Assess the Fundraising Acumen of Your Parish or Organization
“But test everything; hold fast what is good.” (I Thessalonians 5:21)
This self-assessment of how funds are raised within the parish or organization is offered to assist Orthodox organizations to ascertain where they are strong and where they may need improvement. Consider utilizing this instrument as an exercise in helping a parish council to focus on strategic intent – the comprehensive view of how funds are raised vs tactical issues such as “What amount shall we charge for the parish festival this year?”
Feedback on Funding Assessment of Your Parish or Organization
You have dared to look deeply and honestly into your organization. You have identified basic strengths and weaknesses regarding the sources and the processes of funding your organization. Among all priests and executive directors of Orthodox organizations you have already risen to the ranks of the few. Priests and leaders of nonprofits do not enter into church service to become fundraisers or even to be concerned with funding issues. Yet every priest or executive director of a nonprofit soon discovers that it is an aspect of leadership and management that they must engage in the process or place their parish or organization into financial peril.
If your final number is between 85-100, then you are to be heartily congratulated. You are among the elite parishes and organizations of the Orthodox communities in North America. If the number is 70-84, then you have many basic features of an effective fundraising program in place. If the number is less than 70, then be encouraged that there are enormous untapped opportunities to increase your capacity.
The vast majority of parishes bump along from year to year struggling to increase their annual giving income just to cover expenses. No more than 1% of all parishes and organizations have a defined, documented, ongoing major gifts program. Less than 5% have a defined, documented and ongoing planned giving endowment program that is regularly promoted. Far too many parishes depend upon the infusion of funds that come from the giant project that swirls for months on the event calendar of the parish – the annual festival.
The good news about addressing the leadership and management element of funding is that there exists a highly effective professional body of information, methodologies and tools that anyone can apply to the task. For far too long successful fundraising was dependent upon a charismatic personality. In addition to being fairly rare, the charismatic personality cannot be taught to others. It’s far better to have professional methodology which the parish can learn and pass on from generation to generation.
The better news is that the process of successfully funding the organization is not only that stress and fear is reduced or even removed through a dependable and every increasing flow of income but that there are three pools of funds from which money can be raised: disposable income, which typically funds operating budgets; appreciated assets, which typically are given in response to capital campaigns and defined major gift programs; and estate giving, which typically funds endowments.
However, the best news is that the professional process of fundraising does far more than bring a surfeit of funds into the organization. People care about what they give to. Meaningful giving creates meaningful commitment, meaningful concern and meaningful attention to your mission. Increased funding allows the development of new programs and may facilitate hiring desperately needed staff, thereby providing better care and service to the members of the parish. Professional methods of fundraising force the articulation of the mission of the parish or organization each year. It also engenders the deeply Christian spiritual act of humble accountability for the trust that is invested in the leadership.