Stewardship Resource

St. Philip's Anniversary Offering Appeal (Part 3 of 9)

Happening  Happening
  • Author: Jerry Hoffman served as interim senior pastor at St. Philip's Lutheran Church of Fridley, Minn., Aug. 16, 2002, through May 31, 2003.
  • Updated: 08/22/2006

St. Philip's Stewardship Committee made use of Lyle Schaller's book 44 Ways to Expand the Finance Base of Your Congregation (Abingdon Press: 1989) in planning its special giving campaign and "Miracle Sunday."

Two issues of St. Philip's monthly newsletter, "The Friend," and five appeal letters were employed to inform parishioners of the church's financial need.

Following are highlights from the book that guided the committee.

For more on the story, click on: 
St. Philip's Miracle Anniversary Celebration: Celebrating a Heritage of Faith, Courage and Hope


Special Appeals

Miracle Sunday: a series of six letters to all members.

1. Arrive on Tuesday, when residential first-class mail tends to be minimal.

2. Each letter signed in brightly-colored ink by the person who wrote it

3. Each of the first five letter writers added a personal postscript in colored ink at bottom.

4. Each envelope carried in the upper left-hand corner the name and the address of the sender, not the church's name and address.

5. Mailed first class and carried a colorful commemorative stamp in the upper right-hand corner.

6. Every envelope was addressed by the word processor. No labels were used.

7. Each letter personally typed on 6x9 personal size stationery; the word processor printed in the name and address of the sender of that round of letters.

8. Each letter was limited to 125 words per page and ran 3-4 pages in length.

9. Letters went out at two-week intervals.

10. First letter: written by the individual who chaired special committee, widely known, respected, influential member. Theme: "Friends, we are in a severe financial squeeze, the best solution is to eliminate those big monthly mortgage payments from our budget."

11. Second letter: from 72-year-old, widely-respected and influential third -generation member. Repeated theme from first letter, adding point about how much money would be saved in interest costs if paid off in advance.

12. Third letter: from the pastor who blessed the whole plan with an inspirational message.

13. Fourth letter: discussed the question, "How much is ... ?" and pointed out the answer was not a check for $600 for each of the 260 households. To reach the goal, the committee had concluded three gifts of at least $10,000 each, five at $X , etc.

14. Fifth letter: a "get on the band wagon" message that came from a layperson on the committee; opened with the words, "As you all know, we expect to raise $155,000 in cash on Mother's Day. Some of you have told me that this is an impossible goal. Others have said we will be lucky to receive $50,000 that day. A couple of my pessimistic friends have declared this whole program is a dumb idea and the most we can expect is $25,000 or  $30,000 in a one-day appeal like this. Well, friends, we have news for you!  Miracle Sunday is only two weeks away and already we have nearly $63,000 in hand in advance commitments! One family has promised us a check for  $15,000 if the rest of us contribute the other $140,000 we need to pay off that dirty old mortgage." The rest of the letter was a plea for people to rally around the goal that was already in sight.

15. Sixth letter: prepared late Sunday afternoon on Mother's Day and mailed Monday morning. Every copy was personally signed in various colors of ink, by the pastor, the person who had chaired the committee and the members who had written the second and fifth letters. The letter announced the result, thanked the people and devoted the last two pages to an explanation of how the success of this effort would help expand the ministry and outreach.

Common Threads of Special Appeals

1. The best way of securing additional resources is to ask for them.

2. Some people will respond to and some people will ignore a special appeal. One reason for variety is to increase the chances that every member will find at least one of these special appeals attractive.

3. No matter when a special appeal is scheduled, that almost always turns out to be a good time for some people to respond affirmatively while inconvenient for others.

4. Most of these appeals focus on specifics that are visual, attractive and comprehensible.

5. Each of these special appeals conveys to the potential contributor that you can know for sure when and how your contribution will be used.

6. Designated giving is a powerful motivating force. 

7. Churches have done a better job teaching stewardship than many leaders are willing to concede. Christians do have generous hearts and, when asked, people will respond.

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