Tag Archives: church fundraising

Church and Money

Many churches, like other nonprofits, have to grapple with challenges of operating facilities, paying salaries, and providing funding for programs, schools and mission work. The economic challenges of recent years have impacted congregations raising questions new and old.

We talked with Robert Van Ess, Associate Pastor at Holy Trinity Community Church United Church of Christ about this. He has studied and written about church giving, changes in the economy, and generational differences related to money. We share his thoughts for your consideration.

“Many churches are struggling to meet the demand of their annual budgets.  Hard choices are being made across the ecclesiastical landscape.  Programs and mission projects are being restructured, downsized, or even eliminated.  Churches are cutting down from employing full time pastors and making do with part time appointments.  Building campaigns have been scaled back or put on hold.  In a move to stave off budget busting expenditures many churches have begun to only insure their full time pastors exclusively, eliminating the previous benefit of insuring the pastor’s entire family as beneficiaries, in an attempt to cut down on the sky rocketing health care costs that along with a pastor’s salary can amount to 50% or more of a smaller church’s budget.”

Sound familiar?

As with other nonprofits, churches can only make so many cuts. There comes a point when revenue – or tithes and offerings – need to be reevaluated. Van Ess raises questions that for church leaders to consider. For example, how can churches encourage consistent tithing and giving by members who are committed to the church but who attend inconsistently?  How can churches retain liturgical meaning and values that are expressed through tithing and giving, and at the same time encourage tithing and giving by younger people who may not own a check book or carry cash?

Is electronic giving an appropriate answer? If yes, how would it be integrated into the life of a church? Is giving with a debit card acceptable? A credit card? How does an individual who gives electronically participate in the liturgical aspects of giving? What does she or he put in the basket? What if the majority of a congregation moves to electronic giving – would services themselves begin to change?

Van Ess points out that young people have a different relationship with money and giving than that of people over 50. Many don’t deal with checks or cash. They pay for gas with a card, use electronic bill pay services for utilities, rent and other monthly expenses. Many never receive a “pay check” – their salary is deposited into their bank account on a specified date.

Change is constant. The question is how will congregations adapt to these changes and ensure financial viability? Creative and respectful experimentation may reveal how to integrate new ways of giving. Tell us what your church is doing and we’ll report back.

Robert Van Ess is a 2011 graduate of Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis Missouri and serves Holy Trinity Community Church United Church of Christ in Memphis Tennessee as Associate Pastor.


New Lessons from Big Bird

Are you prepared for your 15 minutes of fame? Or more precisely, your nonprofit organization’s 15 minutes of fame? What if you were the Public Broadcasting System, home to Big Bird of Sesame Street fame, and a presidential candidate put you on the chopping block in front of 70 million television viewers?

You may recall Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s now-famous quote during his first debate with President Barrack Obama. He told the moderator, Jim Lehr of PBS, “I’m sorry Jim, I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS, I like PBS, I love Big Bird, I actually like you too, but I am not going to keep spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”

It went viral from there with tweets, videos and blog postings lighting up the internet. Here’s the question – what if your organization was suddenly thrust into the local or national limelight? Would you be in a position to capitalize on the publicity? What if people – hundreds or hundreds of thousands – suddenly started visiting your website? Or better yet, making $10 gifts by text or your website’s “donate now” button?

How does your website look? Does it tell your story? Is it integrated with your donor management software so you can track and respond to people who give electronically? Do you have easy-to-use talking points your leadership can use to get your story out? Would you be in a position to craft a quick and witty response that could be tweeted to your followers? What about creating a quick video? Could you drive people to your website, launch a give-by-text campaign? Thank everyone?

It would be great if all opportunities were planned; that we knew in advance when opportunity would knock and could be dressed for the occasion. But that’s not always the case. So here’s our take-away regarding the Big Bird dust-up – be prepared. Invest in your fundraising, your messaging, and technology. Think about how you could respond if your organization received unanticipated positive attention. How would you take advantage of it? Who could you call on to help you?

