Matching First Time Pledges Idea

Every spring at our church the annual stewardship campaign comes around. A faithful team of volunteers are tasked with what seems like the impossible job of making this year’s campaign feel fresh and unique. This was precisely the mission before us, the stewardship team, as we entered a season of stewardship in early 2023. 

Our stewardship team consisted of long-term church members as well as some newer members. Every member of the team brought insightful perspectives and contributed to the overall success of the campaign. But one idea would prove to be something that generated a whole new level of enthusiasm and support. 

“What if we take a page out of the PBS playbook and make matching donations a part of the campaign this year?”, one team member suggested. At first, the rest of the team wasn’t sure if it was a serious suggestion but as we sat with the idea throughout the course of our meeting, each of us were nudged by the Spirit to consider it. We wondered, how would something like a matching contribution work as part of a church pledge? From where would those matching dollars come? Together we mapped out some specific plans; once we had formulated the plan, we sprung into action. 

For starters, we needed to see if we could even generate some matching funds. So, the pastor reached out to a few of our most faithful contributors, explained the idea to generate first time pledges, and invited them to consider pledging match dollars above their already generous contribution. Within a matter of days, we received pledged matching dollars totaling more than $10,000 from contributors excited about the ways this challenge might inspire first time pledgers. 

Once we had that committed matching pledge total amount, we launched the campaign and included this first-time pledger incentive in all our promotional materials. “If you’ve never pledged before, this is an opportunity to double the impact your dollars will have in the mission and ministry of the church”, we said. What we found was that people were eager to support the generosity of those who had already committed their resources for the match. There were pledges submitted by folks who had given sporadically in the past and those who had never given. Many of those who pledged for the first time expressed deep gratitude toward those who challenged them to give toward the collective work of the church.

At the end of the campaign, we had 18 first time pledges (up from 6 the previous year), totaling roughly $17,000, surpassing the matching pledges made at the start of our campaign. With both amounts added together, the church received an additional $28,000 in pledged contributions; for a church our size, that is a significant number. More important than the bottom line, this out-of-the-box idea brought about a sense of community and camaraderie that made the annual campaign a big success. It was good stewardship!

This idea was submitted by Melody Merida who is the Sr. Minister of Downey Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Indianapolis, IN.