Stewardship: Motivating capital campaign response

Written by Carol Baass Sowa, for Today’s Catholic

This is the second in a series covering presentations by Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) for the Office of Development’s Stewardship Day Workshop Sept. 14.

“How do we invite our parishioners to respond to our capital campaign as motivated disciples of Christ?” asked Domingo Betancourt, senior consultant with Our Sunday Visitor. Betancourt, who specializes in bi-lingual capital campaigns, feasibility and planning studies and pledge plan services, went on to answer the question.
First, we must recognize fundraising and stewardship are two separate concepts. Fundraising encompasses techniques and methods, while stewardship is a form of spirituality. “It is a way of life. It is a disciple’s response,” he related. “It takes conversion.” However, there is a connection between the spirituality of stewardship and correct professional fundraising.
Mission advancement is planned, systematic growth that is not haphazard and links fundraising to the mission of our church, he explained, and stewardship is an integral part of mission advancement because, as Christ’s disciples, we are called to carry forward the church’s mission.
A parish needs to formulate a master plan for their capital campaign, and it must be based on realistic financial capacity, ascertained through a feasibility study. It is important to involve everyone in this process and keep in mind that a capital campaign is one of the three major sources of financing for the parish, the other two being the annual offertory and planned giving.
A capital campaign is a major event for a parish and undertaken for a specific purpose. “It is suggested that you do a capital campaign only once every ten years,” he said. In terms of stewardship, it is a faith-defining moment in your parish, prompting parishioners to consider what legacy they have been entrusted with and what they are doing to pass it on to future generations. “What are you really looking to accomplish?” asked Betancourt. “And how do you advance the mission of Christ?”
To have a successful capital campaign, we must have a compelling case that invites people to discern God in their lives. “We must motivate. We must involve. And we definitely have to inspire people,” he observed. A well-planned, well-implemented stewardship-based campaign will have a positive effect on overall morale, increase confidence and often leads to increased giving, he noted. But, most importantly, it gives the parish a greater understanding of stewardship as a way of life, providing the resources to carry out our mission through the ultimate vision we have as Catholics – to lead souls to Christ.
The campaign must challenge every parishioner to embark on a personal stewardship journey to discern God’s will through prayer, inviting them to examine their commitment to Christ, give sacrificially to support the body of Christ and use their wealth to do something reflecting their love of God and of each other. Parishioners should also be asked to deepen their discipleship to include more parishioners, developing a deeper sense of community.
Pledging must be accessible to all and based on equal sacrifice, not equal gifts. “For one family, the level of sacrifice may be a thousand dollars a month for the next five years,” he noted. “For another family, that level of sacrifice may very well be five dollars a month for five years.”
He advised being sure to include Spanish-speaking communities in your campaign, identifying them in your database, inviting them to share their stories and being careful to translate nuances of language correctly. “Keep the material simple and to the point,” he added. Convivios to which people can bring food and their children are more successful than town hall-type business meetings, he noted.
Also recommended was avoiding holding parish fiestas or festivals before and during a campaign, as people may consider what they spent there as their campaign pledge, whereas they might have given a greater pledge gift otherwise. Offer unique memorial opportunities to honor a loved one or home town and consider going directly to groups such as the Guadalupanas with your campaign message. Afterwards, celebrate with them.
“A parish’s new building renovation project is more than making a case for bricks and mortar,” he said. “By understanding the concept of fundraising, the concept of spirituality of stewardship, you can have a greater success in your capital campaign.”

Photos: Carol Baass Sowa

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