What Fundraising Professionals Can Teach Us About Rebuilding “Community”

Before churches reopen, it is vital to shift thinking and adopt new strategies to have “church” not just hold “services.” | by CGM Staff

Let’s get right to the point. No one wants to relaunch or reopen a church and have no one show up. COVID-19 has been devastating to many industries, including churches. Non-profit organizations are scrambling to replace millions of dollars in revenues that were lost when fundraising activities were cancelled. Here are seven steps you can learn from fundraisers that will also help your church reopen.

Most churches did not have a plan in place for a disaster that would close church doors. Churches had to learn quickly how to hold services through other means. Now, before churches reopen, it is vital to shift thinking again and adopt new strategies to have “church” not just hold “services.”

Fundraisers hold events for people who care about their cause to fulfill five purposes: increase loyalty, communicate the mission, connect, fulfill needs, provide gratitude. Like any funded organization, churches have to focus on the same five things.

Here are seven methods fundraising professionals are using today that can also be used by churches to prepare for the relaunch after the present disaster:

1. Wellness check-ins or “care calls.”

Click here for the steps to making a successful call.

2. One-to-Many Communication

One-to-Many Communications are your virtual church services. As church leaders get more comfortable with this method, it’s time to turn the corner to new adopt new strategies that position your church for reopening.

A church staff might “see” the church because of being around the physical building or fielding communications from congregation members. But congregation members cannot “see” the church anymore. Church services need to paint that picture and become more “community” oriented.

To make virtual “services” turn into community-building experiences, help members “see” the church. Use service times to reiterate the mission of the church. Create word pictures or videos to illustrate what the church is doing during this crisis—how you are helping the community and discipling believers in either large or small ways.

Name names. Let people get familiar with each other again by hearing each other’s names. Mention volunteers who are helping community outreaches by name. Talk about small groups that are meeting via Zoom or over the phone. Celebrate students by name who are graduating college or high school. Name volunteers who helped when the church facility was used for the blood bank drive-through or pop up food bank.

Staff or board members might be convenient go-to names but concentrate on using other names who might be less engaged. You want church members to call each other after watching the service to say, “Did you hear pastor talk about you today?” This replaces standing around the church lobby talking, which is a huge community-building mechanism.

If you have not settled on a delivery method for your services, you can videotape messages in advance and post them on YouTube using the “premier” function. This provides a countdown to a specific time and gives you a “chat” function.

Whether you YouTube or Facebook Live, or another method, be sure to turn on “chat” and have your leadership ready to talk with constituents. Yes, this does mean “talking in church.” Congregants can “whisper” the place in the Bible you’re referencing or give a hearty “amen” to a point. This is one time you want to encourage talking during church.

3. Reconnecting with People

Reconnecting with people is a post-quarantine strategy that starts while people are still under stay-at-home orders. It’s time now to cultivate relationships again.

Make One-to-Many communications into One-to-One by using broadcast messages, text messages, conference calls, town halls, Facebook live chats, Zoom calls and any other method. Use any tactics that make someone smile. Use thank-you videos, social media shout-outs, a TikTok video, personalized postcards, impact reports.

Open up all channels for people to respond. The rule of thumb is, when you offer someone the ability to “talk back” to you, you must respond again to them.

4. Develop a plan to connect with each congregation member or attender

Churches have a year-round relationship with people. But we’ve missed a significant amount of time for shaking hands, performing weddings and funerals, and dedicating or baptizing babies.

There has rarely been a time when people were all having the same experience at the same time. Now is a moment in time when people are answering their phones and reading their emails. Take advantage of being able to reach people personally.

As a noted leader said about relationships: In real estate the rule is “Location location location” but in relationships, the rule is “Communicate, communicate, communicate.”

Personal notes are critical. The greatest two letters any man will ever receive is the love letter from the girlfriend who becomes his wife and a personal letter from his pastor.

5. Enlist volunteers or board members

If your church is too large to reach every person individually, people today are largely fine with automated methods mentioned above. However, there is still nothing better than a real human-to-human connection. This is where your volunteers and board members can help.

People, in general, are wearing one of two signs. “Make me feel important” or “What’s in it for me?” Every single day, church get to help people know they are important to God, and important to God’s mission of the church. Every single day, church get to load people with God’s benefits either through discipleship or through opportunities for volunteer work. Because this is something churches are uniquely able to do, churches should be doing both right now—every single day.

Lastly, churches must get into a financial position to be able to open the doors again. Whereas relationship cultivation is focused on the person, stewardship cultivation is focused on the gift. If the church is doing all of the above, there is no reason not to fundraise, and to fundraise boldly.

People need to know that your church’s mission is important and that the church is steadfast in the work. They need to know your church will not back down under any circumstances. Because of that, raising money for the church’s mission, even in hard economic times, is appropriate.

Empower people to make a difference in your community by giving. What your church does now is going to set up the church for success later. Do these activities, reap the results.

NOTE: Many of these thoughts were espoused by Karla Baldelli, VP of Donor Engagement at RKD Group. Karla is a seasoned fundraising executive with two decades of leadership experience and a strong vision to help nonprofits delight more donors through exceptional experiences and raise more dollars, creating more impact. Her specialties are relationship-based fundraising, mid-level and major gift fund development, capital campaigns, stewardship, donor circles & societies, integrated fundraising, donor advised funds, board development, leadership deployment, events, analytical review, analysis consultation.

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