I would like to begin today's article with a story from Rev. Michael Piazza, Pastor of Broadway United Church of Christ in New York. He is best known for his prior years pastoring the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, TX, which during his tenure, grew from 350 to 3,500 members. A group from our church attended a virtual stewardship workshop with Rev. Piazza last fall, during which time the following story was shared.
When Piazza lived in Dallas, he enjoyed listening to the local NPR station. Each fall, they would run a campaign to recruit more of their listeners to become what they called "sustaining members" of the station. This term meant that the listeners would setup "automatic giving," such that the NPR station could withdraw funds on a recurring basis every month, quarter, or year from their listeners' bank accounts, or charge their credit cards accordingly. The Dallas-based NPR station never had trouble with funding, and never repeatedly asked their listeners for money--except for their single "automatic giver recruitment drive" per year. Early on while living in Dallas, Piazza decided to become a "sustaining member / automatic giver" of the station.
Then, Piazza moved to New York and began listening to the city's local NPR station; he soon realized that they had a very different approach to fundraising compared to their sister Dallas station. Instead of promoting automatic giving once-a-year, the New York-based station ran several fundraising drives every year (usually 5 per-year). They always sounded very desperate during their fundraising campaigns, asking members to give specific amounts of money as they were in perpetual financial distress. Piazza supported some of their fundraising campaigns as he was a listener; however, even though he believed in NPR and its mission, he felt somewhat irritated that every two months the station would begin a whole slew of ads for an entire week asking him for more monetary support.
Piazza, soon after, made a surprising discovery: for the whole first year while he was living in New York, he had forgotten that he was still supporting the Dallas-based NPR station with automatic giving via his credit card! He wasn't upset, but rather appreciated the overall deftness of the Dallas station's fundraising strategy. By inspiring him to become an automatic giver (or "sustaining member"), the Dallas station received a whole extra year of his contributions even though he had moved to a different state!
Piazza began over the years applying the automatic giving strategy to the churches he pastored. He discovered that when 90% of the membership becomes "automatic givers" church annual income increases on average between 10-20%, which means more funding for the church's mission, and further increasing of the church's overall financial health. He also discovered that his church membership appreciated moving to automatic giving since by doing so they didn't have to remember to mail a check to the church every month.
In January of this year, our church created a new "Stewardship Task Force," whose mission it is to help our church continue to grow in the biblical virtue of generosity. Part of living into that mission means helping our church streamline the overall giving experience. At the task force's suggestion, our church is asking for all givers to consider becoming "automatic givers" of the church. Here are the simple steps to follow in order to do so:
1. On a voided check...
a. ...write in the 'amount' field how much you wish to give *each time funds are withdrawn from your bank account* (i.e. not the total amount you intend to give for the year).
b. Then, on the memo line, write the frequency by which the church should withdraw the funds from your account (i.e. monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, or annually). If you want the withdrawals to start on a certain date, then write that date on the memo line as well.
2. Mail the check to the church (213 Hazel Ave, Glencoe, IL 60022).
3. You will receive an email from me (Pastor Scott) after this has been set up, usually 1-2 weeks after you mail the letter.
Our church uses our bank, BMO Harris, to withdraw the funds and store your confidential information securely within BMO Harris' website. Additionally, there is no fee either to you or the church by using this automatic withdrawal feature of the church. Our church is not able to setup automatic giving on credit cards as there is a noteworthy per-transaction fee; thus, we are asking all church members only to setup automatic giving via their bank accounts. Note that it is still possible to give to the church with a credit card via our online giving platform, Aplos, for one-time gifts.
Should you have any questions about automatic giving, please don't hesitate to reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org, or via my cell at (630) 212-9210).
Thank you all for your continued generous support of our church's mission and the many people we serve.
Grace & peace,
Scott S. Himel, Senior Pastor