To start, “no margin, no mission” applies to every organization. In fact, it was a nun in charge of a church-run hospital who introduced me to that truth. What is your economic model?
Churches can draw on all three types: membership (those weekly envelopes from church goers or- even better –automatic electronic payments); earned income (rummage sales and other events, rental of church facilities, etc.); and philanthropic (for a capital project, or a specific program).
Depending on the church, one or more of those sources may be the most appropriate.
Some churches are social service oriented with soup kitchens, overseas aid and other programs. Others are evangelical, aiming to build the biggest hall of worship in town. Still others are educational. The Mormon Church, for example, spends a lot on seminaries and university.
My point is that, as a fundraiser, you need to be very clear on what your church does. What do we stand for, and why is it important? Is it for the individual congregation member, for the community, or for the good of society? The answer may vary for the church overall and specific initiatives.
Then, start with your current base – the faithful givers – but don’t stop there. Who else – beyond your church, even – might be interested? The Catholic Schools Foundation has attracted the support of many non-Catholics who are concerned about education and see the parochial system as a viable alternative.
Finally, don’t forget the bricks and mortar. It costs money to maintain a facility. How will you pay for that? And, churches sometimes have real estate holdings on valuable land. (St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City comes to mind.)
You may find yourself with the pleasant problem of funding an expansion to accommodate a swelling congregation. Conversely, faced with fiscal challenges and dwindling congregations, tough decisions may be necessary. Closing or consolidating churches has been an emotional issue for many Catholic dioceses.
No margin, no mission.