Your Catholic diocese’s annual appeal offers a great chance for you to connect with your parishioners during the Easter season as you invite them to contribute to the growth of the church and the service of their fellow man.
So, when it comes time to don your fundraising hat, it’s important to remember to not get too caught up in the dollars and cents. Instead, focus on building genuine relationships with your parishioners and teaching the principles of generosity and sacrifice. This will help secure their continued engagement and support in the long run.
In this quick guide, we’ll cover four tips for connecting with your donors during annual appeal season. As you explore these tips, consider what you know about your own parishioners and how you can tailor your appeal messaging and fundraising approach to their needs. Let’s begin.
1. Craft messages that resonate with your donors.
Thoroughly prepare for your annual appeal by examining the results of past annual appeals. What worked? What could you have done differently to get better results?
One common focus area for improving Diocesan annual appeals is the messaging around your campaign. It’s important to craft appeal messages that will resonate with your church donors.
Your messaging should be strongly connected to the core pillars of Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. According to Averill Solutions, it should be clear to your parishioners that “your annual appeal is associated with the overarching principle of sacrifice and spiritual refinement that can bring your parishioners closer to God.” Messaging that reinforces these ideas will help parishioners recognize donating as an act of giving something up to benefit the greater good.
Additionally, your appeals should be highly personal. This will help each parishioner feel seen and valued as an individual instead of making them feel like a walking ATM. Use the following best practices to personalize your appeals:
- Lean on the records you have for each parishioner to access their contact information, church attendance details, and giving history.
- Segment your parishioners into groups based on shared characteristics (such as age or preferred communication method) and tailor your appeals to those groups.
- Share compelling stories to demonstrate the need for participation in the appeal.
- Use parishioners’ names in your messages instead of generic greetings.
While most of these best practices apply to written messages, don’t overlook the importance of in-person interactions. Whether you’re chatting with a parishioner after Mass or making a visit to their home, you have the opportunity to communicate that your diocese cares about them as an individual and appreciates any way they can give to the annual appeal.
2. Offer multiple ways to give.
Just as each parishioner’s Lenten sacrifices are unique, so too are their approaches to giving to your annual appeal. Anticipate your parishioners’ giving needs by offering multiple ways to contribute. For instance, you could:
- Provide a variety of donation tools. Make the giving process simple and accommodate a variety of giving methods by providing many different donation platforms, like text-to-give tools, a donation form on your website, gift envelopes, and mail-in forms.
- Design opportunities for young parishioners to get involved. Empower entire families to give to your annual appeal by creating child-friendly opportunities. For example, Double the Donation recommends hosting a product fundraiser like a candy bar sale, which is a fun and easy way for your youngest parishioners to give back.
- Communicate that non-monetary contributions are valuable, too. Some parishioners may not be in a position to give a monetary donation, or they may have items, talents, or services to contribute. For instance, someone might give office supplies that your diocese can use in its elementary schools. Another might donate their time and talents to create an auction catalog for your upcoming fundraising event.
Stay open-minded about the different ways in which your parishioners can give and what a successful annual appeal looks like. When your parishioners feel like their contributions are valued no matter what they look like, they’ll feel more included in the church community and be more inclined to continue to give down the road.
3. Prioritize transparency.
Share with your parishioners what their past annual appeal donations have been used for and how you plan to use the funds you raise this year. Being transparent about how your diocese intends to use their contributions will instill more trust in your diocese and the church in general, leading to greater engagement and more contributions.
When sharing how donations will be used, be specific. This will help you appeal to different individuals’ interests and charitable priorities. For example, say you share that you’re going to use some annual appeal funds to launch a new religious education and engagement program for the children in your community. Parents, teachers, and other individuals invested in children’s spiritual development may then be inclined to give (or give more!) to your annual appeal.
4. Continue to cultivate generosity after your appeal ends.
The annual appeal season shouldn’t be the only time of year when your parishioners learn about the principles of sacrifice, generosity, and consecration. In fact, if you’re not teaching these principles (and living them) year-round, your annual appeal can ring hollow.
Here are some best practices your church can use to continually cultivate generosity among your parishioners:
- Teach generosity. Actively seek out opportunities to share messages, scriptures, and stories related to generosity. This will help establish it as an important part of being a believer.
- Practice what you preach. Lead by example to serve and give to your parishioners, whether you’re providing spiritual counsel or volunteering with community organizations.
- Set up regular opportunities to serve. Make it clear to your parishioners that monetary giving isn’t the only way to give back. Set up service projects and volunteer days that encourage them to put their faith into action.
Ensuring that your parishioners are spiritually fed in this area will not only inspire them to give to your annual appeal but will also help them become more refined, selfless, and Christlike individuals.
Your annual appeal is about more than just meeting a fundraising goal—it’s also about connecting with your parishioners. To take your appeal to the next level, consider hiring a Catholic fundraising consultant. These experts understand the nuances of faith-based fundraising and can help you meet your goals and influence parishioners for good.