A Letter to a Parish Priest About Fundraising
Dear Fr. Jacob,
Welcome to St. Catherine’s! I know that you are excited to take on your first big assignment as pastor of our church, and I think that you’ll do a great job. We’re a humble parish, but we have lots of energy and gifts that are ready to be put to work.
After your first Parish Council Meeting, I wanted to write a word of encouragement. When we got to the topic of the budget and all the repairs that our buildings need, it does look a little grim. I could see the look in your eyes when you realized that we were going to need to raise money just to get the roof repaired. I think I detected a little bit of, “Father, please let this cup be taken away from me,” hidden behind your smile.
I have been there. When the Lord called me to be a professional fundraiser, I had no experience and not the slightest desire to do fundraising. Here I am five years later, and I’ve raised a few million dollars to feed the hungry. Amazing. God knows what He’s doing, and He has chosen you as the man for the job. I will assist you in any way that I can.
One way I think I can help is to try to condense my fundraising experience and research so you can have a solid foundation to start. I’m going to give it some thought and prayer so I can explain what I’m going to call ‘Systematic Almonology’*. I saw the Summa sitting on your desk, so I think you’ll enjoy a good logical breakdown of the art of asking for alms. St. Thomas, pray for us.
The relationship between stewardship and fundraising
There is a significant difference between the two. Stewardship looks at the question of how do we manage our time, our abilities, and our finances so that the Gospel transforms our lives. It asks us, “what should I do with my money?”
Fundraising looks at an interpersonal question. Fundraising asks, “Will you give some of your money to me to do such and such awesome thing?” Can you see the difference?
Preaching on stewardship might help you with fundraising because it gets people thinking about that first question. However, it is not necessarily fundraising, especially if you never get to the point where you asking the second question. Fundraising REQUIRES an ask.
Bake sales and fundraising
It is important to point out that a bake sale is not exactly fundraising. It is a business. You are not asking for money to support your mission; you are selling treats. I might have overstepped myself during the meeting when I told Mrs. Sanderson that we would need to sell 182,000 brownies to replace the roof.
[Tweet “It is important to point out that a bake sale is not exactly fundraising.”]
The point was that we have a limited amount of time and energy, so we have to choose an approach that has the potential to raise the money we need. Not that a bake sale is a bad thing if one of the parish ministries wants to raise $500 to get some t-shirts, but it will never raise the kind of money that we need to fulfill the vision you started sharing with us.
Fundraising can seem like a daunting task, but you are supernaturally empowered to lead our parish. Think about the early Church. The Apostles were NOT professional fundraisers. They were fishermen and tax collectors. The book of Acts records the fact that people were selling their land to give it to the Apostles to be stewarded by them.
Why? It’s something to pray about. You are a member of the same priesthood, and share the same divine mission of making disciples of all the nations.
God will inspire you to lead the Parish Council to do what He has planned. When we focus on doing what God wants us to do, He makes the impossible happen. That’s exciting. I mean “part the Red Sea exciting”.
[Tweet “When we focus on doing what God wants us to do, He makes the impossible happen.”]
Please forgive me if my letters sometimes get a little long. I get so excited about learning and living our Faith that my pen often overflows. Let me know where you want me to start in our discussion of ‘systematic almonology’ and I’ll dive in.
– “The Almoner”
P. S. If you have never heard of systematic almonology, don’t worry. It is a word that I just made up. In the old days, the almoner was the office in the church that asked for money to support charitable work with the poor. The Pope still has an almoner. So I smashed the word ‘almoner’ together with ‘ology’ meaning ‘the science of’ to create the new word and new science of almonology.
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.