Is your Annual Appeal stagnant or showing signs of decline? It’s a trend across a number of philanthropic sectors. Does it mean people are walking away from supporting important operations, or have messages become lost as white noise?

GP Catholic Services has tracked the trend and sees it as a great opportunity for Annual Appeals across the country to step forward with a clear message that demonstrates both need and impact, all the while challenging members of the faith to step forward in continuing the work and service of the Church.

In many cases, annual solicitations roll out the same each year. A new theme may emerge, but the communication, solicitation method, and process remain the same. In many ways, it can be doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

Changing results and reestablishing Annual Appeals as a basis of operational funding requires addressing some needed change. GP Catholic Services sees a number of important steps any development office should take to make the positive impact.

Create a year-round communications plan. While solicitation and gifts occur during a narrow window each year, the funds are used year round to make a difference throughout a diocese. It’s important that a coordinated message in diocesan publications, on the website, in direct mail, and through personal visits tells the story of the difference gifts make.

Be clear and measurable in seeking support. Annual Appeals often touch a wide range of diocesan programs and ministries. Those who read the Appeal information are often left with questions. How was the need determined, how many people will be assisted in the various elements, what impact will result from support, where are lives being touched?

Where is the story being told? Is your story being told only on your website, during one Mass each year, and through direct mail to homes? Traditional news sources are changing. Today more people get news, information, and make financial decisions on their phone or computer. The message must adapt to new and emerging realities – no longer is the news cycle measured in days, but often in hours.

How are people being asked to give? Is everyone asked to complete a pledge card and return a check? Is there an option to go online to make an electronic gift? Does the request make an active appeal to consider making multiple payments to help beyond the single transaction? Is there active and ongoing personal visits and solicitation with key donors? Are people being asked to increase support, or is the message one of “please do what you did before?”

Many consider these challenging times in the Catholic Church. Perhaps. But ongoing communications, transparency, and impact invite people to see the vast amount of good being done.