“New wine is for fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:22)
Late summer and early fall is the time to prepare for the stewardship campaign that receives pledges for the forthcoming year. For most parishes this means a repetitive process each year of drafting an appeal letter, mailing this together with a pledge card to every family and then launching a multi-week effort to receive the pledge cards. Some parishes that tire of this process simply rollover every family’s pledge from the current year.
Though an energy and modest cost saving method this is not recommended for three reasons: 1) parish leadership needs to articulate the mission of the parish every year in compelling and persuasive ways; 2) parish members need to be in a continuing process of growth from the minimal giving practiced in almost all Orthodox parishes to the sacrificial giving taught in scripture; and 3) giving membership erodes every year through death, moving and economic reversals in the lives of parishioners and must be replaced either through increased giving or new giving.
This year try something a little more sophisticated in terms of marketing principles –segment the community and differentiate how each segment will be approached. What are possible segments? Consider any combination of the possibilities below:
- The top 10-20 families in terms of their perceived ability to give;
- New families;
- Non-pledging but financially supporting families;
- Adult children presently and unwisely “shielded” by parental pledging;
- Outliers – occasional and feast day attendees;
- Families perceived to be significantly under pledging their capability;
- The general rank and file.
Differentiate how certain families will be approached with any or all of the methods below:
- Personal visits by the stewardship chair together with the priest for the perceived top donor prospects of 10-20 families making a specific request for them to increase their giving;
- Personal visits or meetings by one or two members of the stewardship committee with another segment of the giving/non-giving;
- Personal letters requesting a specific increase in giving with personal telephone call follow ups to learn of the response to the requested increase;
- Small group gatherings with a Powerpoint presentation and a telephone call follow up requesting an increased pledge;
- All those not personally contacted receive standard mailing with appeal letter and reminders for cards to be returned;
- Each year thereafter, select a different group of parishioners to receive personal visits, another group to receive personal letters with telephone call follow up, etc.