Archbishop's Annual Appeal Sets Records in Baltimore: Bannon Associates Develop, Implement New Strategy

In the midst of the recession, the Archdiocese of Baltimore set a new record for its Annual Appeal. The number of contributors increased from just over 27,000 to 42,500, and pledges rose from $6 million to over $8.4 million. Bannon Associates helped the Baltimore Archdiocese realize these goals by instilling new methodology in Catholic fundraising. The successful initiative was primarily focused on engaging leadership at every level and efficiently managing campaign communication. Various extended efforts included an in-pew follow-up weekend, telephone solicitations, and additional mailings, all of which further advanced the Annual Appeal's response.

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Recently, Charity Navigator ranked Baltimore as one of the two least generous communities in the country. In spite of that ranking, and in the midst of the recession, the Archdiocese of Baltimore set a new record for its Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.

Joliet, IL (PRWEB) August 20, 2010

Recently, Charity Navigator ranked Baltimore as one of the two least generous communities in the country. In spite of that ranking, and in the midst of the recession, the Archdiocese of Baltimore set a new record for its Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. The number of contributors increased from just over 27,000 to 42,500. The amount pledged rose from $6,014,797 to $8,416,629. How was this possible?

As with all giving, there are two principle factors in this phenomenal response to the Diocesan Appeal. The first is leadership. In an organization like the Catholic Church, successful grassroots fundraising requires the involvement of leaders at all levels. In addition to the Archbishop and his staff, pastors and other parish leaders must support the Catholic fundraising campaign and effectively request gifts.

Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore was relatively new in his position. His Executive Director of Development, Patrick Madden, was even newer. However, both men grasped the importance of making positive changes to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, which remained stagnant at about $6 million for the last several years.
Bannon Associates was retained by the Archdiocese to improve both the number of gifts and the total income of the fundraising campaign. The first task was to increase the interest and participation of parish leaders. To this end, a new parish leadership manual was created that provided:

  •      comprehensive explanation of funds needed
  •      methodology for establishing parish goals
  •      defined roles of pastor and parish committee members
  •      detailed explanation of steps to be followed

This plan would only work if the pastors and their committees attended training meetings, where the new approach was explained in detail. Archbishop O’Brien attended all of these meetings, thereby assuring that almost all parishes attended.

Campaign communications also had to be improved. The Archdiocese secured the services of Colleen Smith, a Denver-based writer who works on a number of diocesan appeals. Her approach, (which stresses personal stories of those who benefit from the funds raised,) provided potential contributors with a clear picture of the importance of their individual contributions. No longer were gifts a vague action without real meaning.

She also added an opening and closing synopsis in tabloid form. These publications, distributed in the Archdiocesan newspaper and in all parish bulletins, increased transparency by publishing the goals for each parish. The allocation of funds was listed in the opening tabloid, and the performance of each parish and distribution of funds was stated in the closing tabloid. Both reports included case stories and messages from the Archbishop, further personalizing the appeal's mission.

The message and the mechanics of the direct mail phases were improved as well. Bannon Associates instituted a new form of “bump” tables to ask prior contributors to consider an increase in giving. The delivery date of the initial mailing was moved closer to the time of parish campaign activities, in order to encourage parishes to promote mail responses through announcements at Mass and in their bulletins.

The strongest and the most productive change in terms of increasing participation, however, was engaging pastors in leading a formal in-pew process. This unique procedure, developed by Bannon, asks parishioners to complete pledge envelopes immediately after the Archbishop’s audio tape homily. Pastors follow a script, guiding the congregation through the entire process of completing pledges or indicating that they do not wish to contribute at the current time.

Various extended efforts included an in-pew follow-up weekend, telephone solicitations, and additional mailings, all of which have advanced the annual appeal's success.

Despite the recession, any sizable negative impact on grassroots giving is more the result of leadership’s desire to reduce the frequency or intensity of appeals, rather than the donor’s unwillingness or inability to give. Baltimore clearly demonstrates this fact. Enthusiastic leadership and an effectively managed appeal yield a growth in the number of contributors. This increase overrides the fact that some may need to reduce or forgo their contributions. One need only look to the collections for Haitian relief earlier this year to see that generosity does not die in hard times.

Mr. Bannon is the President of Bannon Associates, Inc. His company specializes in Catholic fundraising, with offices in Los Angeles, CA and Joliet, IL. For more information, visit http://www.bannonassociates.com.

Media Contact: William Bannon (815) 609-6457, or email info(at)bannonassociates(dot)com.

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