by Judy Bumgarner
Have you ever met a local television news anchor at a community event? When people have personal contact with a local media “star,” they typically make a point to tune in now that they feel a kind of connection however brief it might have been. Station management knows that personal contact can change viewing habits and therefore ratings. Which makes you wonder how stewardship campaigns would be affected if church members connected—even briefly—with the people who directly benefited from their pledges?
Giving a face and a name to the needs of the church and community makes pledging personal; and when it gets personal, you’ve got their attention. Hearing about all the good things your church does is one thing; looking into the grateful eyes of someone with whom your pledge has made a difference, that’s another thing entirely.
About Face Pledge Cards
Create a template of a pledge card that includes a pledge form, room for a photo, and a brief statement. Take pictures of people in classes, in daycare, during service projects . . . everywhere you see people who benefit from a church project or service. And don’t be afraid to take close-ups; you want your photos to be of faces. Print and cut them out, then paste them onto (or into, if you’re computer-savvy) your pledge card template. Hang them on an artificial tree, a bulletin board, or even from the ceiling grid and let the pastor invite the congregation to choose a card. Personalize each card? You bet. This is all about personalization.
This is David. He is one of twenty-three homeless men who spent the night in our Fellowship Hall last month. The church not only provided the men with a warm/cool, safe place to stay, but we also served them a nice, filling meal. Take this pledge card to honor David, and know that your contribution goes to support programs like Room in the Inn.
This is [first name]. [He/She] is a [single mother? four-year-old? recovering addict? what was the need?] who [took a parenting class? attended VBS? uses our counseling program . . . what service was provided to help fulfill that need?]. Take this pledge card to honor [first name] and know that your contribution goes to support programs like [name of program.]
Face-to-Face with Pastor
At most churches people line up to shake hands and say a word or two to the pastor after the worship service. Take advantage of that with this idea: Select people who have benefitted from church programs and have them form a reception line just outside the sanctuary. Prompt them to thank people as they pass by for what the church has done to help them, but also ask a volunteer or staff member to “host” each person in case they need a little help. Have pledge cards available at the end of the line just before they see the pastor who is—again—at the end of the line.
Example for Those Helped:
My name is David. Nice to meet you. I sure appreciate the church letting me stay the night here during that cold snap last month. Without Room in the Inn, I don’t know what some of us would do. Thanks again.
Example for Host:
Hey, I want you to meet David. You know how the church supports Room in the Inn? Well, David is one of the men we were so happy to have stay with us one night last month, when it was so cold. We hope you’ll make a pledge to the church again this year to help us continue to fund these important programs.
This idea also centers on taking photos of those who benefit from the church’s programs, but would showcase the photos in a formal art show setting. Enlarge and/or frame as many photos as possible and display them on easels and movable screens. Post information next to each piece of art that describes the subject. Make the art show a big deal; invite the media, ask “patrons” to vote on their favorite, serve punch and light hors d’oeuvres, offer valet parking—you could even roll out a red carpet and stage a premiere event. All the hoopla serves as an interesting way to get the congregation to pay attention to the faces of those in need.
Important: Don’t Lose Face
Before adapting any of these ideas, you need to run them by your church’s legal counsel. While using photos of those who are involved in your programs may seem to be “implied consent,” it can get a lot more complicated than that.
“Churches would want to get approval from the person to use their information and image,” says Alisa Graner Napier, a music and media licensing professional in Nashville, Tenn. “The person would need to know what the pledge card is being used for, where, when, etc., and approve it in writing with their signature, date and, if possible, their address and phone number.”
Although not an attorney, Graner Napier has been in the industry for twenty years and says typically an organization, with their attorney’s assistance, creates a release form to use in situations like this. She suggests that before going to print, show those whose photos you plan to use what the stewardship materials will look like to avoid later confusion.
“Churches could create a mockup of the pledge card showing where the photo and information would go so the person could see how exactly it is being used. Also, for their church files, they should keep a copy of the pledge cards attached to the individuals’ releases so they don’t get mixed up.”
So, take these ideas and make them your own. Find ways to make use of social media. Make it intergenerational. Or let them inspire you to think of a new way to show your congregation that they can no longer take your pledge campaign at face value.
Judy Bumgarner is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tennessee.