A different kind of pastoral visit

Last week I attended a fund raising conference.  In the vendors’ area were more than a dozen services that provide donor profile information.  A nonprofit would submit its donors’ names and addresses and these services would compare them to public information databases.  By matching your donors with the property they own, the cars, boats and airplanes they register, the political contributions they make, age and if they have licenses to practice medicine or law, they develop a profile and a likely gift amount, assuming the nonprofit has properly built the relationship.  I had them run my profile.  The results are profoundly (and a bit disturbingly) accurate.

Amazing stuff.  And, for many organizations, a gold mine of information.  The implication is that the leaders can be spending time with those that can best make a difference in the life of those served.  After all, fund raising is not a democracy.  Not everyone has the same ability and inclination to make a significant gift.

Most nonprofits would love to know as much about their donors as we know about ours.  Think about it.  The museum you support probably does not know how many children you have, but a minister gets a call often within a few hours or a day after the child is born.  The church baptizes, educates, marries, counsels, and helps bury the families of its members, its donors.

But what do we do with that information?  Many pastors tell me that they don’t want to know what their members give to the church; they need to be able to treat all of their flock well, no matter how much they give.  I think a minister who says this is selling himself short. Does he (or she) really not trust himself?  Will he visit only those who are the largest contributors?

Why do we take an egalitarian approach to our stewardship efforts?  Your local university would never think about soliciting its largest Presidents Inner Circle donor the same way it solicits a $5 donor.  But that is how it has been done in Methodism since John Wesley slept on kitchen tables.

Between now and commitment Sunday (generally in the fall) I challenge you to make a personal call on each of the top 10% of your “giving units” (I really need to invent a better term for that).  If you have 100 commitment cards turned in, make ten visits.  During that time, do not ask them for a cent.  Instead, thank them for holding the church as a financial priority in their lives.  Let them know how their gifts support our mission to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.  What does this support mean for your local church, the Conference and our work around the world?

I have a feeling that your largest contributors are generous to other organizations as well.  Just because they get 50 yard line football tickets from their alma mater does not mean that they should get preferential seating during worship (which in most churches would be in the back row rather than up front).  But I think they do need to be reminded that their support of the church is every bit as important as their gifts to other places.

As a church we have a relationship that other organizations envy.  Let’s not take it for granted.

P.S.  If you take me up on this challenge I would be happy to talk you through how that visit might go.  And I would love to hear how it is received.

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