Conversely, what if your organization were drawn into the public eye in a negative way. Think Pennsylvania State University and Coach Jerry Sandusky? Do you have a crisis management plan that can help guide you through the challenging times? Again, are there people you can call on to help you?

Governor Romney’s comments created an unanticipated whirlwind complete with a guest appearance by Big Bird on Saturday Night Live. Sometimes the things we say have an effect that is different from our intentions. It’s part of life – the part where we learn to laugh at ourselves and accept our imperfections.

But, if your nonprofit can capitalize on an unanticipated moment in the spotlight, do so.

Church Giving Supports HBCUs

The United Methodist Church and HBCUs – behind the scenes at the Black College Fund…

The power of your church giving may be stronger than you know. For example, did you know that when you give to the United Methodist Church you are supporting eleven historically black colleges or universities in addition to supporting your congregation? That’s right. You are part of a long tradition that is now managed by the church’s Black College Fund under the leadership of Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson.

As you may be aware, black colleges and universities have been transforming the lives of individuals, communities and our country since before the Civil War. Eleven of these 105 institutions are private-church related colleges founded by the United Methodist Church. In order to learn more about the relationship between these colleges and the church, we talked with Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson and share our conversation with you.

Saad & Shaw:   Why did the church establish these colleges and why has it continued to support them?

Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson:   The Methodist Church has always had a passion, tradition and belief in the power of knowledge and as the Civil War ended, it was painfully clear that the education that had long been denied to slaves would severely hamper their self sufficiency if not addressed. The people called Methodists (through the Freedmen’s Aid Society, founded during the 1860s) saw an urgent need and addressed it. This ministry to the educationally underserved remains and we see it as essential to empowerment and self determination. According to a history of the Black College Fund written by Dillard University President Emeritus Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook, “Without question, the UMC has no peer or competitor, either quantitatively or qualitatively, in terms of church support for its HBCU. No other mainline communion approaches the United Methodist level of generous and sustained financial support.” We believe in higher education and generously invest in it.

Saad & Shaw:   How does the church support these colleges? (Do you provide funding, conferences, technical assistance…)

Dr. Hopson:   All the above, but mainly the financial piece; our (mostly unrestricted) funding goes directly to the institutions to help keep their tuition and fees low, to enhance the infrastructure, to create new programming—whatever it takes to stay competitive. There is a capital projects designation and we also offer/share the United Methodist Connection of people, information and resources.

Saad & Shaw:   Why do you feel HBCUs are important today?

Dr. Hopson:  They are uniquely suited historically and otherwise to nurture, challenge and mentor their graduates to be instruments of change whether they’re running a school board, multi-national corporation or a university. These institutions attract the best and brightest in addition to those who have the potential to be great and they inspire them to “find a way or make one” as the Clark Atlanta University motto says. The small class sizes and low teacher/student ratios allow the faculty, staff and administration an opportunity to provide personalized attention and a family-like environment. Students can’t help but flourish and soar.

Saad & Shaw:   What role do these colleges play in the life of the church?

Dr. Hopson:    We get some of our most effective, committed, talented and innovative leaders from these institutions. Supporting leadership for life is not just a motto for us— we invest in it. The choirs tour and perform in local churches and our Project Athletic Ambassador program links congregations with the BCF basketball teams when they’re on the road for games. Also, in the Southeast, our institutions host the Youth Harambee, an annual gathering of youth groups from around the jurisdiction. Many of the schools were founded in local churches and that historic bond is a tremendous source of pride.

Saad & Shaw:   How do these church-related institutions work together? Do they engage in joint programming or joint fundraising?

Dr. Hopson:   The Council of Presidents (active presidents and retirees who have served more than ten years) help plan programming and promotion. Further, my office hosts a biennial continuing education event for public relations and advancement directors.

Saad & Shaw:   Is giving to these colleges a “black thing” or do all church members give?

