Welcome back! This is the third column on designing a pledge drive in a faith community. Perhaps you feel that you have been running your annual pledge drives the same way for a bit too long, or that your pledge drives have not produced any change in giving for several years. Our intent in these columns is to give you tools for the design and execution of a pledge drive.
Our last column focused on the rationale or theology of giving. The topic is extremely broad and there is an enormous amount written on it. What is less written about are the mechanics, or nuts and bolts, of a pledge drive. That will be our focus in this and the next two columns.
Quite a few years ago stewardship leaders in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota arranged for the Rev. David Gordon to come to St. Mark’s Cathedral and present on how he ran pledge drives in his own parish. Rev. Gordon was a priest in Albany, NY and later was named the Stewardship Officer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Rev. Gordon authored a book on running pledge drives that is still available on Amazon.com entitled “A Plan for Stewardship Education and Development through the Year”.
Rev. Gordon understood that among other objectives, a well-designed pledge drive should bring the congregation together in greater Christian community. His ideas were consistent with a theology that teaches we cannot really experience Christ unless we experience him through each other in community.
An important component of the pledge drives he described are “Contact People.” Contact People act to draw the parish closer together by calling or speaking with four other parishioners and sharing with them the following:
- Every parishioner is invited to a Stewardship Lunch or Dinner a week before Commitment Sunday.
- Every household will receive a pledge card along with a letter from the Rector during the week before Commitment Sunday.
- We request that every parishioner who plans to pledge return their pledge card during the Commitment Sunday service.
That’s it. There is no message about how important pledging is, there is no message about how the parishioner should search their soul before making a pledge and gosh forbid there is NO discussion about how much the parishioner should give.This should not be an uncomfortable process for anyone and if it is, then we are doing something wrong.
Ten days to two weeks after Commitment Sunday we take a good accounting of who has and has not turned in their pledge card. If a pledge card has not been returned by the Smith family the Contact Person with responsibility for the Smith family calls and asks if they intend to pledge and if so, is there any way we can make it easier for them to do so, typically by getting them another pledge card. If we are told the parishioner does not plan to pledge we say “thank you” and do not bother them again.
Two practical points – we recruit one Contact Person for each five parishioners (20 Contact People for a congregation of 100 households) and there is a lunch or dinner one week before Commitment Sunday. It can be a simple meal after the main service on a Sunday but the distinguishing feature is having at least two members of the faith community speak about why they find this parish to be special, important and their parish home.
Of course the above is not intended to be a complete primer on pledge drives. It is meant to offer some ideas you may not be currently using. For a fuller description of how to design and run a pledge drive please get Rev. Gordon’s book on Amazon.com!
Many of us have run or been a part of pledge drives and you have seen them at their best and worst. Let’s talk about it! We have a chance to build a future of giving in our faith communities where our relationship with God becomes deeper and more joyful. If you have a story or question to share please send them to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (952) 457-8660. The answers to our giving challenges are there. They can be found in listening to God and in the experiences and knowledge already in our congregations and faith communities.
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