Guaranteeing Success?

I occasionally get inquiries along the lines of:

“How much money will we raise if a stewardship consultant guides us through an annual budget drive? How much more money will we raise than if we conduct the drive without a consultant?” What will be our ‘return on investment?’

Seemingly good questions, yes? Well actually, not so much.

There is simply no way to prove a direct link between your congregation’s annual budget drive success and the person who has led the drive, whether that person is a lay leader or a stewardship consultant. People who espouse this line of thinking believe that the ‘right’ person, using the ‘right’ technique will guarantee success. If that were the case, fundraising would be quite easy.  Positive results could be guaranteed.

Unfortunately, there are just too many variables. For example, the amount of money raised can be effected by any one of several uncontrollable scenarios; a major congregational conflict, the sudden resignation of your minister, the death of a major donor, an economic crisis, an upcoming capital campaign, just to name a few.

So if there is no way to guarantee monetary success, what can a stewardship consultant promise?

  • A stewardship consultant will help you frame an annual budget drive in term of abundance, rather than scarcity, thus setting the stage for a culture shift.
  • A consultant will broaden the definition of ROI beyond a simple definition of how much money is raised.
  • A consultant will introduce (or reinforce) the broad concept of stewardship, rather than a narrow focus on fundraising.
  • A consultant will organize a drive so that you will prevent getting the cart before the horse.
  • A consultant will help to create a clear, compelling case to justify the ask and answer questions like: “What difference will my financial commitment make? How will we be better able to fulfill our congregational ministry if I contribute more than last year?”
  • A consultant will use the Suggested Fair Share Giving Guide to help donors create their own definition of fair share

Here’s how I framed this issue in Chapter One of Beyond Fundraising:

“We need to replace [the old tapes of scarcity] with positive, more accurate statements of abundance, such as ‘Our congregation has a clear mission, we are publicly passionate about that mission, and we will secure enough resources (people, time, and money) to successfully implement our mission.’ A congregation with a culture of abundance believes in the reality that there can always be enough. They believe that diligent stewardship will provide everything needed. The glass is at least half full. Sometimes there are several glasses. Sometimes they even overflow.

Focusing on abundance requires a new vocabulary, one that emphasizes the reality of abundance by diminishing our focus on money. This vocabulary puts fundraising under the umbrella of stewardship. Rather than discussing the goal of raising money, congregations should discuss money as no more than a means to an end. Money is most meaningful when we can move from thinking of it as a way to pay the bills and regard it as a way to fulfill the ministry of the congregation. . .

Some of today’s healthiest faith communities focus more on stewardship than fundraising. While fundraising refers specifically to money-raising efforts, stewardship is an attitude that is reflected in all of the congregation’s efforts. Fundraising emphasizes the need of the recipient; stewardship addresses people’s spiritual need to give. Stewardship must precede fundraising.

Healthy faith communities see stewardship as a vital component of their ministry. They understand that stewardship is an act of worship. Worship includes the joyful sharing of gifts (aptitude, ability, and money), call (willingness to proclaim the congregation’s spiritual message), and spiritual vocation (willingness to take up volunteer efforts to support the faith community). Note that gifts have a wider meaning than money exchanged for the programs and ministries of a faith community. For example, one’s gift to the faith community might be to serve on the finance committee because one has a good understanding of financial matters. Or a member with landscaping ability might agree to become the caretaker of the memorial garden. All kinds of gifts should be valued and considered meaningful.

Stewardship, then, is the growing, nurturing, promoting, and building of the gifts, call, and spiritual vocation of the members of a faith community. Stewardship is not necessarily the things people do, but the spirit that influences the things they do.”

Culture of Abundance versus Culture of Scarcity

The Law of Enrollment Meets the Ask
By Laurie Herrick, Kathleen Dowd, and Rachel Kuhn

In this article, Laurie Herrick, Kathleen Dowd and Rachel Kuhn make a compelling case for focusing on the reality of abundance, instead of the myth of scarcity.

Herrick, Dowd, and Kuhn believe in something they call the Law of Enrollment. They describe it as a natural law in which it is easy for donors to become enrolled in current conversations about scarcity and what we do not have or cannot do. They believe that fundraisers must be present to the enrollment ‘dance’ and enroll prospective donors in how they can make a positive difference in your organization/congregation.