Dr. Hopson:  Every United Methodist Church in the United States is assessed an amount to pay and many local churches and annual conferences (a group of geographically grouped churches) take enormous pride in paying their 100 percent share. We love those! We also receive memorial and estate gifts from supporters occasionally.

Saad & Shaw:   Has giving by churches to the Black College Fund increased or decreased during this economic downturn? (Whether increase or decrease, how has giving affected the fund and its work?)

Dr. Hopson:   I am delighted that our funding has held steady, and if anything, it has increased percentage wise. This year we received about 87 percent of $11 million, but our students’ needs continue to outpace the funding so we are constantly striving to reach potential new students and donors.”

Saad & Shaw:   Does the support of these church-related colleges and universities perpetuate segregated institutions?

Dr. Hopson:   Absolutely not! These schools are and have always been open to anybody with a hope and a dream, regardless of race, class, gender, ethnicity or national origin. They are our most diverse campuses with students and faculty from around the world.

Saad & Shaw:   What else would you like to share with our readers about the Black College Fund in specific or HBCUs in general?

Dr. Hopson:  Our 11 institutions come in all shapes and sizes and there’s bound to be one that fits your needs or interests. If you haven’t visited one of them, stop by and be impressed by the critical research, innovative programming and some of the best and brightest students anywhere on the planet! And, if you want to invest in excellence, the Black College Fund is a great choice. Our administrative costs are less than four percent and your contributions are tax deductible. We support leadership for life.

Saad & Shaw:   Any last words on the power of collective giving such as giving through one’s church?

Dr. Hopson:  Our schools are a great investment and together we can do so much more than any one of us individually could do. I continue to be amazed at what happens when everyone gives their best gifts—together we are a force to be reckoned with!

Saad & Shaw:   Thank you for your time!

To learn more about the UMC Black College Fund visit www.gbhem.org/bcf or call (615) 340-7378.

Let’s Have Faith

Faith-based organizations across the country are making a difference in communities large and small. One such congregation is St. Andrew African Methodist Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Led by husband and wife team Rev. Kenneth Robinson, M.D. and Rev. Marilyn Robinson the church is committed to ministering to Memphis – Spirit, Soul and Body. Together the Reverends Robinson and the St. Andrew AME church have grown their ministries into what is known as The Enterprise. They believe churches have unique attributes that can drive positive social transformation — and they have set out to demonstrate that.

The Enterprise includes the church’s ministries, and The Works, an independent Community Development Corporation (CDC) associated with the church. The Enterprise is comprised of:

  1. The St. Andrew AME congregation founded in 1866
  2. The church’s many social ministries and Community Life Center
  3. An independent, but church-affiliated Community Development Corporation (CDC) called The WORKS
  4. The Ernestine Rivers Child Care Center
  5. The Circles of Success Learning Academy (COSLA) – a nationally recognized charter school
  6. The South Memphis Renaissance Collaborative – a community collaborative dedicated to long-term redevelopment.

These programs are examples of how the St. Andrew AME church and The Enterprise bring their overlapping and inter-connected missions to life. Take a look:

The mission of the church is to minister to the spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional and environmental needs of all people. The congregation embraces holistic approaches to health and well-being, spiritual enrichment, personal empowerment and community service, using the theme “Ministering to Memphis – Spirit, Soul and Body.”

The mission of The Enterprise is to serve as the vehicle for St. Andrew AME Church to accomplish its mission of works in the world through a continuum of programs, services and affiliated organizations, as well as through focused collaborations and broad partnerships.

The work of The Enterprise is guided by the need for innovative new approaches to foster social transformation and the unique attributes churches bring to drive such innovations.

The Reverends Robinson, St. Andrew AME congregation, and The Enterprise believe that the church can be a powerful catalyst, driver and fiscal agent for community transformation both in their South Memphis neighborhood and throughout the city of Memphis. They believe the model they are building can be replicated by other churches in Memphis and across the country. They believe – and are demonstrating – that a church (or other faith community) can uniquely resource social transformation. The human, spiritual, and financial resources that a church brings to the process of social transformation are unique.

