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Should You Publish Names of Pledgers?

Recently, the question has been circulating among CEEP's Stewardship Directors 

"Are any churches listing their pledging members publicly? What about those who give regularly but do not pledge?


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One of the best responses to this question came from:

Nancy Ezell-Scruggs, Stewardship Director of Grace Episcopal Church, Charleston, SC:

 

With the enthusiastic support of my Rector, I began running a list of Stewardship Pledgers in the church's monthly newsletter, twice a year, about four years ago.  This step served as a means to end our annual Stewardship appeal and it has worked beautifully.  Here are some key points:

 

  • On your pledge card, make sure there is a place for a parishioner to opt out of being publicly listed.   You can count these among your Anonymous.  (Having said this, I do field a handful of calls each year from folks asking why their name didn't appear on the list and it's usually because they checked "no" to this option but had forgotten.  Keep good records addressing this detail!) 

 

  • The first time we ran this list was the toughest because parishioners weren't used to having it done.  Make sure you have the support of your Rector  & Wardens to handle any upset parishioners.  Most of the comments I have fielded were from folks who didn't pledge before we went to print or didn't understand "giving vs. pledging."  This conversation actually proved to be a great way to educate the caller on the merits of pledging.  (Interestingly, most of the people who call about this matter will be the first to return a pledge card the following year.

 

  • Before going to print, make sure all clergy, vestry, and staff members are aware that the list is about to be printed in the event they have been tardy with returning their own pledge cards.  Tongues do have a way of wagging.

 

  • I do not use total pledge amounts to classify donors in giving-levels as a lot of secular organizations do; our list runs in alpha order.

 

  • In the newsletter, we introduce the list by saying something like, "The church is grateful to all who provide gifts of financial support for our ministry.   Our Stewardship Committee is especially grateful to those willing to return a pledge of support ...."  This addresses those who "give but do not pledge."

 

  • The list of pledgers runs in two subsequent newsletters (usually February and March) because the first time it’s printed, we always pick-up several people who quickly return their pledge card.  The second printing is another full list of pledgers but with the addition of the most recently received pledges.  This soothes those missed in the first printing. 

 

If I recall correctly from a past CEEP conference, most churches have about a 50/50 split on pledgers vs. "those who give but do not pledge."  In our case, it would be not be prudent to force this issue as many of our most generous fall into that latter category.  I'm always happy to "talk shop" if any of you have further questions and can be reached at843.723.4575, Tues-Fri.

 

NOTE: Grace Church Charleston SC is happy to be in the remaining Diocese of the Lowcountry!