I’m not a fundraiser!

By Marcia Meehan

When beginning a new church campaign, this is the most frequent statement I hear when being introduced to new congregation members.  I’m no longer taken aback by it, and I even smile when I hear it now.  Why?  Because I begin to think about all the volunteer congregants who started out saying the exact same thing, and ended up finding joy and a deeper connection to their church and fellow congregants through serving as a capital campaign visitor.

James D. Klote and Associates provides “Ten Guiding Principles” to making an ask.  These come from years and years of experience and respectful consideration of both the visitor and the prospective donor.  Whether taught through a formal training or a one-on-one training, these principles provide each visitor with a roadmap and resources that instill confidence in a new visitor, as well as pride in being part of something that could impact the future of the church.

To be a visitor, you need to make your own gift first.  I’ll never forget the time I was asked for a gift to my church.  I was in my 20s and a fellow congregant visited me.  He began by telling me that he didn’t think we really needed a new building – the old one was just fine. I was sure that he wasn’t supporting it and sadly I wasn’t inspired to either, even though I had attended since birth and was a youth leader and choir member in high school. 

Each visitor in our capital campaign receives a professional Visitor’s Handbook, a View Book, and at least one hour of training, as well as coaching along every step of the way.  After one training session, a congregant stated, “I’ve been to a LOT of fundraising trainings for my college, and many other not-for-profits, but I’ve never gotten as much out of ANY of them.  I’m ready to start!” 

Knowing that visits are an opportunity to get together with congregants to share their mutual love of the church, many volunteers have come back sharing amazing stories of time together – time they might never have found without being asked to do so through the campaign.  I’ve received hugs and thanks from congregants who have gotten together with people they haven’t seen in years – often taking trips out of town to meet them!  One volunteer campaign visitor came back and handed me a signed pledge card for $40,000 – exactly what was suggested she request.  When I told her that was tremendous, she casually said: “That’s what you told me to do, right?”  She then asked for another pledge card for herself because after her meeting with her friend and talking about all the good times they shared in the church, she felt she wanted to give more.  She ended up doubling her own pledge after that meeting. 

It’s important to include everyone in the capital campaign process.  A relatively new member of the church was visited in my last campaign and during the visit, she shared that she herself had been approached for a capital campaign gift at her previous church from the visitor’s parents!  What a surprise!  She said that she appreciated being included in this campaign and gave not only a generous gift, but also felt more connected through her support and began to get more involved.

Capital Campaigns are so much more than “fundraising”.  They build community.  They bring people together for a common purpose from all parts of the church and all walks of life. I find great joy in watching friendships develop through the campaign where they otherwise would not have formed.  Events such as the Campaign Kickoff, Mid-Campaign Rally and Visitor Thank You events bring these volunteers together throughout the campaign to learn, grow, celebrate and deepen relationships built on a shared vision.  The reading below is one that we read together as a Steering Committee and I feel captures the Capital Campaign spirit.

BOLD AND COURAGEOUS TOGETHER

By Erika A. Hewitt

With full hearts,

we affirm our relationships with one another;

we recognize our agency and our connective power;

and we accept our responsibility to be bold and courageous.

We light this chalice,

symbol of all that we are, all that we have done together,

and all that we will be as our shared ministry encourages those within, and beyond, our walls.

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