Fr. Jacob. When you have a moment, please do call me back at your earliest convenience at [phone number]. Thank you, and may God bless you.”

Aim to make 30 appointments to meet with each parishioner individually. Give yourself at least 45 minutes to one hour to meet with them. Yes, there is a bit of a time commitment, but by investing the time to meet and speak with them individually, parishioners will thank you for speaking with them in such a personal manner, rather than just mentioning it to them quickly after Mass.

Step 3 – The Tough Part

When you have a parishioner (either alone or with their spouse), I recommend you take the time reconnect with them. This is an excellent opportunity to learn how they are doing. After a warm cup of tea (or iced tea), explain to them that the furnace has gone up in smoke, literally and that it will cost $43,000 to replace it. Ask them to prayerfully consider if they can make a gift of $1,000 – $5,000 to contribute to making the replacement possible.

I suggest using open questions, such as, “What would you say to donate between $1,000 to $5,000?” Open questions offer parishioners the opportunity to share more openly their thoughts. Closed questions, such as “Will you” or “Can you,” don’t offer parishioners the time or space to think because you are immediately moving them to a yes/no decision.

Repeat this 29 times. Chances are some people will say no. Other people will say yes. And, it’s always possible that one or two will say, “how dare you to ask me.” The first group won’t hurt you, the second will bless you, and the third will give you an opportunity to thank them and praise them for their current generosity profusely.

Step 4 – Compelling Stories WORK

Father Jacob, this will work better than you expect. Will it raise all $43,000? More than likely, although even if you fall short of the goal, it will take a huge bite out of the total bill and preserve most of the rainy day fund.

And yes, I think this is a good reason not to take the easy route and just drain the bank account.

A good story, a compelling need, this is the fundraiser’s “silver bullet.” It often makes the impossible a reality. I have an Uncle from Canada who travels with his family doing praise and worship concerts. They go all over the place in their RV, sometimes going to two or three different cities in a week. Their RV was dilapidated and needed replacement, but they couldn’t raise nearly enough money to get one.

Then one day the wheels fell off. Literally. They were traveling on the coast of Canada, 3,000 miles from home, and the rear axle broke off. They were stranded, and the RV wasn’t worth repairing. They got on email and social media and showed photos of the broken axel. They explained the need and the fact that they were stranded. Without the money to fix the RV, they could not go home.

And by gum, it worked. Within a week and a half, my uncle and his family were back on the road in a new RV paid for in cash.

God is in Charge!

Father, I recommend you share your story, rather than sell it from the pulpit. Too often I hear appeals during and after Mass, selling to parishioners an idea.

Just think of this: When you were in the basement, smelling the smoke, then locating the burning wiring, and putting it out with the extinguisher, you were in the right place, at the right time. Thanks be to God.

Thanks to providence, we do not have to build a new church, or even worse, bury our priest.

What’s $43,000 compared to that? Pennies. Thank You, Jesus!

Blessings,

Nathan

P.S. Let me know how the calls go, and we’ll figure out where to go from here.

Nathan Krupa writes about fundraising at https://thealmoner.com. He lives in Augusta, Georgia with his wife Mary and two sons. He has raised money by writing grants for Golden Harvest Food Bank (www.goldenharvest.org) for five years, and is a member of the Parish Council at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. He is also a member of the Alleluia Community, an ecumenical covenant community.

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3 Tips for how to deliver an inspirational Stewardship Homily

Dear Fr. Jacob,

In my last letter, I talked about some potentially damaging approaches to the ‘stewardship homily’. I heard another preacher step on a fundraising landmine during their homily recently.

I’ve heard it many times before, so he’s not entirely to blame. It was the “Everything you own belongs to God, anyways” detonator.

Every time I hear it, I dive under the pews to avoid the shrapnel.

Stewardship Homily

Here are three suggestions to consider for delivering an inspirational stewardship homily or message.

Tip #1 – The fundraising landmine to avoid at all costs

Why is it is so bad to say this? Because it destroys each Catholic’s sense of personal responsibility. The social teaching of the Catholic Church supports the idea of private property and personal responsibility, and it is central to the concept of stewardship.

God created all things, and everything that we have is a gift from Him. Once He gives it to us, it truly belongs to us. If it is not ours to give, our gift has no merit. We are just returning something that doesn’t belong to us.

Instead, it feels good to give because we are giving of ourselves.

It is ours to give!

Tip #2 – Give or let die, is that how the story goes?

One of the wild stories from the book of Acts is the story of Ananias and Sapphira. (Acts 5:1-11)

They sell some property and bring a portion of the sale proceeds to St. Peter. They want to appear as holy as the people who give everything, so they lie to St. Peter and tell him that they are giving the entire sale price. St. Peter rebukes them so fiercely for lying about their donation that they both die.

Whoah, I don’t think anyone expected that to happen.

Now, they didn’t die because they held some of the money back. St. Peter points out that the property belonged to them before they sold it and that the money was theirs before they donated it.

