No. 6: Case for support: telling your congregation why you deserve the money


When I enjoy my Sabbath Day, one of my favorite things is a big country breakfast made with oven bread from a local pueblo near my farm, fresh Irish butter, fresh eggs from a neighbor’s farm and agave syrup.  There are ingredients to a meal and there are ingredients to a campaign.


The ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum during the time Jesus walked this earth have upturned an old cornerstone with the inscription “from the family of Zebedee.” This archeology is a reminder that even James and John’s family were philanthropists and were given donor recognition.  A short wander around any English Cathedral before collapsing in a heap for a pile of clotted cream in the gift shop will show any tourist the names on wall, floor and window plaques commemorating gifts from major donors going back to the dark ages.  And in your own church, I bet that your pledge records and your brass plaques tell the story of donations large and small going back decades. Those people gave because they were motivated by the Holy Spirit, but the co-creativity of those gifts was a dialogue between the Holy Spirit and the church.  The Holy Spirit whispered something like “go ahead…give…don’t be afraid…you’re gonna die some day…you can’t keep it…let it go…it will feel great!” and the church said (ideally) “Here is why this parish is a great investment of your gift, discerned as your stewardship unfolds.”


Now, yes, I know that some of the ways the church has said “Here is why you should give to the church” have been rather unsavory to say the least.  But often churches and non-profits are able to explain clearly and honestly why they deserve the money they are seeking from parish members and local citizens.


In the olden days, quaint Victorian village churches had full treasuries because the entire population of the village was “asked” to give (and fined if they did not.) And centuries before, the punishment for not pledging was rather worse. (This is a “G” rated article, so I will refrain from the list.) But today, things have taken a turn for the democratic and the church has no option left but simply to deserve the money it seeks in its annual pledge campaign.  So what does one do?


One tells the truth.


“Case for support” is a fancy fundraising term for “why we deserve the money we are asking you do give.”  And it is the job of a church to “make the case” humbly aware that they are doing so in the very real context of many other non-profits making their case to the same donors (but with bigger budgets to do so.) This is why a church needs to work hard to make the case to the donor prospects (everyone in the pews) and to do so compellingly. A long letter from the Rector just won’t cut it. And a long letter from the Bishop for gifts past the parish and way over into the diocese is, well, embarrassing.  Giving is about relationships.


There will be many tools at your disposal:


  1. The bulletin – an insert explaining each week for the eight weeks of the campaign what good things the church accomplishes with the money.
  2. The announcements – when announcements about successes are spoken
  3. The “ministry minutes” – in which a member of the congregation speaks for 3 minutes on the subject “This is what I love about St. Swithen’s”
  4. The adult forum and youth classes – in which teaching about giving, gratitude and stewardship can be done.
  5. A parish brochure or annual report – (mostly images and few words please) which celebrates what a good investment a pledge is in the life of the church
  6. Letters – sent at week 1, 4, 6 and 8 which tell how the campaign is going and when an end is in sight (but mostly why this is such a valuable thing to which to give.)
  7. The invitations – to the kick-off event and the ending event in which messaging can be inserted about the lives changed by these gifts.
  8. The phone calls – to all non-pledgers at week four and again at week 6 of the campaign reminding the members of the church that the parish is a wonderful investment and is changing lives (and by the way, please get your pledge in by the celebration dinner!)
  9. The thank you letter – for the pledge.
  10. The thank you letter – reporting the status of the end of the effort
  11. The hand-written thank you letter – sent two months after the end of the campaign.


This is hard work, true.  But unless we plan to turn the clocks back to a time in which indulgences were sold or villagers were taxed…I think that this is a new and wonderful adventure in ecclesial philanthropy!  Next week we will look deeper into the “Ministry Minutes.”

No. 4: The Campaign Case for support


Sometimes while walking on my farm in New Mexico it is hard to see the forest for the trees; let alone the sunset. But in church leadership we often need to be able to see the trees.  Developing a case for support for a church’s fundraising is writing the trees so that the forest can be seen and funded. On a farm we plant trees.  In a campaign, we plant ideas which come from the very people to whom we return them in our case communications. Case communications is about hosting a conversation with your congregation which then forms the messages which they then read and regognize as their collective longings.  A church’s case is not the message of the rector and a diocesan case is not the message of a bishop.  The case of a church or diocese is the case (longings) of the people who will then be asked to fund it.  These are new days.


And a case is about words.  Jesus came to Earth as the Word, not the idea. Words are important. One of the chief weaknesses of campaigns to raise money (pledges or major gifts) or people (membership) is the weakness of communications strategy, design, and implementation. The church is used to assuming people will pledge or join simply because they always have or because God says to do so. Nowadays we have to explain why to fund the church.  The olden days of everyone pledging because they were frightened into it or browbeaten into it or taxed and fined into it or pressured by family or village into it are over.  And I am glad it is a new day.  But this increases the responsibility of a church to have to deserve the money they seek to raise and then be able to explain why they deserve the money.


Other agencies doing effective and powerful work in the world are able to communicate why people should make philanthropic investments and why people should join communities of mission. The ability to communicate effectively will support any ability a church may have to raise money or people. Too often, churches communicate in case-development and their self-descriptions are only aspirational hopes rather than the actual, truthful, measurable effectiveness they are able to prove in a particular place and time as a church. A communications plan, whether for a small church or a large church, is essential to support financial development and membership growth. Here is an outline of some key tasks in developing your case, regardless if it is for the raising of annual pledging, major gifts or a diocesan project:


  1. How to craft your campaign theme/slogan.
  2. Listen to God’s mission in which you are involved.
  3. Listen to people talk about your church’s ministry, mission, and impact.
  4. Pray about the ability to hear a call to a theme.
  5. Look for the vision.
  6. Look for images.
  7. Host conversations
  8. What are you known for in the community?
  9. What do you want to be known for in the community?
  10. How does this intersect with what Jesus asks us to accomplish? (God’s Mission)

be funded.


  1. Discernment of your campaign theme:
  2. Schedule coffees, small group focus groups, brainstorming sessions, crock pot conversations, ect.
  3. Look for a quote from a hymn, a song, an ad, a ministry minute speaker, etc.
  4. Look at your life together right now. What is about to happen and how do you want that happening to be funded?


  1. Crafting the final decision about your case.
  2. Keep it simple and to one message.


  1. Use your message content: Communicate!
  2. Know your people.
  3. Keep an eye out for talent, and recruit, and thank and thank and thank.
  4. Cultivate volunteers the way you cultivate major gifts— relationships.
  5. Your brand is not your logo! Your brand is the combination of who people say you are and who you know you are. Do you deserve the money you think you want to raise?


Here are some questions which might inform the writing of your case-for-support.  Host events and creative-writing sessions which answer these questions and you will have all the materials you need for brochures, letters and sermons.


  1. What do we do that Jesus would recognize and love?
  2. What do we provide?
  3. How do we change lives?
  4. What results to society do we provide which make change?
  5. How has one life been changed by our mission?
  6. Why should a donor invest in this work?