At St. Andrew church tithes and gifts from church members have provided The Enterprise with funds for “seed funding” for new projects; “bridge funding” for projects that are growing and have not yet secured funds from other sources; and “gap funding” that helps programs weather the ups and downs that are part of non-profit finances. This is a unique form of funding that is not available to non-church-related organizations.

As a powerful collaboration The Enterprise provides a diverse array of needed services to church members and the larger Memphis community.

Below are the eight principles that guide the work of The Enterprise. The first two relate to social transformation. The remaining six principles focus on the unique attributes a church brings to drive such transformation.

The need for innovative new approaches to foster social transformation…

1.    Individuals and families need proactive, easy access to an integrated set of resources that meet the full range of their needs and development potential.

2.    The full range of resources and services must be imbedded within local neighborhoods for comprehensive community transformation that rebuilds physical infrastructure, helps change defeating attitudes and beliefs, and connects people to education, cultural and employment opportunities in the region.

…and the unique attributes churches bring to drive such innovations.

3.    A church of any size and any stage of development can leverage its members’ time, talent and treasure to serve as catalysts for community transformation.

4.    A church can be an appropriate organizational structure for bringing public and private funding and forging collaborative partnerships for non-religious social programs and community transformation.

5.    Community transformation and social ministry are essential to a living faith experience, and create a mutually-beneficial relationship between the faith congregation and the larger community.

6.    Faith-based values can permeate, enhance, and lend credibility to secular endeavors and programs.

7.    All social issues and aspects of human life can be addressed with the non-judgmental and unconditional “language of Christ.”

8.    All resources, programs and services put forth in the name of the Church must demonstrate the highest quality standards, and communicate a high level of worth/value.

Giving of time, talent and treasure by church members provides The Enterprise with seed money and gap funding as well as:

  1. $90,000 a year for the Community Life Center’s outreach programs.
  2. Thousands of hours of service provided by church members each year.
  3. Lower-than-market rent for the charter school. The school has a 25-year lease with the church that yields an annual savings of $50,000 over market-based rent.
  4. $30,000 a year to subsidize operating costs of the Ernestine Rivers Child Care Center.

Tithes and gifts from church members have allowed The Enterprise to grow its programming and services so that it now stewards nearly $5 million annually from diverse funding sources – church giving, earned income (tuition, fees) private grants, donations, and public funding.

The Reverends Robinson, the St. Andrew AME Congregation, associated independent organizations, community stakeholders, government and private funders are all working together to demonstrate and document that churches have unique attributes that can drive social transformation.

To learn more about churches and their role in social transformation contact Rev. Kenneth Robinson by email at RevKSRMD [at] gmail [dot] com or by phone at (901) 948-3441.

This article is based on conversations with Rev. Kenneth Robinson, M.D., and the St. Andrew Enterprise Business Plan: 2009 prepared by Consilience Group, LLC www.consiliencegroup.com.

Faith in Action

If you are reading this after church, this blog is especially for you — because today’s issue is faith in action, the role of the church in the larger community. In years gone by the pastor’s preaching and personality, and the exuberance of the choir were enough to attract people to church and keep them coming back. Today things are a little different. The number of people filling church pews is smaller and so are funds collected in tithes and offerings. While there are many thoughts about why this is happening, there are also many people searching for a church home where their experience will extend beyond the building. They are seeking a church that is active in the community living out Christ’s message of love, compassion, forgiveness, healing, and social justice. They are seeking others like themselves who believe “as you do unto the least of my brothers, so you do unto me.”

Does your church offer members a meaningful way to live out their faith? Is yours a congregation that offers inspiring Sunday services as well as an opportunity to be of service throughout the week? Are young and talented people who want to make a difference attracted to your church? And if you are parishioner, are you satisfied with your church experience, or are you looking for a way to live out your faith?

