A Tale of Two Campaigns
Whether you refer to it as stewardship, giving, tithing, or fund development, raising money is a part of the reality of running a church. Recently I came across two very different but innovative online fundraising campaigns that might inspire ideas for giving at the parish level.
Washington National Cathedral – Praying for the States
At Washington National Cathedral a “spiritual home for the nation,” one of the cathedral’s current fundraising campaigns is tied to the practice of praying each week for a different U.S. state. Each state’s seal is memorialized in the cathedral’s slate floor and on an embroidered kneeler in the War Memorial Chapter, and each state’s flag flies in the nave. As part of the fundraising campaign, weekly Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts feature an image of the state seal and a link to the “Praying for the States” page of the cathedral website. In a video request, the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of the Cathedral thanks people from that week’s state who have contributed to the cathedral and invites their prayers. A sidebar image with a large “Make a Gift” button invites contributions to be made in honor of that particular state. A very poetic prayer, uniquely referencing the physical attributes and characteristics of that week’s state is featured on the webpage; and prayers for all the states can be found by scrolling down through an alphabetical state listing.
What I Like about this Campaign:
- Personal connection: while people may have only a tenuous connection to the cathedral, they presumably have a stronger connection to their home state. This campaign capitalizes on that personal connection.
- Prayer: most people of faith are genuinely moved to know that someone is praying for them. Knowing that the cathedral offers prayers on behalf of an entire state is pleasing and comforting.
- Artistic merit: anyone who has ever been to the cathedral must appreciate not just the scope of the place but its intimate details. The artistry of each individual kneeler, each carving, each window, is incredible. The brilliance of this campaign is that it pairs the unique ways in which each state is represented in the physical attributes of cathedral with the physical topography of the state as described in the prayer.
What I Question about this Campaign:
- Pay to Pray? When I first saw the Facebook post offering to pray for a particular state, I thought to share the post with a friend who lives in the state. Then, clicking on the link, I realized that it wasn’t merely a reminder that the cathedral was praying for the good people of that state, but rather was a fund request. Even though I know that prayers will be offered regardless of the number of people who contribute, I felt the request for funding slightly overshadowed the offer of prayer.
Westminster Abbey - #MakeHistory
Across the pond, Westminster Abbey is engaged in its first public funding appeal in 30 years. The #makehistory campaign will contribute funds toward the construction of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, a museum and gallery to showcase the abbey’s history and treasures. Featuring the stories of the people who work behind the scenes in the abbey, the campaign is comprised of professionally shot portraits of a stone mason, priest, secretary, gardener, web developer, chorister, and other individuals all employed by the cathedral. Posted on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, each portrait is accompanied by the individual’s story, told in their own words, along with a plea for public support of the construction project.
What I Like about this Campaign:
- Behind the scenes access: each individual is photographed in a construction space not accessible to the public. The “behind the scenes” aspect of the stories is reinforced by the arresting portraits, personal stories, and their settings.
- Personalization of an impersonal space: in the same way the popular Humans of New York blog humanizes the larger city, the individual stories of each cathedral worker serve to bring a human element to an immense and impersonal space.
- Artistic Merit: the portraits, taken by fashion and portraiture photographer, Gareth Cattermole are intriguing, with a gritty grey-tone filter. The personal stories are engrossing, not just in their particulars, but taken in consideration that each person is merely one individual in a 1000-year-old history of souls who dedicated their lives and vocations to the abbey.
What I Question about this Campaign:
- Is this a fundraising campaign? I first learned about this campaign skimming through Instagram. Looking at the portraits, I didn’t even realize there was a fundraising component. Only later – in order to write this blog post! – did I go back and confirm, that yes, a donation would be lovely. While the publicity generated by the campaign might indirectly lead to more visits and/or funding, the appeal could be more direct.
- Isn’t there more than one way to #makehistory? The use of a generic phrase as a hashtag dilutes the impact of the campaign. While each Instagram posts includes enough other identifying hashtags such as #westminsterabbey, merely searching on #makehistory yields a zillion posts having nothing to do with the abbey. On Twitter, the character limitations make it impossible to include an uniquely identifying hashtag, only the generic #makehistory.
- What’s your story? The abbey also misses the opportunity to invite people into the campaign by sharing their own stories. A unique hashtag would have allowed others to post pictures and text of themselves and their connections to the abbey, a personal association that might have encouraged a corresponding financial gift.
Neither Washington National Cathedral nor Westminster Abbey receives any national or denominational funding. Both rely entirely on private donations – a circumstance most churches can relate to! Whether large or small, faith organizations need to be creative and invitational in their fundraising campaigns. Using digital platforms and social medial to invite participants into relationship through shared stories, common purpose, and prayer is an important component of fundraising. People fund what they care about.
What innovative and successful fundraising campaigns has your church implemented? How did social media help to extend these campaigns into the digital space? Share your stories with us!
- Lisa Brown, Director of Digital Ministry
Our goal at Membership Vision is to help churches and other faith communities to tell their stories in the digital space. Each church, irrespective of size, has a living and active story to tell, and technology provides an opportunity to share that story in a way that is welcoming and engaging. We ease the burden of keeping communications current, by leveraging content, and harnessing the many ways that members of our communities connect with each other, both inside and outside of the church walls. We aim to remove technological hurdles and allow churches to communicate online in an effective and sustainable way. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (805) 626-0143 to talk about the ways we can help your church build a digital presence.