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Stewardship Matters: It's personal

Stewardship Matters: It's personal. No, really. It is!
Cynthia McChesney

Over the past several weeks, we've held a number of stewardship talks. Some with individual members of parishes through Annual Giving Campaign Clinics. Others through meetings with clergy as well as meetings with lay leaders, and last Saturday at Church Leader University.

During these recent stewardship-focused conversations, discussions have centered on three key concepts – all particularly relevant to running an Annual Pledge Campaign in a pandemic:

  1. Stewardship is relationship-based
  2. Why we need to "layer" communications
  3. The power of focused messaging

That relationships are at the foundation of stewardship sets our fall campaigns apart from financial "transactions." A transaction boils down to you give me this, I give you that. Pretty simple.

But when relationships get involved life gets more complicated. And it is the fact that things get more complicated that we should remember. It is simpler and easier to send everyone in your member database exactly the same letter. "Dear Friend," is simpler than "Dear Randy and Jerry." But simpler is not better.

Sending the letter to a person, or a household you know, means you care enough to bother. Not doing that can be interpreted that you don't. You might be thinking, that's not fair! We do care! Well, if you care you have to act like it, so personalize your materials.

Personalize by "mail merging" your database so names get dropped in appropriately. Or, if you need a super low-tech version, you can print out your letters with the "Dear Friend" salutation, and then take a blue pen, neatly cross out the "Friend," and write the names in above. It means you cared enough to personalize.

What do we mean by layered communication? Well once upon a time (I don't actually remember this time but perhaps it existed), it was enough to simply remind people once that it was Stewardship season, and they knew what to do. In today's landscape, however, we need to find ways to reinforce our messaging in many and different ways. We can't rely on one shot.

This means that if your Annual Pledge Campaign extends from, for example, mid October through November, you look at all the different possible touch points you can employ during that time.

Yes, there's the Annual Pledge packet mailed to each household. But there are many other possible layers as well, such as your church e-newsletter, the program/worship bulletin, Sunday worship service, other worship services, Zoom coffee hour, the website, the church Facebook page, and Instagram if you use it. All of those are vehicles that you can use to tell a Stewardship story in a more robust and layered way.

Your story, the third point: Focused Messaging. We want to use stories, and people, and tangible examples of how Stewardship goes to work. Stewardship goes to work by supporting your church's mission and ministry.

Don't spend your time talking about the church budget: that's not why people give. They give because they want to be a part of the church's mission and ministry. So tell them about that.

Three concepts that all work together: Relationships, Layering, and Focus. Use them!

Thank you, and stay well!

Contact Cynthia McChesney, Missioner for Stewardship and Legacy Giving, with any questions