In many churches it is the pastor who takes the lead in creating programs that meet community needs. Other times it starts with the church membership. If you are committed to your church home and seeking a greater sense of community involvement through your church, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Take initiative. You don’t have to wait for someone else to raise the issue of community involvement. Talk with your friends and family members about how your church can make a difference. Research community needs and existing programs. Canvass your membership about how they are willing to get involved. Bring your suggestions to your pastor and church leadership.
  1. Take advantage of existing programs. While your first thought may be to create a program within your own church, you may find that you can save a lot of time, energy and money by partnering with an existing secular program or a comparable program run by another church or by another faith community. For example, you can suggest that church members agree to serve as mentors for a local mentoring program instead of setting up your own mentoring program. If the church down the street has a meal program, suggest that your congregation support their work by volunteering and making a financial commitment. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
  1. Be consistent. Once you determine how you want to live out Christ’s message in your community, start small and stick with it. Don’t give up after the glow of something new begins to fade.

We have witnessed churches that are vibrant, growing, and attracting young families. They offer strong worship services as well as a way for members to make an impact in their community. We have witnessed church members who give of their limited time and money because they believe in the work of the church in their community. They believe their congregation can make a difference and they get involved.  If you are seeking more from your church experience you are not alone. Talk with others and take initiative to express your faith in action.

Timing is everything. Or is it?

Allen Temple reaches $1 million mark

Allen Temple Baptist Church of Oakland, CA launched its $5million capital campaign in October 2008. If you can recall that was the month of the American economic meltdown. Newscasters were crying the sky is falling….

But the church had been preparing for almost a year to launch their campaign to pay off the mortgage on their family life center building, renovate their training center, and build an endowment for social justice programming. They kept with their schedule not knowing that the remainder of 2008 and all of 2009 would prove to be very difficult times for fundraising in general.

But this volunteer-led campaign raised $1million in gifts and pledges during the first year of the campaign. They are 33% towards their goal of raising $3million from within the church family. They seek to raise an additional $2million from community stakeholders, foundation and corporations. And work on that has begun…

How did they do it? Here’s what campaign chairs Willis White and Connie Walker attribute their success to:

  1. At the core of our work is the belief that through God, all things are possible.
  2. This is something we believe is important to the life of the church and our community.
  3. We spent time securing buy-in from the church’s leadership. And we got it. We talked, we listened to objections, we made adjustments. The full congregation was behind the campaign before we launched. And our church leaders volunteered to provide campaign leadership as well.
  4. We put in place a system to ensure that funds given to the campaign by church members will be used to accelerate payments on the mortgage for our Family Life Center.
  5. We know our church culture and we designed a campaign that works with our church culture.
  6. We hired professional fundraising counsel to guide us, train us, and help us prepare.
  7. The pastor supports the campaign, the church trustees support the campaign, our deacons, ministers and other leaders support the campaign.
  8. We looked at how we had approached fundraising in prior campaigns and learned from our past experiences. We knew what we wanted from counsel and how we wanted counsel to work with us.
  9. We committed to treating every church member as an equal and committed to ensuring we talked personally with each member regardless of what size gift we thought they could give to the campaign.
  10. We engaged in a transparent process and regularly reported campaign results to the full congregation.

Join us in congratulating Allen Temple Baptist church and encouraging them as they move forward in 2010. Their campaign illustrates that when people believe in the importance of a specific campaign they are willing to give and get involved. It’s about more than timing.

How To Solicit a Gift

How To Solicit A Gift!Have you been asked to raise money for a non-profit, college, hospital or church? Are you willing but not sure how to proceed? Is it your job to prepare volunteers and staff to solicit gifts? If so, How to Solicit a Gift was written for you!

We wrote How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors for two reasons. To help people learn how to ask others for a gift to an organization or institution they believe in. And to help the staff of non-profits, colleges, churches and hospitals understand how to best prepare volunteers to solicit gifts.

Fundraising is much more than simply asking people for money. 90% of fundraising is preparation. Only 10% is actual solicitation. Learn what it’s all about and how you can succeed.