De-bunking Fundraising Myths – Part 7 (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 seventh 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).  Are large givers going to barricade the road we wish to travel down?

As always, we encourage you to leave comments.

Fundraising Myth #7

Myth: Generous givers feel entitled to complain loudly when things do not go their way. They attempt to “hold the congregation hostage” by threatening to eliminate their financial and volunteer support.

Truth: There may be a few generous givers who feel entitled , but not many. Fundraising consultants have an axiom that says, “People who give the most complain the least; those who give the least complain the most.” People are more committed to faith communities when they give joyfully of their aptitudes, abilities, and money (their gifts), when they willingly proclaim the faith community’s good works (their call), and when they participate in the work (spiritual vocation) of their faith community. With few exceptions, the most committed congregants are those who are helpful and supportive to a fault. The people who are vocal obstructionists often lead with their heels, giving little of their gifts, call, or spiritual vocation to their faith community.

“All we ever do is talk about raising money!”

Here’s a short story recently shared by a lay leader. Sound familiar?

“We used to have a lot of fundraisers to help balance our annual budget. Most notably, we ran a fall at-your-service auction and a spring yard sale. After a  while, people got worn out from all the hard work and the excruciating pressure of needing to raise a certain amount of money each time. It got harder and harder to recruit volunteers to run these events.
Then, someone had an epiphany: ‘Not only is this really hard work, but, for the most part, we are just exchanging money among ourselves.’ And then someone estimated the amount of time required to run each fundraiser. It was easy to see that conducting fundraisers to balance an operating budget was not at all cost effective.”

Fundraisers to build community are great. Fundraisers to support external ministries are also great. Using fundraisers to balance an operating budget . . .not so much. (more…)

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.

Is Your Congregation in the Used Car Business?

The following question was recently posted on the UUmoney listserv:
“Is there a best way for a church to receive the donation of a car and turn it into cash?”

While that’s an intriguing question, a better question might be, “Should a church accept donation of a car?”

Ideally, a congregation has anticipated this second question and has written a clear endowment document. This document provides written policies for a planned giving program and clearly describes what types of gifts can be accepted without review and which gifts require approval of the governing body or the entire congregation.

It is especially helpful to outline a procedure for reviewing gifts of real estate, used cars, or other personal assets that may be difficult to sell. Does the congregation really want to be in the business of managing a piece of real estate, or brokering a deal on a donated car, or assessing the value of Aunt Maude’s priceless bric-a-brac? (more…)

De-bunking Fundraising Myths – Part 5 (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 fifth 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). You may have seen the commercials for Bing about search engine overload, and we may feel that way sometimes but it doesn’t necessarily mean that congregants don’t want to know where their money is going.

As always, we encourage you to leave comments.

Fundraising Myth #5

Myth: Because many people are suffering from information overload, they do not want to know how the congregation is using their contributions.

Truth: May people, although overwhelmed with information in their daily lives, are also well educated and a bit skeptical. They are less likely than previous generations to have blind faith that the congregation is using their money wisely. They want to know that their contributions are making a difference, and they are interested in the facts and figures as well as the narrative that explains the ways that their financial gifts are being used. (Note that this does not necessarily mean they want to see long columns of numbers as found in a detailed line-item budget.)

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.
(more…)

Differing Methods of Fundraising at Churches and Synagogues Raise Similar Amounts

A recent study by the Jewish Weekly publication, Forward, concludes that giving levels at churches and synagogues raise similar amounts despite different methods—church dues are voluntary whereas synagogues charge membership dues.

Some churches require a 10% tithing rate, but many rely on the conscience of the member to decide the amount of the donation. In addition, some churches have high numbers of members who do not or cannot donate at the same congregation where other members donate many thousands of dollars. Synagogues charge dues for every member as well as fees for attending high holiday services, although the amount of the dues charged can vary.

Of the congregations surveyed, at the high end was an average gift per family of $7,800 and at the low end was an average gift of $100. For synagogues, base dues vary from $1,000 to $3,000 per family, although some members contribute much more than the required dues. Despite the large differences in voluntary versus required amounts, of those surveyed the median amount of funds raised per-capita by synagogues was $660, only slightly higher than by churches at $640. Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology at Duke University surmised: “Perhaps what the dues system does is even out the giving rather than get you more per capital.”

Historically, American churches and synagogues had similar models for raising money—both charged “pew fees” based on their location. This practice declined in churches in the late 19th century and represented a movement away from the idea that one could buy God’s favor by spending more money on the best seats. Most synagogues also moved away from the 19th century system in order to democratize the funding structure.

How do these results impact our Unitarian Universalist way of raising money through the suggested fair share giving guide and appreciative inquiry? If requiring set amounts from members does not raise more money than voluntary contributions that relate to ability to pay, then three cheers for focusing on equitable contributions and positive achievements to fund our church missions!

Stay tuned for the next installment of the study by Forward, that will focus on how churches and synagogues spend the money they raise.

For more details on the study, see the full article in Forward.

Using Credit Cards for Financial Commitments?

From time to time, congregations ask about providing donors  an opportunity to make their annual financial commitments on-line. We have spoken previously about Vanco Services, which offers electronic transfer options. Vanco will manage the process in which donors have their commitments automatically withdrawn from their checking account each month. Currently more than 100 UUA congregations successfully using this service.

But what about electronic payments using a credit card? Historically, we have shied away from this option because of the expense.  However, there has been recent conversation on the UU-Money email list that suggests there may now be a viable option. You can find lots of information about the possibility of using credit cards for financial commitments online.

We would welcome a blog conversation about this option.

  • Has anyone tried it?
  • If so, what have been the advantages?
  • What are some pitfalls to avoid?
  • If not, why?

Household Giving is on an Upward Trend

Mary Gleason, Congregational Stewardship Consultant at the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA), recently came upon an article that was posted on the Association of Fundraising Professionals for Washington website and shared it with the other Congregational Stewardship Consultants. We thought that it was such interesting and positive news that we wanted to share it with you.

Mary writes:

“There is good news on the horizon for the success of annual budget drives.

In 2009 non-profit organizations experienced a downward trend in household giving, the kind of giving our congregations rely on.  Blackbaud, makers of fundraising software, monitors giving on many levels and has noted some positive trends in the quarter April – June 2010.

Their study shows that small non-profits with annual revenues under $1 million experienced a 12.3 percent increase over the same time period last year.  That’s good news for congregations with late spring annual budget drives.  Mid sized non-profits with annual revenues between $1 million and $10 million still had a decline of 2.5% but is considered recovering because it is less of a decline than for the same time last year.

The study also reports that online giving is up by 13.1 percent for small organizations. If you are not using online giving as an option for your annual budget drive and other gifts you may want to consider adding this opportunity.”

You can read the article at the Association of Fundraising Professionals or the full report at Blackbaud.

If you’re looking into on-line giving, the UUA Office of Congregational Stewardship Services encourages congregations to explore Vanco Services.  Currently over 8,500 congregations nationwide are served by Vanco’s electronic giving solutions.