St. Peter clearly demonstrated his support of private property and private ownership.

The crime that cost the couple their lives was lying about their donation, trying to appear holier than they were.

Tip #3 – Birthday gifts, not taxes, inspire people

So when you talk about stewardship, I recommend you encourage Catholics to give not by telling them to give what doesn’t belong to them. That’s not an exciting or compelling ask. In fact, it’s one that plants seeds of resentment.

Instead, I recommend you invite them to bring birthday presents. We just celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany. You can point out that the wise men brought their gifts to the infant Jesus as an act of worship. This is the joy of giving; freely, generously, and piously. See the difference?

So, next time you are presenting a homily around stewardship, tell the story of how a ‘wise man’ recognizes the birth of the Great King and responds by laying the very best he has to offer before Him as a gift and an offering. It’s not a story about a wise man who should give gifts because Jesus is born.

You are calling parishioners to participate in the great missionary work of the Church. Exciting stuff!

Blessings,

Nathan, The Almoner

The following topic on how to fundraise like Ben Hur in fundraising is a continuation of the Almoner’s blog, a series of fictional letters written by a parishioner to his parish priest about fundraising. You can read all previous letters of the Almoner: https://catholicfundraiser.net/category/almoner-blog/

Nathan Krupa writes about fundraising at https://thealmoner.com. He lives in Augusta, Georgia with his wife Mary and two sons. He has raised money by writing grants for Golden Harvest Food Bank (www.goldenharvest.org) for five years, and is a member of the Parish Council at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. He is also a member of the Alleluia Community, an ecumenical covenant community.

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Fundraise as if you were Ben Hur

The following topic on how to fundraise like Ben Hur in fundraising is a continuation of the Almoner’s blog, a series of fictional letters written by a parishioner to his parish priest about fundraising. You can read all previous letters of the Almoner: https://catholicfundraiser.net/category/almoner-blog/

Almoner Ben Hur

Dear Fr. Jacob,

I am sorry we missed you. We went to St. Jude’s for Mass last weekend to hear my sister-in-law cantor. That church is the jewel of the city. Our boys just loved looking up at the traditional stained glass windows.

The incense. The Gregorian Chant. It’s quite heavenly. I think the beauty of the church helps them to focus a little better.

So, it turned out that the church is in the middle of ‘Stewardship’ season. The Gospel reading about the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-13) seemed like a natural starting point for the campaign, but I don’t think the deacon hit the mark in his homily.

What are YOU putting in the mailbox?

Why does every stewardship homily talk about how much it costs to keep the church air-conditioned?

I know this is Georgia, and we should probably start a saint’s cause for whoever invented air conditioning, but I ask, “is this the best topic to get people inspired to give?”

“No,” is my answer.

Air conditioning bills just are not exciting. Do you get excited when you get the Georgia Power Bill? Mine is much less than the parish’s, but even so, I do not race to the mailbox every month filled with hope that maybe, just maybe, the power bill has arrived.

I’m ranting a little bit. Please forgive me, father.

Consider for your next campaign: What would EXCITE parishioners?

Father Jacob, what thrills you when you open your mailbox? A letter from a friend? A birthday card? Something unexpected? Or maybe the book you are waiting to receive?

When something that we’ve been waiting for shows up in the mailbox, we get a thrill because IT IS FINALLY HERE.

Also, how excited are you when you open to see the mailbox full? You think, “Wow! I wonder what I got today.”

That excitement drains away like a bathtub when you realize that your mailbox has nothing but bills and ads.

The same response can happen when you start your stewardship campaign with a discussion of just how much it costs to keep the building air con d zzzz ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

By the end of your first paragraph, people are dead in the pews.

Aim to be Ben Hur, not the energy company

Have you ever read the book, Ben Hur? Not the movie, although the one with Charlton Heston may be one of the best films ever made.

The book captures something that just does not often appear on the screen: this sense of longing. This deep and desperate hunger for the Messiah.

The book’s central theme revolves around this natural desire for the arrival of the Messiah. Conversations about the ‘Galilean’ focus on these important questions. “Who is he?” “Is he the one promised by the prophets?” Every conversation excites us with anticipation.

I recommend this be your stewardship campaign goal: excitement, longing, and anticipation. The package that everyone has been waiting to receive. The one that we saved up for wondering if it would ever show up,

“IT’S FINALLY HERE!!! Hurray! It’s the Messiah!!!”

I have more to say on your upcoming homily on fundraising, but for now, it is time to enjoy our Christmas presents.

Merry Christmas,

Nathan, The Almoner

Nathan Krupa writes about fundraising at https://thealmoner.com. He lives in Augusta, Georgia with his wife Mary and two sons. He has raised money by writing grants for Golden Harvest Food Bank (www.goldenharvest.org) for five years, and is a member of the Parish Council at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. He is also a member of the Alleluia Community, an ecumenical covenant community.

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