To Rebuild church, Stop looking for Quick Fixes by Dan Dick

“To rebuild Church, stop looking for quick fixes,” speaks to congregations that try to meet fundraising goals by selecting the ‘perfect’ technique. The best possible technique will not guarantee success unless congregants really care about the church.

Dan Dick writes, “At what point do we finally wake up to the fact that there is no such thing as a lasting, transformative ‘quick fix’? The United Methodist Church has suffered through over 50 years of ‘church-in-box’ programs that have produced poor results at best.

Disciple Bible Study came closest to delivering transformation, but ultimately “popular” did not translate into “effective.” Literally thousands of people have had wonderful, meaningful, enjoyable Disciple experiences. However, a variety of independent follow-up evaluations indicate that there is a very low retention rate, that few people adopt sustained spiritual formation practices, and few report any transformed behavior in their daily lives. I hear about the handful whose lives were completely changed, and I do not devalue any such experience—but unless Disciple has been an integrated component of a comprehensive developmental process of spiritual formation, it remains a pleasant experience for the vast majority. ”

You can read the entire article on the United Methodist Portal’s website.

Creative Capital Campaign Gifts (3 of 5)

Over the last 26 years I have served as a Congregational Stewardship Consultant for the UUA.  During that time I have worked with over 135 of our congregations, some of them more than once.  I have had the opportunity to talk with many people about how they made their decisions to support a capital campaign in their congregation.  One technical note:  Financial commitments to a capital campaign are usually paid over a three year period.  Here is one of my favorite stories.

These stories are illustrative.  They contain one common element.  Persons with commitment to the vision of the church will find a way to give generously.  Each of these stories involves people who “gave until it felt good.”  And that really is the criterion for our success.  Each pledge is important.  Each person will give according to her or his commitment and will want to feel good about it.
David L. Rickard
UUA Congregational Stewardship Consultant

Charlotte purchased a new car four years ago.  The final payment was due shortly after the capital campaign began.  She decided that she would make her pledge to her congregation’s building program the same as the car payment had been.  After all, the car was in good condition and she would just make the check out to her church instead of GMAC.

 

Look for another story from David Rickard in the coming weeks!

Creative Capital Campaign Gifts (2 of 5)

Over the last 26 years I have served as a Congregational Stewardship Consultant for the UUA.  During that time I have worked with over 135 of our congregations, some of them more than once.  I have had the opportunity to talk with many people about how they made their decisions to support a capital campaign in their congregation.  One technical note:  Financial commitments to a capital campaign are usually paid over a three year period.  Here is one of my favorite stories.

These stories are illustrative.  They contain one common element.  Persons with commitment to the vision of the church will find a way to give generously.  Each of these stories involves people who “gave until it felt good.”  And that really is the criterion for our success.  Each pledge is important.  Each person will give according to her or his commitment and will want to feel good about it.
David L. Rickard
UUA Congregational Stewardship Consultant

Jim and Janice were active members of their church and involved at the District and national levels as well.  In fact, Janice was planning to enroll in divinity school.  She and Jim got drawn into the planning for the expansion of their church building, and Jim became the director of the capital campaign committee.  When it came time to make their pledge, they chose to defer the purchase of a new car and the remodeling of their kitchen so that they could make a substantial investment in the future of their church.

 

Look for another story from David Rickard in the coming weeks!

De-bunking Fundraising Myths – Part 11 (of 12)

We’ve all heard myths about fundraising.  These often lead us to do the exact opposite of what we should be doing to raise money.  We’ll be running a twelve part series de-bunking fundraising myths to take a close look at these false assumptions about giving.

This is the eleventh in the series and we will run one each month (if you can’t wait to a year to read all of them you can purchase the book Beyond Fundraising: A Complete Guide to Congregational Stewardship and read them in Chapter 1: The Spiritual Roots of Stewardship).  Sending out a mailing is surely the easiest way to ask for financial commitments but is it the best way?

As always, we encourage you to leave comments.

Fundraising Myth #11

Myth: Because people don’t like to talk about money, annual financial commitments must be sought in an indirect way. It is best to send financial commitment forms through the mail and ask recipients to return them by mail. In this way, they will not be offended, embarrassed, or angry.

Truth: The more indirect the approach, the less money will be contributed. Personal stewardship conversations are most effective. Getting groups together is a less direct approach, but it can provide an occasional break from the stewardship conversations. Telephone calls and mail solicitations are the most ineffective ways to ask for money. If you are uncomfortable talking about money, the solution is to find ways to become more comfortable talk about it, not to avoid direct, personal conversations.

Creative Capital Campaign Gifts (1 of 5)

Over the last 26 years I have served as a Congregational Stewardship Consultant for the UUA.  During that time I have worked with over 135 of our congregations, some of them more than once.  I have had the opportunity to talk with many people about how they made their decisions to support a capital campaign in their congregation.  One technical note:  Financial commitments to a capital campaign are usually paid over a three year period.  Here is one of my favorite stories.

These stories are illustrative.  They contain one common element.  Persons with commitment to the vision of the church will find a way to give generously.  Each of these stories involves people who “gave until it felt good.”  And that really is the criterion for our success.  Each pledge is important.  Each person will give according to her or his commitment and will want to feel good about it.
David L. Rickard
UUA Congregational Stewardship Consultant

For ten years, Joan and Jackson had looked forward to retirement.  In recent years, they had told their friends of their plans to avoid the cold, snowy winters in the northern city where they lived.  Joan said, “You will not see us during January, February, or March.  We will be in Florida.”  As part of the campaign to fund a new church building, the couple (both former presidents of the congregation) was asked to give an endorsement during the Sunday service.  Joan spoke for both.  “We lied to you,” she began.  “We will be here throughout the next three winters even though we have retired.  We are pledging the money we would have spent in Florida to the capital fund drive.”

