In II Corinthians 8:1-15 we read of St. Paul’s mailed appeal for the relief of the saints in Jerusalem
Unless your parish is an endless cycle of fundraising events and appeals, it’s perfectly acceptable to politely invite and encourage a gift of gratitude through a mailed appeal on special feasts of the year. Typically, these are the Nativity of Christ, Holy Pascha and perhaps the name’s day of the parish.
- Complete the stewardship pledge effort for the coming year by the end of November. This allows a passage of time before a Nativity appeal is mailed immediately preceding or following the feast.
- The letter should be from the senior pastor.
- Keep it brief to improve the percent of those who read it.
- Consider 14 point font in deference to older and busy parishioners.
- Remember that people give most generously when they identify with the mission or purpose of the parish.
- The tone of the letter should be friendly assiduously avoided guilt, shame, scolding, dire emergency, etc.
- Reference the occasion of the mailing and consider one topic such as the vast generosity of God, living in abundance, the joyful freedom of a grateful life, the need that is met (“all Nativity gifting will support the charitable activities of the parish” or “your gift with comprise that percentage of our diocesan giving that funds charitable activities of the diocese or national church).
- Help prospective donors to experience the impact of their giving: “Last year our Nativity appeal fed… or clothed… or helped…”
- Make it easy and convenient to give – a special donate button on the parish website, credit card giving or a self-addressed return envelope.
- An emailed appeal is expeditious and inexpensive but all too easily deleted or read once and forgotten. The paper appeal still rules in this matter. It’s likely to be placed in the “bills to be paid pile” that is taken care of at the end of the month.
- Use action verbs and avoid the passive voice – not “we have been giving…” but “we gave”.
- Avoid big words and lengthy sentences.
- Use “I” and “you”.
- Ensure that the mailing is timely – not weeks following the event!
- Consider including a small paper festal icon or bookmark in remembrance of the joy of the feast.
- Include a 3 x 5 printed return card (also called a data request form) that asks for updates in physical address, email addresses (Both spouses? Adult children at home?), cell phone numbers, etc.
- Track your results.
- Make sure returned mail is updated in your database. Call parishioners bounced letters to learn if there has been a significant change in their lives.
- Publicly report on the results describing the good that is accomplished.
- Reflect on this year’s effort and note how it might be improved upon for next year.