Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

On the campaign trail

The Diocese of Austin, and my own parish, has certainly grown over the past few years, and funds are sorely needed. And so, the powers that be have created a capital campaign called Our Faith, Our Legacy. The diocese sets a figure for each parish, with 20% of that money coming back to the parish. Once a parish reaches its financial goal as set by the campaign, 80% of the money raised returns to the parish to be used as seems fit. Many parishes have exceeded their goals, and ours seems on target to do the same.

My parish is in the throes of the fundraising -- calling all registered families, visiting to drop off the campaign packet, and then following up to pick up the pledges. The first phase of the parish campaign dealt with the Major donors, and now I'm on the team that's targeting the Advance group of donors -- selected, I assume, based on the envelope offerings. These two groups make up only 10 % of the parish. (After we close them out, the campaign committee will organize phone banks to call the rest of the parishoners and take pledges over the phone.)

The part of these visits that bothers me every time is asking for the money. Through whatever calculations, the diocesan office has decided that the Advance donors (at least in my parish; I don't know how it works elsewhere) should be asked for a five-year pledge of $12,000. Before each visit I pray and steel myself, but I just cannot name this figure with a straight face. I know it's for a worthy cause and that the goal is sacrificial giving. But I choke every time I sit with a prospective donor and say, "The bishop is requesting that you consider a pledge, over five years, of $12,ooo." Sales is not my forte, to be sure. But I think that my main fear is of appearing unreasonable to these people I've just met.

I seriously doubt that the campaign-meisters expect that anyone in this group would actually give this amount. My own speculation is that by being challenged with such a high goal, donors will stretch farther and give more than if presented with a smaller, more realistic amount. And I'm sure that this is a proven strategy -- the campaign is being run by professionals and the diocesan results so far have been phenomenal.

Some volunteers have met with abuse or tirades from those they've contacted, but my own calls have been much more pleasant. Being relatively new to the parish, I'm glad to have a chance to meet new people, and everyone has been welcoming and generous. So for all in the Austin diocese -- be nice to your campaign volunteer! We don't set the target amount, and we don't disclose the amount you do give. Still, it would boost my confidence if someone would make a $12,000 pledge -- at least I wouldn't feel so ridiculous asking for so much.


Anonymous said...

My parents live in Austin and this post sounds almost exactly like a conversation I recently had with my mom. She has the same qualms about asking for money; but also has had positive experiences meeting fellow parishoners.

mrsdarwin said...

It heartens me to know that I'm not the only one who feels this way. :)

Pro Ecclesia said...

$12,000 divided by 5 years.

What is that? Less than $50 per week? Why not put it in those terms?

Now, I'm bad at math (which is why I went to law school), so if my division is way off, please don't make fun of me.

Anonymous said...

I estimate that figure is about 5% of the aftertax income of about $72,000/year (that assumes you lose about 1/3 of that to Uncle Sam). Giving that to the diocese sounds like a bit much. What about directly to the parish? What about to other worthwhile causes such as prolife efforts (i.e. Missouri and South Dakota elections come to mind), or feeding the poor in other nations?

Even at $50 a week sounds a bit steep when other charities are concerned. Of course, all this is predicated on the tithe.

I don't know too many folks (especially single income families) that make $72k a year.

Dorian Speed said...

I've never heard of a diocesan capital campaign like this. But our parish is in the midst of a capital campaign, and it seems like every parish we research for possible relocation plans is also kicking off a capital campaign.

I guess that's good news?

Anonymous said...

i'm the mom mentioned above... We're from St Louis parish in Austin, helping out with the visits.... I also had serious worries about being part of the "ask for money" group. but after going through the meetings and reading over the literature, I've come to terms with a way to deal with it by focusing on some positive points.

One of the things I've appreciated is that the first thing mentioned in the literature is asking for prayers for the diocese concerns and prayers that the campaign raise funding for such important goals - and that another important goal of the campaign is the strenghtening of the parish family. I can deal with that!

It's been good to meet a lot of the other volunteers and visit with some in the parish we hadn't met before.

We just said to the people we visited that we realized this was a challengingly high amount, and we had been asked to mention that specific amount. We also said we weren’t able to meet the entire amount of our challenge goal either, but had prayed about it and had pledged what we could. We also mentioned that we understood that our parish actually had several families who met or exceeded their suggested amount.

We got several who were startled and somewhat shocked, but rallied and said they understood that it was set really high to encourage people to stretch their preconceived expectations. Whew. We also had several rejects, but most of the early responders were generous within their own limitations. Packets we got later tended to be ones other volunteers didn't take... A) wrong numbers B) hang up and/or reject or C)language difficulties d) changed parishes.

I understand the next phase is telephone calls to the lesser income families.

Some of the early organizers had a buffet dinner for newer volunteers, and that was a nice way to get to meet families that had kids of different ages, went to different masses, and/or were in different organizations so we'd never really gotten to know them before. That was cool.

Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

I hope for the sake of some nice volunteer like yourself that no one comes to me with a request like that.

I'm afraid they would get an earfull.

kipwatson said...

Is this what you put 'in the collection plate', or on top of it? Sorry, I'm not really familiar with how your religion works.

As regards our church, I've always assumed a working Christian family probably gives about $50 a week at minimum, and more if they can afford it. I know some of the rich families give a lot more.

mrsdarwin said...

This is on top of the regular collection, Kip. The money collected in this campaign goes to specific diocesan needs over and above what the parish itself requires, though some of the money is returned to the parish. You can read more about it here.