Look for another story from David Rickard in the coming weeks!

Replacement Reserve Fund

Has your congregation ever been faced with replacing the heating and cooling system, or the electrical system, or the plumbing system, or the roof?  Were you prepared? Did you have the money set aside for the work?

Here are some guidelines to prepare for the inevitable replacement of these systems:

Introduction. Because congregations are non-profit organizations, they generally do not pay taxes. As a result, leaders have little incentive to set up depreciation schedules for their various systems. Still, congregations must face the inevitable replacement of heating and cooling systems, the roof, the exterior paint and sometimes the electrical and plumbing systems
To address these issues in a systemic way, congregations are encouraged to create a maintenance reserve fund; the same type of fund that the business world uses to be eligible for depreciation under the tax laws. The fund enables congregations to create a long-range maintenance plan, as opposed to reacting to emergency situations.

Initial funding. There are at least two ways to start a replacement reserve fund.
1. A replacement reserve fund can be started immediately after the purchase of a new system, roof, or entire building. The congregation calculates the life expectancy of each component and creates a line item in the operating budget that is equivalent to the annual amount needed to replace the system.
2. A replacement reserve fund can be created as part of a capital campaign. Most congregations do not include depreciation money in their annual operating budget. As a result, the initial funding is often provided as part of a capital campaign.

Annual Funding. Whichever of the two methods is chosen, the key to success is the annual appropriation to the replacement reserve fund. The annual budget should include a line item for depreciation equal to the decline in the value of the depreciable assets as calculated according to the General Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP). We recommend that money should be deposited in a separate account that already contains the initial funding and held until approved for expenditure. Interest accruing on the funds should be held in the same account.

Expenditures. Expenditures from the replacement reserve fund should be limited to the replacement of depreciable assets. In Unitarian Universalist congregations, expenditures can be recommended by the governing body and then approved at a duly called congregational meeting.

Adapted by Wayne B. Clark from a document written by David L. Rickard

De-bunking Fundraising Myths – Part 10 (of 12)

We’ve all heard myths about fundraising.  These often lead us to do the exact opposite of what we should be doing to raise money.  We’ll be running a twelve part series de-bunking fundraising myths to take a close look at these false assumptions about giving.

This is the tenth in the series and we will run one each month (if you can’t wait to a year to read all of them you can purchase the book Beyond Fundraising: A Complete Guide to Congregational Stewardship and read them in Chapter 1: The Spiritual Roots of Stewardship).  Hosting a great luncheon after a Sunday Service is the key to people’s pocket books, right?

As always, we encourage you to leave comments.

Fundraising Myth #10

Myth: As long as a fellowship event (to launch an annual budget drive or capital campaign) provides a free meal, people will attend the event and give generously of their gifts, call, and spiritual vocation. A beautiful brochure with a clever slogan and attractive logo will further increase giving.

Truth: A free meal is not enough. When people reserve time in their busy schedules, they expect more than just some mediocre food and an average after-dinner program. They want a well-planned event that includes an opportunity to interact with other congregants. They also want to have fun. Many fundraising consultants have determined the best entertainment involves the attendees. For example, a program of group signing is preferable to having the choir perform for the gathering. Nevertheless, keep in mind that the format and promotion of the event matter less than the message. A well-planned fellowship event, a beautiful brochure, and a clever slogan will add absolutely nothing to financial commitments unless a clear and compelling case for stewardship has been made.

De-bunking Fundraising Myths – Part 6 (of 12)

This is the sixth of the twelve part series in de-bunking fundraising myths (if you can’t wait to a year to read all of them you can purchase the book Beyond Fundraising: A Complete Guide to Congregational Stewardship and read them in Chapter 1: The Spiritual Roots of Stewardship). We’re examining these myths closely to clear-up these false assumptions about giving.

How involved do people want to be when they give the congregation money?

As always, we encourage you to leave comments.

Fundraising Myth #6

Myth: People want to make their contributions without getting involved in the messy decision-making process of the congregation.

Truth: Many want to share their opinions about how the faith community’s internal programs and global ministries are conducted. For some, having an opportunity to provide decision-making input is a tangible benefit of giving. It is a way of investing in the programs and ministries of the faith community.

Vanco Services – how they can help your congregation

In past blog posts we’ve mentioned Vanco Services.  For this post we asked Vanco Services to share some more information about how they can help your congregation and some specific information about their work with UU congregations.

Guest Author, Stephen J. Rose, Director of Marketing, Vanco Services, LLC

As a provider of electronic giving solutions to thousands of churches, Vanco Services, LLC is pleased to share insights we’ve gained over the past 15 years that may be helpful to Unitarian Universalist congregations.

Special challenges

Seasonal donation slump. Donations tend to track closely with the number of weekly worshippers, producing a seasonal donation slump in most congregations. A church’s operating costs and program expenses continue year round but weekly check & cash offerings are erratic and typically taper off after Easter and then drop—often precipitously—during summer months before recovering in the 4th quarter. Vanco data shows an average 43% decline in weekly giving by paper check from Easter to mid-summer.  Even the most dedicated churchgoers miss services. Vacations, illness and weather (good and bad) all enter into the equation. In the fall of 2009, the flu—and even fear of the flu—depressed attendance at services. Late-year snowstorms in 2009 also kept worshippers at home in some areas of the country—a critical development considering most churches receive up to one-third of their annual contributions during the month of December.
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