“Challenge” Your Congregation to Give
Unless you were living under a rock last summer (which I hope you weren’t, it’s not safe), you might remember a little phenomenon called the “Ice Bucket Challenge.” The Challenge raised a stunning $220 million worldwide to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis aka Lou Gehrig’s disease. It was a smashing success by any measure.
Therefore, you might find it surprising that it probably wouldn’t go over well if people started dumping buckets of ice on each other during worship (though it would undoubtedly generate attention from the media and your trustees). What we do know is that matching gifts – challenges – sometimes motivate younger generations. In response to “7 Reasons Millennials Give," Cascadia District Superintendent Rev. Peg Lofsvold wrote about a stewardship drive at Montavilla UMC in Portland, OR. While she was there they offered a “challenge match.” And by “challenge match” she was not referring to wrestling the Finance Chair with wagers on who would win.
“Montavilla did [a challenge match] while I was there, and we increased number of pledgers, money pledged by millennials, AND by the mature givers who gave extra dollars for the match. (They increased their pledges in addition to donating match money!) Millennials and Xers saw it as a statement of trust in them and an investment in them as they grew in generosity.”
It all sounded pretty intriguing. So when I asked for more details, Rev. Lofsvold referred me to an article by Rev. Laura Heikes, “Mature Disciples Supporting New Givers.” After being inspired (or beaten down perhaps) by NPR’s pledge drives, Rev. Heikes contemplated how she could challenge newer people who had no history of regular stewardship to consider giving. She approached some people who were mature givers (those who had a history of regular tithing). Rev. Heikes asked if they would be willing to do a $250 “match” – above and beyond their usual pledge – for someone who pledged for the first time to the annual stewardship drive.
Much to her delight, no mature giver said “no” and others wanted in on the fun as well. What happened? Let Rev. Heikes tell you:
“The response far exceeded our expectations. The previous year, we had 75 individuals and families who returned a commitment card. That number increased to 91 with the new plan. In one year, we saw 18 first-time commitments. In a year when our membership grew by two percent, the number of stewards increased by 23 percent!” And Rev. Lofsvold said the same – there were “more new pledges, more pledges from younger donors, and a bigger bump in overall dollars.”
Most likely, this is something that probably couldn’t be replicated year after year. But, it can be a way to take the focus off pledging to the budget and instead make it about the spiritual discipline of giving. And, by all means, it sure beats getting a bucket of ice dumped over your head in worship.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. Warning: Don’t even think about approaching her with a bucket of ice. She will take you down. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation.
You can reach Cesie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.