Five Parish Fundraising Fundamentals

September 19, 2008

Best Practices, Stewardship, The Pilot

One of the activities that I enjoy most is coaching sports. I began coaching youth basketball in high school and have also coached baseball, soccer and tennis. My approach to building a strong team, built on the lessons of great coaches that taught me these sports, is to focus on the “fundamentals” in practice. For example, basketball players on my teams practice defense, rebounding and passing before moving on to the more enjoyable shooting drills. This strong focus on the fundamentals often leads to victory.

Fundraising is similar to sports in that strong fundamentals lead to favorable results. There are five parish fundraising fundamentals that prepare parish fundraising campaigns for success.

The first fundamental is a vibrant faith life. Vibrant parishes have active prayer lives, they worship together with energy and broad participation and they are active in their communities, putting the beatitudes and gospel into practice. These parishes and parishioners “think big” about what God can help them become as a people of faith and a community of service. When parishioners are deeply engaged and see the good that God can accomplish through them as a group, they are much more likely to be financially generous in support of that mission.

The second fundamental is a welcoming parish community. Signs of welcoming communities are greeters who warmly welcome newcomers to the parish, initiation processes that invite new registrants to learn more about the parish, and social activities that gather the whole community together frequently. Parishioners that are warmly received by the parish community are much more willing to sacrifice when it comes time to do their part financially to advance the work of the parish.

The third fundamental is a disciplined and ongoing registration effort that leads to a complete and up-to-date parishioner database. Typically the first step of any parish campaign is to clean up or rebuild the parish census; so an accurate database saves the parish time and money. A current census ensures that the parish can reach every family in the parish community with important communications. Parishes should strive to register every family in religious education, the parish school, and in any of the parish’s sacramental preparation programs (baptism, reconciliation, first communion, confirmation, marriage). They can also make it easy to register online and by frequently printing registration forms in the bulletin.

The fourth fundamental is a strong volunteer culture in the parish. Parishes that practice stewardship often do this quite well as they ask all parishioners to share their time and talent back with God through the Church. Parishioners that are deeply engaged as volunteers typically WANT to give generously to strengthen the Church when it is time for a campaign. A good book for helping parishioners translate their professional and personal skills into specific parish volunteer roles is “Living Your Strengths” by Albert Winseman of the Gallup organization. We have parishes in the Archdiocese that have more than one hundred active ministries who can serve also as good benchmarks in the area of volunteering.

The fifth fundamental is frequent communication from the pastor. A strong tool for this effort is an annual report, which describes the progress the parish made that year against its ministry and financial goals. Another great tool is a personalized letter from the pastor to each member of the parish twice per year to thank them for their past gifts of time, talent and treasure and to ask them for sustained or increased support. On a weekly and monthly basis, bulletin columns and messages at the end of Mass also enhance communication, trust and connectedness.

These five parish fundraising fundamentals, taken together, form a rich soil that will allow the fruits of parish fundraising efforts to be realized fully. Every Catholic, and all those we serve, will benefit when all of our parishes have the resources to fully live their mission.

This article originally appeared in a special “Stewardship” section of The Pilot on September 19, 2008

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