Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pre-stewardship drive discussion starter

From an...interesting article about charitable giving:

Religious services are a form of marketing. What else would you call being held captive to a rehearsed one-hour message repeated once a week, every week, week after week after week? It's a particularly productive form of marketing — rich, experiential, and communal. It's much more powerful than a website banner ad that your retina can filter out before reaching your brain, or a TV commercial you can make disappear with TIVO. You have to sit there and listen. The message is simple: Be charitable, both to your religious institution and to humanity in general. And it works.

If you don't like the word marketing, then call it solicitation, or donor cultivation, or major gift development. Any way you slice it, it's a form of fundraising.

Discuss. More thoughts later this week.


Anonymous said...

I am so looking forward to your promised thoughts because I have so many of my own!

I liked the original article - especially its optimistic view about how much money we might be able to raise to alleviate various forms of human suffering.

I'm not crazy about this quote, though, and I've been trying to figure out why. I'm not sure I have the answer, but here are some possibilities:

1. I don't think of going to church as getting a message - I think of going to church as creating a community. I enjoy a good sermon and I love the liturgy - but the sacraments are what matter most to me most of the time.

2. Even if the church is really just spending hour after hour, week after week, trying to give me and others a message - I don't think the message we're getting is always about giving to it and to others. Myself, I care more about the sermons that promise light out of darkness, hope out of despair, peace out of conflict, etc., etc. World prosperity out of world hunger is part of that, but not the only part. Riches out of poverty is part of that, but not the biggest part.

3. I remember loving the original Minnesota campaign posters for the Episcopal church when I was in college in Illinois - "He came to take away your sins, not your mind," they promised, and the congregation that used them in its campus paper drew me to church 1 1/2 hours travel time each way for the fellowship I found there. That's not the only message the church offers either, of course - but its one powerful alternative to this author's proposed "be charitable, both to your religious institutions and to humanity in general."

4. I know the church needs to exist in the real world. It needs to market, solicit, cultivate donors, raise funds - it must, as Paul already had it almost two thousand years ago, be all things to all men in order that it may by all means save some. This article is good at talking about the marketing, solicitation, donor cultivation, and fund-raising pieces of the puzzle - but what about the salvation?

LKT said...

I guess I'd better post those promised thoughts, then! I should start by thinking them, I suppose.

I did post a comment on the article itself; I'll start by posting that.

I think the main thing I don't like about the quote--and it's maybe not even "don't like"--but his perception of church is a complete mismatch to my perception. I have no idea if he's a churchgoer or not, but I find it hard to fathom that anyone who is deeply involved in a church sees it as a creative fundraising force.

Well, anyway...I'll start with the comment I posted and go from there.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, LKT!