Why a Parish Campaign Makes Sense in this Economy

By Larry Furey, CFRE

“Parishioners Laid Off.”   “Stock Values Plummet.”  “Housing Bubble Bursts.”  “Tax Increases Coming.”  Pick a headline, any headline among these and dozens of other “bad news” stories of the past year and then move beyond it to the “Good News” of “Why a Parish Campaign Makes Sense in this Economy”.  It isn’t easy, we at Partners in Mission understand that, but it may be the best news you will hear this year.

First, remember why your parish would consider a capital, major gift initiative or grand annual program regardless of local, national or world economic conditions.   The primary reason should be to invite and welcome the resources you need to advance the mission and ministries of your parish community.  Typically you need financial resources to sustain and grow your ministries, restore or expand your parish facilities, fund key parish staff positions, initiate an endowment program for your school or religious education program, establish a planned or estate giving program and to meet the multiple needs of your parish community and families.  Regardless of economic conditions, these needs are real right now. 

Second, remember why your parish would bring these needs together in a focused, high energy capital campaign, major gift initiative or grand annual program in the first place.   Creating an environment that invites, encourages and celebrates personal engagement of the mission of the Church and your parish in response to the Gospel call to ministry must be an immediate and everyday priority – regardless of the economy or world conditions.  A parish-wide capital, major gift initiative or grand annual program, based on a parish wide vision and strategic planning process plan can bring fresh focus, energy, enthusiasm and renewal in the faith to your parish that will impact the lives of parishioners today and for generations yet to be born.

You ask, of course,  “how can we encourage a parish campaign of any type at a time when so many people are unemployed,  our offertory is stagnant at best, and in parishes with schools parents are struggling to pay tuition?”  Great question – it is one that is being asked everyday in parishes across America.   The answer is found in our faith-filled response to the Gospel message of the Beatitudes where we are called to recognize that what we do for our fellow parishioners and neighbors in their time of need is how we will ultimately be recognized as Christians and welcomed into the Kingdom.

When we recognize that the spiritual, educational, emotional, health, social and economic needs of our community are truly served in Christ’s name through the ministries of our parish, we recognize our call to serve and support our parish to the best of our ability.   Our work with parishes and schools has taught us that with the understanding and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, even during the toughest of times, parishes can succeed in securing the resources they need to fund for important programs, facilities and other needs through a highly focused strategic capital campaign, major gift initiative or grand annual program.      

The amazing thing to remember is that while many may be struggling, others who are not impacted recognize the call to respond generously when invited and welcomed to share in the life of their parish meaningfully ways.  Crafting a capital, major gift initiative or grand annual program through a strategic planning process for the faith life and renewal of your parish community that invites, welcomes and engages your parishioners, even during tough times, will lead to the treasure you seek.

We know this to be true from the work we do through our sole commitment to the advancement of the mission and ministry of Catholic schools and parishes across America. 

Partners in Mission is a full-service consulting firm focused exclusively on developing excellence in Catholic school and parish advancement and leadership. Larry Furey, Founding Partner, served as Assistant Headmaster of Advancement at Xaverian Bothers High School and as Vice President of Advancement for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston. For more information, please visit www.PartnersinMission.com or contact Larry at 781.710.0242 or at lfurey@partnersinmission.com.

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

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