Churches and synagogues are increasingly turning to professional fund-raisers to draw in funds, according to the New York Times (Nov. 18). About 7.4 percent of the members of the National Society of Fund-raising executives work for religious organizations — which is double the number from seven years ago. “I wouldn’t be surprised if next year’s survey shows that the numbers have doubled again,” says society spokesman Michael A. Nilsen.
Among the reasons for the new interest in professional fundraising is the increased competition for philanthropic money as well as the increasing size of congregations, “as temples and churches continue to consolidate parishes into `megachurches’ to serve large geographic areas.”
The growth in fund-raising has caused fear that such campaigns will use high pressure sales techniques or engage in other ethical violations. But few fund-raisers do much of the “footwork” themselves, as they usually recruit members of the synagogues or churches themselves, writes Claudia Deutsch. Fund-raisers more often do the research and develop strategies for locating donors, bring in other professionals, such as lawyers, and are able to discern how much donors will give.
With their technological and marketing savvy, they work with the understanding that “people do not give to budgets, they give to missions and visions.” For instance, Dallas’ Highland Park Presbyterian Church now shows potential donors a video of their colleagues ministering to the poor. The new role of technology in church fundraising was also evident during the recent relief work for the Hurricane Mitch disaster in Central America.
The use of the Internet and toll free telephone numbers for making donations was a first for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Credit card donations were made through the denomination’s Disaster Assistance Web site and through the PrebyTel phone lines, according to PCUSA News (Nov. 19).