A recent parish list update to facilitate a new fundraising venture in the diocese of Ontario has added an astonishing 1,639 new households, an increase of 25 per cent.
The parish list was updated on the advice of General Synod’s department of philanthropy, which is working with the diocese on a new annual appeal called Love in Action. “We wanted to set ourselves right for this appeal,” said Michelle Hauser, special initiatives consultant in the department of philanthropy.One of the first tasks was to make sure the mailing list was up to date.
Now, the department of philanthropy is working with other dioceses interested in establishing annual appeals. Some of these dioceses have expressed concern that their lists might also be out of date or incomplete, said Hauser. “The good news is our work with Ontario has given us a model that might well prove useful to other dioceses who want to do this particular piece of housekeeping,” she said.
While “administration overload” could explain why the list was out of date, there might also be some reluctance to take a head count for fear it shows that church attendance is declining, noted Hauser.
“It’s a very positive thing,” said the diocesan bishop of Ontario, George Bruce, of the updated list. “I think it was a necessary step if we are going to proceed with our Love in Action campaign. I think what was the most encouraging thing for me was the very high level of support and commitment from the parishes.”
To offset concerns, officials of the diocese, including Bishop Bruce, held a clergy day. It was explained that the privacy law protects parish lists from being sold to external sources, not from sharing them with the rest of the church “for the benefit of the whole organization,” said Hauser.
Congregations were invited to submit their lists in any format, including handwritten notes, and told that the diocese would do the work of updating. In all, 59 congregations (or 81 per cent) in the diocese of Ontario sent in their list. It took about a month and a half of “solid data entry” and cross-checking to come up with a new list, said Hauser. “This is the data equivalent to cleaning out the garage….If we keep it clean as part of the diocesan annual appeal, then it will stay fairly clean.”
Parishes had a “vested interest in participating,” added Hauser, because a rebate program associated with the annual appeal will provide them with one-third of the gifts received. The remaining two-thirds will be divided between the newly established Diocese of Ontario Foundation and the national church’s Anglican Appeal, which benefits the Council of the North and other ministries of the Anglican Church of Canada. The Diocese of Ontario Foundation will fund new ministries and programs, such as additional curacies, as well as clergy and lay training.
The diocese is setting a modest target for the appeal-$60,000-but Bishop Bruce said, “I think, quite frankly, that we’ll exceed that.” Although the diocese has had previous appeals, this is the first time it has partnered with the department of philanthropy in the national office. “It’s a kind of hands-off thing for us,” said Bishop Bruce. “They helped us prepare the materials, they’re distributing them and we will then see the results.”
Since every parishioner in the Anglican Church of Canada is entitled to receive a copy of the national newspaper as well as the diocesan newspaper, the updated parish list could also mean that more people will receive the Anglican Journal along with the diocesan newspaper, Dialogue. The Journal’s circulation department is now in the process of going through the list “to see if the updates are reflected on its database,” said circulation manager, Beverley Murphy. She added that the circulation department “is eager to accept updates…to ensure our lists are as up to date and accurate as possible.”
A parish’s apportionment doesn’t change when more parishioners receive the national and diocesan newspapers, Hauser pointed out. “…You’re free to unsubscribe anytime, but through your common ministry and mission, you pay for this publication and you’re entitled to receive it,” she said. Ω