The 2017 pledge season was bountiful: The Lift Every Voice campaign elicited 179 pledges and $551,160.
But students of stewardship (or Wall Street) know to watch trends rather than year-over-year results.
Fortunately, Galina Koubassova, our parish administrator, has kept detailed records about pledging for the past 16 years.
How are we doing overall, from one year to the next? Answer: Very well.
Over these 16 years, we’ve seen an average year-to-year increase in the total amount pledged somewhere between 3.5 percent and 5 percent—after inflation. This may not sound like much, but in fact it’s amazing, given that many churches struggle to break even.
Galina’s data enable us to answer some important questions. For example: In any given year, how many pledgers renew and how many don’t? (Most renew.) How many new pledgers are there? (It varies a lot, with no clear trend, but there’s a healthy number every year.) When people renew their pledge, does the renewed amount keep up with inflation? (Mostly not. Word to the wise.)
Do we depend more or less heavily now than we used to do on a few large contributors—a common phenomenon in every nonprofit? (A bit more, but this trend unfortunately mirrors society’s increasing inequality. We continue to have a healthy, broad base of smaller pledges that serve as our fiscal meat and potatoes.)
We have had splendid stewardship committees, with Eric Vigen and Allison Downing at the helm most recently. Stewardship is hard and often frustrating work, but indispensable. Our results would not be nearly so good without these stalwart miners swinging their picks.
They have a rich vein to work. The people of St Michael’s—our second-greatest treasure, after the Greatest of all—abound, as our parish collect says, in “grace, prayer, commitment, and love.” Pledging, alongside volunteering, is part of the commitment clause, and it’s clear that we take it seriously.
Of course, we have our sights set on continuing improvement for 2019 and beyond …
— Michael Smith
Photo: At the in-gathering on Sunday, Nov. 5, pledgers streamed to the altar with their contribution to the future of faith at St. Michael’s.