Read the article in Quantum Jump for a wonderful example of a conversation between a fundraiser and a potential donor where the fundraiser helps the donor to understand the importance of making a difference.

Interested in a unique fundraising option?

Interested in a unique fundraising option? If so, we have found the article for you! Jeff Shapiro writes about a group of senior citizens posing nude for a calendar to help raise money for their church. Shapiro writes, “a group of senior citizens from a congregation in Massachusetts stripped down to their birthday suits to pose for photos in a 2012 calendar created to show the beauty of aging.

Twelve men from First Parish in Framingham, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, who are all between 64 and 87 years old, took it all off in the making of the parish’s Celebration 2012 Calendar. Don’t worry though, they don’t reveal everything. In each of the calendar’s images, the men aren’t wearing any clothes, but each of them is covered up by a prop in their private areas.

The goal of the calendar is to show, in a society that can sometimes be obsessed with youth, growing old can be a joy. The parish wanted to show that these older men are still full of life, they have a lot to offer and they have a great sense of humor.”

You can read the full article on The Christian Post website.

Book Review: Reach Out and Give by Cheri J. Meiners, M.Ed.

“The World is beautiful. There’s so much to notice and be grateful for.”

Reach out and Give is a short, easy-to-read children’s book that is uplifting, positive, and a useful tool in teaching children how they can be generous and reach out to their community. At only thirty pages with bright and cheerful illustration, follows one young boy in his journey throughout his community where he learns how he can give his time and talent to those in need. Moreover, Reach Out and Give highlights how good it can feel inside yourself when you help others and are generous.

The message conveyed in this book is one that every child should understand, and while the story itself is a useful learning tool, so is the four pages of resources for parents and teachers located in the back of the book. This section of resources begins by defining important words that a young child might not yet understand, but will be essential to know when learning about giving: generous, grateful, relief, service, talents, and volunteer. There are questions provided that can help stimulate a conversation about generosity between a parent and/or teacher and their young child. Lastly, there are a number of games that are highlighted to utilize during “teachable moments” related to generosity.

One great idea the author has is for children to create a “We’re Grateful for” Journal. She writes what the teacher will need to prepare this journal and what kind of materials are necessary, and then she writes how to effectively use this teaching tool: “Talk with children about what it means to be grateful, using discussion questions for pages 1-3. Explain that you will be keeping a journal-a daily record- of things everyone is grateful for. Each day, you and the children can each draw a picture or write a journal entry of something you saw, something that happened, or something you realized you are thankful for. Invite children to date their entries and add them to the book each day. Continue over several weeks, noticing from time to time how full the journal is growing and how much there is to be grateful for.”

Whether you are a parent, teacher, or religious educator in your congregation, this book is extremely useful in helping a child to understand the importance of generosity. To learn more about the author and the text, you can visit Free Spirit Publishing for details.

Study finds that Donors that give more to Church also give elsewhere

“Houses of worship and other charities often aren’t in competition for dollars but instead tend to reap donations from similar donors, a new study shows.

Slightly more than 50 percent of people who financially supported congregations also gave to at least one charitable organization in the last year, according to a study conducted by Phoenix-based Grey Matter Research Consulting.
Researchers also found that the more Americans give to a house of worship, the more they donate to other groups. And the trend continues with the generosity of the donor.

For example, donors who gave less than $100 to a house of worship also donated an average of $208 to other charities. Those who gave between $100 and $499 to a congregation gave an average of $376 to others. Donors of between $500 and $999 to places of worship gave an average of $916 to others.”

To read the rest of this article, you can visit the Beliefnet Blog that highlights this report.

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.

Book Review: The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood

“Thank you” – a simple phrase, but one that can go a long way and can often make someone’s day a little brighter, make a person feel appreciated, and recognize that what they do is important and meaningful. Giving thanks is one of the key components of generosity. To be a gracious giver, one must also be a gracious receiver, so it’s important to know how to give and receive thanks.

But when do we learn that saying “thank you” is so important? For many, we learn as children that it is important to say thank you. The phrase is viewed as a common courtesy, it is viewed as a sign of respect, and it is just… what you do. But the true meaning of  giving thanks is an important concept for a child to learn and understand. If we can teach children that thankfulness and gratefulness are the keys to happiness,  then we will undoubtedly see very happy children with a strong sense of compassion.

