No. 2: The strategic plan
The Meaning-making Stewardship Series
The greatest potential for growth in a stewardship program is to be found in its prayer and its planning. The two go hand-in-hand. We discern and then we plan so that we can act. I get dozens of frantic emails in August and September of each year asking for advice on stewardship pledge campaigns in churches in dozens of denominations. I have the difficult job of telling my writers that writing to me in March would have been a better plan. But therein lies the problem: the lack of a plan that works.
Moving your stewardship program from a frantic pledge campaign to a financial development year-round program is going to be the difference between limping along and really running the race. Part of the problem is fear and anxiety. Raising money in our churches is a matter of deep fear for many because they were never taught how to do something which can take one third of a clergy-person’s time. Add to that the very real, vulnerable human fears around asking another person for money, and you have the potential for parish administrative, management constipation.
Moving past your fears of asking for money will be one of our next few considerations in this year-long twice-weekly series – so fear not. However planning and meditation will be your two best tools as you move past fear and into the flow of getting the job done, and done well.
This White Peach tree is at the end of its yield in these late days of summer and early days of fall here on the farm in New Mexico where I write, make pottery and raise money to ease the suffering of those experiencing homelessness. Our apple and peach orchards require planning – a season for soil preparation and fence-building, a season for water-flow management, a season for planting, a season for nurturing, a season for pruning, a season for checking against illness or infestation, and a season for harvesting thousands of peaches for cobblers, jams, pies and crisps. Waiting until early fall for a white peach harvest, without having worked year-round to support that harvest will lead to failure – and it is the same with fundraising in churches.
You are not raising money. You are inspiring gratitude and meaning-making. The money you raise for your church’s mission is a side-benefit. Your ministry is to help people to reduce their own fears about money, scarcity and abundance, see what they have been given, and then help them to give some of it away to a church-mission worthy of the contributions. A church must model the kind of bold conversation and meticulous planning which we are asking our parishioners to do in their own lives. Indeed, a part of your work is the very good preaching and pastoral care provided year-round. However, another part of church leadership is the administration of work which supports church philanthropy with effective communications, motivating case development (why we deserve this money for which we now ask) and efficient donor relations. Stewardship is what your congregation members do as they make decisions about their budget and their philanthropy. Financial development is what clergy and lay people do when they are leading the communications which inspire stewardship in the congregation. The church then adds their own stewardship work to their financial development work when they steward the gifts and the relationships which inform those gifts. It is ok for a clergy person to refuse to dirty their hands with filthy lucre by being disinclined to manage fundraising (though they risk gnostic heresy); however, they need to be helped to find new employment in an agency which does not need to raise money.
It is the job of the laity to claim their voice. I once preached on Matin Luther King Sunday an told the congregation “This is you church! Claim your voice! Make a stand. Clergy will come and go. You will stay. Own your church and its mission.” A few minutes later, in the vesting room, I was told by the senior clergy person that I was never to say such a thing again. “This is not THEIR church. This is MY church. I built it up and I run it. Never say that again!” Well, thew problem is that the 1920’s called and they want their leadership style back please. There is too much fast communication now and the generations have shifted too much for the “Father knows best” style of leadership to work anymore. This applies to fundraising as well. I encourage vestries and stewardship committees to act up. Claim your voice. Demand effective, time-consuming stewardship programs and demand effective financial development work from top leadership in your church. Without it your mission will be constricted and starved of the financial resources Jesus wants for your valuable mission.
What you will see in this link is a model flow document which will help you to design your own strategic plan for the year. If you do not have one yet, no worries, set aside two or three hours, go to a local cafe or museum and set your hand at drafting one – then get lots of eyes on it and begin to follow your plan beginning in the months in which you now find yourself. Make sure it has measurable objectives. Note that this model is just a model, and so does not. You need amounts, dates and responsible names of leadership in the plan. What gets measured gets done. If you are not in need of a year-round strategic plan for financial development then, relax, because the next article will be a micro plan for the fall campaign to get you started.