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Overcoming Fundraising Obstacles – Leadership Transitions

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preacher preaching in church

There’s not much that can change the pattern of your members’ engagement and giving more than a leadership transition. Along with all the other natural upheaval a pastoral change can cause, you can expect a churn in attendance and contributions.

In this blog series, we’re talking about how to overcome fundraising obstacles that can pop up even in well-run church development programs. These are issues or crises that you can’t anticipate, but you can plan to respond and handle them in a way that protects your church and donors.

In our last posts, we covered how to handle unplanned expenses and budget shortfalls. Today’s topic is how to best weather a leadership change. 

If your leadership change is an unexpected one, the guidance here becomes even more important as you haven’t been able to lay the groundwork for the transition. The key ingredient is communication. When church members feel lost, out of the loop, or not sure what is transpiring, it leads to disengagement and mistrust. No matter what the cause of the change, develop two or three key messages that everyone in your staff and volunteer leadership can use when talking to members.

One best practice is to designate a senior staff member (who is not the pastoral leader or interim), or even better, your top lay leader (i.e., board president, elder, etc.) to communicate to the congregation during the transition period. Your goal is just to keep members connected and informed of the changes and how they can be helpful or in prayer during this transition for both your outgoing and incoming pastor.

If you are in the midst of a stewardship or capital campaign, be certain your campaign committee leadership or lead donors are equipped to help with that communication. They should be able to help ensure donors with ongoing pledges that the campaign projects are still a priority. We’ve seen churches misstep in this situation and not communicate well, leading members to wonder if the new leadership will shift campaign projects and priorities. Be transparent and stay on top of any information vacuum that could scare donors.

Leadership transitions can be stressful, but they can also be a tremendous opportunity to reach out to new prospective members and see new growth and excitement in your church as you begin a new chapter. How well you engage and communicate with your members during that delicate transition period will impact your retention of givers and tithers.

Do you need some guidance and advice for your particular situation? Our partnership with ACST enables us to work with churches looking to advance their stewardship programs. If you’d like counsel about any aspect of donor relations or your church’s development plans, contact us today, and we’ll be happy to connect with you. 

About Tim Smith

Tim has over 30 years of experience in Church, Non-Profit Administration, Management, and Fund Development.  Serving as an Executive Pastor and Chief Development Officer in growing Churches and Non-Profit Organizations. He has provided a wide range of expertise and resources. Tim serves as the Founder and CEO of  Non-Profit DNA. A boutique firm committed to helping nonprofits and churches. By building their capacity through fundraising, leadership, team building, staff recruiting, and coaching.

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