Some simple secrets behind successes in fundraising

Published January 1, 2007

There are times when it seems that the financial news from churchland is all bad: General Synod, the Anglican Church of Canada’s national office in Toronto, is trying to stem three years of deficits; Saskatoon’s College of Emmanuel and St. Chad came close to closure and is seeking to ensure its long-term survival; the diocese of the Arctic’s distinctive igloo-shaped St. Jude’s cathedral in Iqaluit was destroyed by arson and is seeking to rebuild.

However, the church has also seen solid fundraising success stories in recent years; the Anglican Journal examines three successful campaigns to analyze the elements that might help others embarking on similar projects. The Journal chose two diocesan campaigns – the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island’s Leap for Faith and the diocese of Niagara’s Survive and Thrive – and one church rebuilding drive – St. John’s in Lunenburg, N.S.

In June, 2005, four burly firefighters in full gear carried St. John’s altar back into the church, bringing it home four years after fire gutted the building on Halloween, 2001. It was the start of a rededication ceremony and the culmination of a fundraising campaign that accomplished the impossible: a complete historical reconstruction of the second-oldest Anglican church in Canada.

Some of the hallmarks of the campaign were also themes that were found in other recent successful church fundraisers.

In Halifax, Leap for Faith has collected $2.77 million toward its $3.3 million goal. In the diocese of Niagara’s see city, Hamilton, Ont., Survive and Thrive has exceeded its $8-million goal and is projecting that the final amount raised will be $8.7-$8.8 million. St. John’s church, built in 1753, successfully raised $7 million.

Both of the diocesan campaigns hired professional fundraisers and both recommended the move. “We got professional counseling. It was costly – about $500,000 to $600,000 – but we needed to spend money to raise money. It was a real learning experience,” said Bishop Fred Hiltz of Nova Scotia/P.E.I.

“Definitely get professionals,” agreed Rev. David Ponting, now rector at Grace Church in Brantford, Ont., and former director of stewardship and financial development at the diocese of Niagara. “We had them do a feasibility study and write a case for support.” He also noted that since the diocesan campaign was implemented in more than 100 parishes, there was “an education and training element” for volunteers in those parishes.

All three campaigns agreed that it was essential to identify and communicate the “case for support,” or, explain to potential donors why the money was needed and how it fit with the church’s mission. “That homework is absolutely essential – thinking through and strategizing your case for support and documenting that and communicating that to potential donors,” said Jim Eisenhauer, chair of the St. John’s restoration campaign committee.

[pullquote]”There has to be a widespread ownership (of the campaign). It has to resonate with the people, to be near and dear to the hearts of the people and they have to have confidence in the organization. For Survive and Thrive, we had 4,200 gifts and 40 of them were $20,000 or more,” said Mr. Ponting.

In Lunenburg, St. John’s was a unique landmark and the congregation and community told church leaders they wanted a full restoration. With $2.5 million from an insurance policy, “We could build a church, but not rebuild a national historic site,” said Mr. Eisenhauer.

Another tip for fundraisers is to seek different sources of funding. “We learned that one potential avenue for support was the municipal/provincial/federal Infrastructure Program. The town said it would step aside from any applications under that program to allow us to apply. So we applied for $1.5 million. And we learned that if we decided to go ahead with a historic restoration, we could get an additional $900,000 from Parks Canada,” said Mr. Eisenhauer.

Influential members of the congregation got $100,000 in corporate donations and the congregation itself set a goal of $300,000 and ended up receiving $500,000 from individual parishioners.

“We consistently said that we were not just building a church for Anglicans, but a historical property for Canadians,” he said.

Visible leadership is also essential. In Nova Scotia/P.E.I. and Niagara, both diocesan bishops were heavily involved in the campaign.

In Niagara, Bishop Ralph Spence appeared in a video and traveled widely around the diocese, telling congregations that a major portion of Survive and Thrive funds would support various initiatives at the parish level, such as curacies and youth programs. “We tried to market Ralph and tell people that there was something in (the campaign) for everybody,” said Mr. Ponting. He noted that a legacy of the campaign is there are now trained stewardship volunteers in many parishes.

Bishop Hiltz said that both he and assistant bishop Sue Moxley traveled the diocese to pitch the campaign. “There were a lot of parish visits. Some of the folks I was asked to visit gave lead (major) gifts. It was great because we got into very intense conversations about the church locally and nationally and we heard about people’s enthusiasms and anxieties.”


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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