Best Practices for Conducting a Grand Annual Campaign

September 18, 2009

Best Practices, Grand Annuals, The Pilot

By Thomas M. Wilson

For the past few decades many Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston have conducted Grand Annual Campaigns.  During the past fiscal year, in fact, 215 of the Archdiocese’s 291 parishes undertook these campaigns – about 74% of all RCAB parishes. 

Typically, the parish Grand Annual Campaign involves a request for a larger annual gift to help bridge the budget gap created by a low and volatile offertory collection during the summer season and during bad weather.  While most parishes undertake the grand annual to help offset operating budget shortfalls, others undertake it to fund capital repairs and improvement projects to parish buildings, equipment and parking lots. 

When Letter Concepts assists parishes with their Grand Annual campaign, we encourage them to undertake the following steps:

  1. Consult with the parish finance committee and determine a realistic target goal.
  2. Clearly define how the funds from the Grand Annual will be used.
  3. Send an initial request letter and a follow-up letter to those that haven’t responded to the first letter.  The follow-up letter should be sent four weeks after the first request letter is mailed.
  4. Use personalized letters, intention cards and envelopes.
  5. Track contributors each year – Inform parishioners of their prior commitment to the Grand Annual campaign.  Note: generic, non-personalized, request amounts produce generic results.
  6. Send a hand-signed thank you letter or card promptly to all respondents.
  7. Print the return address of the parish on the return envelope for those that do not attend Mass regularly.  This may be the one chance for these families to make an annual financial commitment to their registered parish.
  8. Let the request letters do their work.  As a wrap-up mechanism, place a Grand Annual envelope in your offertory envelope packet two weekends after the follow-up letter.

By employing these simple steps each year, your parish will sustain and even increase the number of contributors and amount raised in the Grand Annual campaign.

If you are a member of your parish finance committee or parish council, I encourage you discuss this article at your next meeting and how your parish could benefit.  Working together to improve parish fundraising and finances, we can strengthen the Church’s ability to carry on the mission that Christ has entrusted to us.

Tom Wilson is Managing Partner of Letter Concepts, a leader in Grand Annual Collections and Increase Weekly Giving Programs.  For more information, visit www.letterconcepts.com or email tomw@letterconcepts.com. 

This article originally appeared in a special “Parish Stewardship & Fundraising” section of The Pilot on September 18, 2009

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