Fearless Fundraising #3: Setting up the pledge campaign

“Fearless Fundraising” is a series on church fundraising by Charles LaFond, an Episcopal Priest, author and master potter living on a farm in New Mexico. Charles is the author of many books including Fearless Church Fundraising and now, Fearless Major Gifts: Inspiring Meaning-making. For more information, videos and model documents go to fearlesschurchfundraising.com. Charles writes in order to provide new ways and perspectives on church fundraising in the face of old ways which are failing us.


Setting up the systems of a pledge campaign


The Pledge Campaign will provide you with the strategic planning overview topics needed for the development of a written and administered plan for any-sized church.  Many churches can, if they are not careful, imagine that they are pathologically different “Oh Charles, __________ would never work in THIS church…we are so very different and so very special!”

I agree that your church is a wonderful manifestation of the body of Christ.  However, forgive me if I say that after leading and raising money in churches for 35 years as a lay and clergy leader, people are people, and they all give out of loyalty, gratitude, association, investment or guilt.  So it is important to meet humans with a stewardship ministry which makes it easy to make the gift about which they will feel so wonderful. Your congregation needs tools to make their pledge in the same way you and I need tools to eat our dinner…a knife, a fork, a plate, a napkin, a candle, a companion, a prayer, a scotch (or water).


The biggest mistake churches make is assuming that people should give because it is the right thing to do as a member … or because God will weep if they do not.  Neither is true.  People should only give to a church if the church deserves the money due to its profoundly impactful mission and effectiveness.  Every gift and pledge to a church is actually a gift to God through the church and not a gift to the church.


There are lots of organizations which, based on what Jesus asked us to accomplish on earth, are worthy of our gifts to God THROUGH them. Jesus never mentioned giving money to the church and the one time Jesus spoke about money in the temple precincts it was, well, tumultuous to say the least.  Give to the Red Cross and you are giving to the naked.  Give to Heading Home and you are housing the destitute.  Give to Goodwill and you are caring for the marginalized. Give to a medical clinic for the financially poor and you will be caring for widows and orphans – among others.


Not only does the church have competition for philanthropic dollars, the competition is one Google click away.  So churches need not only to deserve the money they raise but also be able to communicate how and why they deserve the money they seek to raise.


This is an overview of the Annual Pledge Campaign.  You can download a copy here (pdf)

  1. Invested case development: the materials which churches use to raise money need to be developed by hosting meaningful conversations so that when the donor goes to make the gift, they are making a gift into a case which they have helped to develop out of their longings for the church and for humanity, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Donors will only fund what they themselves considered vital. Gone are the days that we tell donors what to give to and how to give it.
  2. Developed and crafted case: the “case” of a campaign is the “why” of what the money is needed for and the “what” of what the money will accomplish. If the case is not well-designed, then the donors will give to other organizations who have done good case development.
  3. Advance campaign: the advanced campaign will facilitate the leadership gifts in advance of the campaign, so the focus may be applied to non-donors and lapsed donors.
  4. Events: opening and closing celebrations–one of the primary changes in philanthropy in our churches is that donors will only give to that in which they are physically involved.
  5. Ministry Minutes: the case development of our campaign work must be both written and human. The average young family in our churches today only go to church once or twice a month meaning that each week over eight weeks they must hear someone they know and love speak passionately about why the church and its mission-needs to exist in this time in this place. Ministry minutes are personal testimonials to the impact of mission and ministry in a particular church.
  6. Phone-a-Thon: personal telephone call with a carefully and passionately spoken message is an essential interjection into the life of a parishioner to encourage giving and pledging within the eight weeks of a pledge campaign.
  7. Thanking process: a carefully designed thank you process is the hinge between two campaigns.
  8. Evaluation: the evaluation asks questions needed to ensure that mistakes are not repeated and successes are not forgotten.
  9. Planning next campaign: there is no creativity in a crisis. If planning is truncated due to procrastination, campaign design and management will suffer.



The Advance Campaign will help churches with 20 members or 2,000 members to approach the pledgers and donors who are most easily predisposed to giving so that when your church’s campaign or program gets going, the effort of converting the unconvinced can get the time and attention it deserves.


Events, the ministry minutes or case offerings and the personal calls to those not yet pledged at the half-way point will provide the needed core of the work of any campaign.  Then Thank, Evaluate and begin Planning again. (Please forgive the typo of numbers 10-12 repeated on the pdf version if you downloaded it…let it represent emphasis!)


Planning the phases of a year-round program rather than an eight-week campaign will turn around your church’s stewardship and will provide your congregation with the help they need to make courageous pledges as well and the joy they need to feel confident about their pledge as a worthy philanthropic investment.


God has many characteristics, but they seem to be able to be boiled down to three things:


God is lover.  God is creator. And God is giver.


We humans have been made in that image.  So we too are made to love, to create and to give.  Do not raise money!  Help your congregation to be great lovers, creators and givers – and the money will raise itself.


There is a short video (available here) to teach your Vestry or Bishop’s Committee (Deacons, Board of Directors, etc.) how to create a plan.  This is the first of a series of 25 films created to accompany the Fearless Fundraising program.  The remaining 24 videos will be available soon along with key documents to help you learn and share Fearless Fundraising.


In the next post, we will look at the value of special events to motivate pledging in a campaign of any size.

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