Over our decades-long history, CCS has witnessed the transformative impact that an engaged and enthusiastic volunteer body can have on the ultimate outcome of a major parish campaign. Since the onset of COVID-19, many clergy and lay leaders have expressed reluctance to embark on a major fundraising effort out of fear of a lack of volunteer participation. However, within the last three years, we have been astounded by the proactive engagement of so many parishioner volunteers who seek opportunities for involvement on a deeper level with their Christian community.
We have found that with a pastoral approach to volunteer recruitment, paired with training and coaching by the CCS team, parishioners go above and beyond to support a successful fundraising effort. In partnership with the Clergy, these volunteers throughout the country pave the way for extraordinary campaign results.
The Importance of Parishioner Volunteers
Parishioner volunteers have long been a critical pillar of fundraising success when embarking on a religious campaign. Many of these volunteers have a long-term history with the parish and therefore provide invaluable support and community knowledge that moves the campaign forward.
OUR PASTORAL APPROACH TO RECRUITMENT
Launching a parish campaign takes about three months of preparation, during which local case needs are finalized, campaign materials are designed and created, and key messaging is set by the parish leadership. The most pressing item during this time is forming the right leadership team to help guide the campaign toward success. To build a parish campaign volunteer leadership team, CCS partners with the pastor/pastoral leader to identify a core group of parishioners who have a history of affinity and connection with the parish to become lay leaders of the campaign.
We have learned that the right parishioners will take on the leadership mantel if they are identified strategically and approached in a personal manner. It is in these thoughtful conversations that clergy make an authentic request for the parishioners to serve their parish through faithful campaign engagement.
ENGAGING THE VOLUNTEERS
When is the best time to engage volunteers?
We have found that it is most impactful to draw volunteers in early enough in the process so they can feel adequately informed about the needs of the parish and connected to the campaign’s “why.” Parishes often elect to include most leaders once the campaign case has been set, and a campaign plan is drafted. However, for independent parishes conducting a campaign, it is critical to involve your key parishioners in the feasibility study process, as well. Their input is invaluable during the early campaign ideation, and their volunteer contributions will be more impactful if they feel they have helped develop what they are being asked to deliver.
How do we keep our volunteers engaged?
Depending on the size of the campaign, a timeline may span from 4-8 months, with larger efforts lasting longer. We employ a phased approach, so volunteers may work in phases, but we will generally involve volunteers in active meetings for 16-18 weeks.
How do we support volunteer activity?
We hold weekly meetings when we work with the parish volunteers to maintain momentum, have check-ins, and reinforce enthusiasm within the parish. We work closely with the volunteers from the beginning of the process by training them on fundraising best practices and guiding their activity on a week-by-week basis. We work hard to cheerlead the volunteers and celebrate their successes to maintain their activity and engagement.
A CASE STUDY: THE VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE IN OHIO
It started with a tenured CCS colleague who has seen every type of Diocesan campaign and volunteer recruitment strategy in their 16 years of experience. Next came two strong volunteer co-chairs, well-connected to their community, who called more than 25 families to personally ask for their support in this mighty endeavor—not for their benefit, but for their parish and their faith. From here, and with the coaching of the CCS team, an additional 10 passionate volunteer parishioners were recruited.
The volunteer team quickly cultivated an environment where positivity and trust in their pastor and fellow faithful parishioners led them to success. These volunteers came in with multiple questions, doubts, and fears. CCS worked pastorally in listening to their concerns and providing information that helped them feel empowered to communicate campaign needs. We took a solution-focused approach that allowed the volunteer partnership to be positive and productive based on mutual trust. Every week, the volunteers came with ideas, suggestions, and questions. By the end of the campaign, the volunteers felt proud and fearless and commented that they would even miss the weekly campaign meetings.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM WORKING WITH VOLUNTEERS IN A RELIGIOUS CAMPAIGN
- Start and end each meeting in prayer.
- Recognize that no two parishes are the same—each parish deserves a uniquely tailored plan, and each volunteer deserves a uniquely supportive engagement with their CCS team.
- Be pleasantly persistent while maintaining a spirit of flexibility.
- Keep the process fun; volunteers are giving their time!
- Trust the fundraising process and rely on the strategically developed campaign plan.
At the end of the campaign, a well-coached volunteer team will take great pride in accomplishing a successful campaign. The time spent together building community and securing incredible gifts and pledges in support of their beloved parish will be a lasting memory that they will forever cherish.