I’m quite certain you did not miss that Tuesday was dubbed “Giving Tuesday” by the non-profit sector of our economy. How many emails or direct mail pieces did you get from charities you support (or have EVER supported) about making a donation on that day? Did you give money?
This is the world of non-profit fundraising. To get money from donors, you need to ask. You ask frequently—very frequently. You use every medium you can. You target your messages to donors by their stage of life, their interests, the size of their previous gifts, their potential for sizable gifts. You set up matching gifts. You organize “giving competitions.” Whenever it’s possible you use the gold standard of fundraising: one-on-one conversations. Your CEO’s number one job is fundraising. As soon as you can afford it, you hire a development director. You also write grant applications—many, many grant applications.
Back in the day, churches were a breed apart as far as fundraising went. People donated the majority of their year’s charitable giving dollars to their churches first, and then divvied up the rest to other organizations. Church members automatically gave in support of their church. Well, friends, times have changed.
Today, churches are discovering that they have joined the ranks of non-profits in the eyes of their donors. No more “first giving” for the churches and no more “majority giving” to churches. We’re now in the hunt for those charitable dollars along with all those other non-profits. So far, research says that churches are losing, partly because they didn’t realize that this was happening. That’s why we know that UUCA, nearly all UU churches and the UUA are not alone in the world of shrinking church budgets.
In some ways, churches are currently at a disadvantage. We really can’t let our CEO (our minister) be our chief fundraiser. We have no grants for which we can apply. We have members who are very sensitive to being asked for money. And yet, the rule remains “to get money you have to ask for it.”
There is one place where churches DO have the advantage. We know our donors as individuals and friends and we can use that gold standard of fund-raising: one-on-one conversations. That’s what the Visiting Steward program of the Annual Budget Drive is all about. But even then, because we’re a church, and our donors ARE our friends, our one-on-one conversations are about a lot more than money. These are also times to have conversations about the value of UUCA in our lives, how we might envision an even stronger congregation and to have genuine conversations with congregants we may not know very well—yet.
But to sustain this congregation with staff members who can help us organize and move forward in the ways that demonstrate our congregation’s values, and with buildings that welcome us, and with programs that feed us, we (and really all religious bodies with buildings) need to find a new model of financial support or a new model for religious gathering. We have The Dream Team exploring this new world. Stay tuned.
Linda, Topp, Director of Administration