We published our new annual campaign kit, Hope Grows Here, last month and we got a few funny looks. Most churches do an annual campaign in the fall, and so it seemed early to be posting materials. But it's not! A well-run, thoughtful campaign will take you 5-6 months at a steady pace (or at least 3 if you're sprinting).
Some people wonder why it takes so long to slap a logo on a brochure and mail it with a pledge card to members of the church. Well, you can do that in about a 2-week turn around if you want to go that route, but an effective annual stewardship campaign is more than just asking for money. Stewardship campaigns, when done correctly, build a culture of generosity in a church and help it to remain vital for the current generation and for generations to come. We cannot over-emphasize the importance of your annual campaign on the long-term health of your church.
Reason #1: You can't do it alone
Collaboration takes time, and you're going to need help to get this campaign done. Even if you are superhuman, or have all the time in the world to run the campaign on your own, you wouldn't want to. Giving people a chance to be involved and voice their opinions is a huge part of running a successful campaign and growing the community of your church for the long-haul. Give yourself plenty of time to have multiple meetings with those who are invested socially, spiritually and financially in your community. Build or rely on these 2 committees to help in the process:
- Stewardship Committee - this team guides the overall campaign, sets appropriate policies, and will maintain final say on what transpires and when it takes place. The Stewardship Committee is made up of the people who serve year-round to direct your church’s Stewardship System program. There are some particular qualities to look for when building your stewardship committee.
- Ambassador Committee - this team is responsible for contacting members about the pledging process, answering questions, and providing personalized service to any member who has questions or concerns about the campaign. The Ambassador Committee will serve for approximately three to four weeks during the campaign. If members are willing, they could also serve on other stewardship call projects during the rest of the year.
Reason #2: You need time to get feedback from your members
We suggest a church-wide survey to get feedback on how to improve communications, ministries, and sense of community at the church. Our survey asks questions about if the church is meeting the spiritual needs of members, about confidence in the pastor's leadership, and about what the role of prayer should be in the annual campaign. Feedback shared in this process is invaluable. It gives you insight into areas in which your ministry can improve and it informs that messaging you put into your campaign materials. Address the need for education about what is going on at the church through your newsletters. Address any concerns brought up in the FAQ section of your brochure.
A sample survey is included in our campaign kit. You might be traditional and send it out via snail mail, or you could drop it into a SurveyMonkey and collect responses online (with links on your website and social media accounts). We recommend a combination of both to reach multi-generational churches. Regardless of how you distribute the survey, it's going to take some time to tailor your questions, distribute it, give people time to respond, and then evaluate what those responses mean for your campaign. Give yourself at least a month for this process.
Reason #3: There is actually a ton of work to do
There are a lot of moving parts in running a project like this, and the details can add up quickly. Give yourself and your teams plenty of time to figure out the logistics. Our sample annual campaign timeline is below to give you a sense of what details you should be considering in setting up your timeline. Denis Greene explains it and we've laid out a timeline below:
6 Months Prior to Commitment Sunday
- Review your Annual Campaign process with your Stewardship Committee.
- Review the Stewardship System Annual Campaign Manual.
- Watch the Annual Campaign training video.
- Select Commitment Sunday date
- Review evaluation of previous annual campaigns (if available).
5 Months Prior to Commitment Sunday
- Hold your first Annual Campaign planning session
- Select a Campaign chairperson
- Discuss your Annual Campaign goals (# of pledges, dollar amount, new pledges, # volunteers)
- Identify person who will modify your brochure and newsletter templates provided in the Hope Grows Here kit.
4 Months Prior to Commitment Sunday
- Set an Annual Campaign meeting schedule (hold special committee meetings as needed to coordinate your campaign)
- Review your Campaign Manual
- Recruit Ambassador Team Leader(s)
- Finalize your community survey
- Hand out survey in bulletins/E-mail survey to address list
- Mail survey to Congregation
3 Months Prior to Commitment Sunday
- Tailor Brochure, pledge card, and letter for solicitation mailing in Commitment Sunday month.
- Present first draft of all campaign materials to the Stewardship Committee for feedback.
- Pass suggestions to your template editor for updates.
- Print all materials when final version is completed.
- Mail Newsletter 1
- Recruit and train lay speakers for stewardship testimony delivery.
2 Months Prior to Commitment Sunday
- Send Newsletter 2
- Send Brochure, pledge card, envelopes to printer (4-5 weeks prior to CS)
- Hold Campaign Kickoff Sunday (6-7 weeks prior to CS)
1 Month Prior to Commitment Sunday
- Hold campaign Prayer Service
- Have Ambassador Team watch training video
- Complete Ambassador Phone Calls (two weeks prior to CS)
- Prepare to mail brochure, pledge card, letter from pastor, envelop (three weeks prior to CS)
- Establish system of tracking pledge data (# of pledges that come in each week, and dollar amount – so you can compare year by year).
Commitment Sunday Month
- Begin saying campaign prayer at every worship service during the month, including Commitment Sunday (CS).
- Stewardship testimony (we recommend lay testimonies for three weeks leading up to and CS).
- Mail brochure, pledge card, letter from pastor (2 weeks prior to CS)
- Hand out prayer guide (1 week prior to CS).
- Hold Commitment Sunday
- Place extra pledge cards in every pew
- Announce CS early in worship service. Instruct how and when pledge cards will be collected.
- Have lay speaker give stewardship testimony
- Have pastor preach on stewardship and ask for pledges to be turned in
- Collect pledge cards
- Send thank you cards/letters to pledgers.
- Announce pledge status for next three weeks after CS.
- Hold Celebration Event (3 weeks after CS)
- Mail letter to non-pledgers requesting a pledge (2 weeks after CS).
1 Month After Commitment Sunday
- Make phone calls to non-pledgers.
- Continue to announce campaign results
- Send Newsletter 3
2 Months After Commitment Sunday
- Collect pledge data (# pledges, average pledge, average amount pledged, new pledgers, non pledgers, dropped pledgers).
- Stewardship Committee brainstorm: what worked well in campaign, what to improve?
- Write recommendations for how to improve next year’s campaign.
- Compile information from numbers 1-3 above and give to next year’s campaign leader.
3 Months After Commitment Sunday
- Send survey to lapsed pledgers (pledged in prior year but did not pledge to this campaign); include a pledge card with survey.
So there you have it 3 really good reasons to start coming up with your annual fund campaign ideas early. For more information about running an annual campaign and to download our comprehensive free annual campaign resources.