Stewardship In A Time of Crisis – Annual Campaigns

Stewardship in a Time of Crisis

Should we do an annual campaign? 

This question is being asked by congregations who utilize a July 1 – June 30 fiscal year…and by congregations who are wanting to extend the stewardship conversation across the year.  Here is what we think you should consider when deciding about an annual appeal anytime in 2020, given what we know now.

Consider what’s different about this year from years past

  • There is a high level of anxiety (we don’t need to add to it)
  • Many people have lost their source of income (or fear they will)
  • Church “feels” different while we are social distancing
  • There is uncertainty about how long this will last
  • The markets have dropped precipitously and people who use stocks and financial instruments for living expenses or charitable deductions have experienced tremendous losses which may have impacted their capacity for generosity
  • We can’t gather to celebrate or make our gift/commitment as an act of worship

Benefits of a Campaign Now

  • “Sense of normal” – this is what we do this time of year
  • We have a budget to prepare – and/or our constitution requires it
  • It will give people a chance to express their gratitude for what they have
  • A campaign is a “high touch” activity which can help us feel connected
  • A chance to tell our story of mission and ministry

Disadvantages of a Campaign Now

  • People legitimately don’t know what they can expect to earn and therefore are uncertain of what they can commit
  • People may feel guilty if they are unable to commit
  • People might resent the ask because they are simply overwhelmed
  • It may appear to be self-serving by paid leadership or the needs of the “church” budget over needs of the people and their household budget
  • Our own anxiety and fear about the budget may override our message of hope and assurance in the mission God has given us and our confidence in God’s provision


  • Delay the campaign until there is a sense of “normalcy” in the country
  • Operate under last year’s budget for the first 90 days of the new fiscal year and reevaluate at that time
  • Finance teams should examine the current budget and look for areas that can be reduced WITHOUT harming your mission and ministry
    • Delay major capital or new ministry initiatives (that are not related to covid-19 response)
  • Express gratitude and offer affirmations to your donors
  • Acknowledge that donors may be being forced to adjust their giving – ease their guilt and sense of loss by giving them permission to do so
  • Meet with major donors – see what options they may have to help the church in this season – perhaps altering the timing and or size of their annual gift
  • Continue to tell your story!
  • Invite those who can do more to consider what God may be calling them to do
  • DON’T PANIC – and be transparent…tell the truth without the drama
  • Use “rainy day” funds – the current “weather” calls for it – but know the difference between reserves and restricted gifts (and the differences between donor and board restricted funds) and the consequences of using designated gifts for something other than their intended purpose see more about this here:

Good Campaigns Always…

  • Are biblically grounded with credible theology
  • Teach and preach stewardship as something other than fund-raising
  • Are focused on mission and ministry, not the budget
  • Talk openly and honestly about money
  • Encourage generosity and honest personal assessment
  • Boldly ask for participation
  • Communicate effectively
  • Are “high touch”
  • Are led by generous leaders –
    • Leaders who make their commitments first and invite others to follow
  • Set the act of commitment in the context of worship
  • Express gratitude to the giver
  • Are centered in prayer and sound spiritual practice

Interested in annual campaign materials that honor these best practices?  Consider Faithful Hopeful Loving for your congregation.