Stewardship Happens – Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall

By Lee Gagen
Director of Individual and External Donor Relations, Southern New England Conference, UCC

As we start a new year, we are given the gift of opportunity. A fresh start. A chance to think about new things we want to try and old things we want to do differently. This is especially true for those of us who are responsible for fundraising.

When the craziness of end-of-year giving winds down, I make it a practice to carve out time to organize my thoughts around stewardship planning. This process allows me to set goals, take inventory of stewardship activities, and most importantly, see the bigger picture for the upcoming year. I encourage you to find the time to plan for the next year’s fundraising.

When you sit down to think about fundraising for the next year, remind yourself that stewardship happens year-round – not just during the month or two of a giving/pledge campaign. As you think of the upcoming year, it may seem daunting. I suggest breaking up the year into pieces – be that months, seasons, quarters, or whatever makes the most sense for you!

Below, I’m including some things that are basics that either you are likely already implementing or you should make a priority for this year:


  • Create a year-end statement that shares a story
  • Thank your annual campaign donors
  • Plan fundraising for the year


  • Review the methods of giving to your organization
    • How can they be enhanced and improved?


  • Review and schedule special offerings for the upcoming year


  • Send out a quarterly statement with a story of impact


  • Provide stewardship educational opportunities for staff and volunteers


  • Review your organization’s assets, properties, and maintenance
  • Assess needs


  • Send out a quarterly statement with a story of impact


  • Organize annual giving campaign


  • Annual giving campaign
    • Council pledges
    • Board pledges


  • Send out a quarterly statement with a story of impact
  • Build narrative budget


  • Annual giving campaign wrap-up
  • Giving Tuesday campaign


  • Encourage year-end gifts
  • Encourage planned gifts

After accounting for these technical aspects of stewardship, you’re in a space where you have the ability to take a deeper look at stewardship in your organization/congregation. This is the true key to success! Beyond the monthly to-dos, it is essential that your congregation’s committees responsible for stewardship, mission, generosity, fundraising etc. are in conversation about your goals for the upcoming year. Ask yourselves:

  • What ministries do we want to highlight this year?
  • How do we talk about money? What is our culture of giving?
  • (How) are we making authentic connections with our donors?
  • What events will help make our mission and ministry possible?
  • Who is responsible for different aspects of stewardship and fundraising? What is the pastors role and what information do they have about giving?

What I have outlined here includes mainly the practical items common to most congregations. I hope that this is a helpful starting point to get you thinking and talking about how your church does stewardship. This year. Next year. And into the future. Like much of the work of the Church, stewardship is an evolving practice and to be successful, we who do the work must be constantly assessing and adapting!

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