When I read through the childrens book “The Secret of Saying Thanks” by Douglas Wood, I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for this text. The book is beautifully illustrated, the text is simple and easy to read, and the message is powerful. The beauty of generosity and thanks abounds through the pages and you are left with a positive and encouraging feeling when you’ve finished reading it.

This text is short and can be read with a child as a good bedtime story, but what makes it so special is the message of how important gracious giving and receiving is. If you are a Religious Educator, a parent, or simply someone who wants a refreshing short book to remind them of importance of giving thanks, “The Secret of Saying Thanks” may be a great book to pick up.

U.S. Giving Rose Overall During 2010

Individuals in the United Stated increased their philanthropic giving in 2010 by 2.1%, despite the pace of economic recovery. While this rate of increase still shows we have not rebounded to pre-recession levels, it is a “remarkable testament to the core values of Americans” says Patrick Rooney of Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy in their annual “Giving USA” report.

Giving to religious organizations dropped 0.8% in 2010, much less than the 2.3% drop for environmental and and animal welfare causes, and the 1.5% drop for human services, according to the report.
One piece of advice in the report is that persistence pays off – those who may have decreased or eliminated their giving during the recession are now slowly “regrowing their philanthropy.”
As we rebuild and reshape the economy for this next decade and beyond, our presence and our action as UU communities can ensure that giving to our UU churches remains an important piece of who we are and all that we represent.
For a more detailed summary of the report, please see the following article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which also contains a link to the entire report.

CSS at UUA GA: It’s really not alphabet soup!


The annual General Assembly (GA) of Unitarian Universalists (UUA) was recently held in Charlotte, North Carolina. During those five days, the Office of Congregational Stewardship Services (CSS) conducted four workshops.

Because worksho p attendance was greater than expected (over 400 attended the four workshops) we ran out of handouts. As promised, here are the links to those handouts:

FORTH Introductory Video
Appreciative Inquiry and the Annual Budget Drive PowerPoint

During these same workshops, small groups of participants were ask to answer these questions and the links to their responses are at:

FORTH Short-Term Goals
FORTH Long-Term Goals
Characteristics of a Stewardship Team


Learn more about Stewardship at General Assembly

General Assembly 2011 in Charlotte, NC has finally arrived! Director of Congregational Stewardship Services, Dr. Wayne Clark, is leading a number of workshops this year. For those of you interested in the new FORTH: A Stewardship Development program that was just launched, there is a two-part workshop that may be helpful in deciding if this program is right your congregation. Information is included below for your convenience.  We hope to see you there.

Thursday 10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Convention Center 209 AB

Stewardship: Appreciative Inquiry and the Annual Budget Drive
Lead by Dr. Wayne Clark

How do you approach your annual budget drive? Do you focus on the problem of limited money? Do you
identify the root causes? AI turns these conversations inside out, asserting that positive approaches to change can transform your congregation. Come learn how to apply AI to your next annual budget drive.

Thursday 1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
Convention Center 209 AB

FORTH: Growth, Stewardship, and Leadership (Part 1)
Lead by Dr. Wayne Clark & Mark Ewert

Come learn about this new and comprehensive stewardship development program. By the end of the workshop, participants will know how to:
1) initiate FORTH
2) take an Appreciative approach to FORTH, and
3) gain access to FORTH products and Resources.
Handouts and time for questions will be provided.

Thursday 2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Convention Center 209 AB

FORTH: Growth, Stewardship, and Leadership (Part 2)
Lead by Dr. Wayne Clark & Mark Ewert
This is the second of two FORTH workshops. (Participation in part 1 is not a prerequisite.)

FORTH is a stewardship development program, and this workshop focuses on improving lay and professional leadership skills. Learn how to implement FORTH in your own congregation, while activating growth and freeing-up resources.

Additionally, this year the Congregational Life Staff group will  be hosting Table Talks at the Congregational Life booth in the exhibit hall. Dr. Wayne Clark will be hosting two Table Talks on Stewardship. During this time, congregational leaders are encouraged to come to the Congregational Life booth and asked Wayne follow up questions regarding Workshops or stand alone questions on any stewardship topic.

Table Talk Information
Location: #721, Congregational Life Booth, Exhibit Hall
Date: Friday, June 24th at 2:30 and Saturday, June 25th at 2:30
Time: 30 Minutes
Topic: Any Stewardship-related questions