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Creative campaign approach engaged all aspects of St. Mary community

By April 25, 2024Steier Tips

Fr. Joseph Walsh’s invitation for the Steier Group to partner with St. Mary Catholic Church on its capital campaign came with a challenge and a request.

Weekend Masses at the parish, situated in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, and near the state capitol, often draw more visitors than parishioners. Could the Steier Group create an approach to encourage these visitors to support a campaign for long overdue repairs and renovations?

And the request: Would the Steier Group allow the Blessed Mother to be front and center in the campaign?

The Steier Group’s response: Yes to the challenge and a wholehearted yes to creating a campaign with the parish’s patron saint as the centerpiece.

First, some background about St. Mary Catholic Church, which once served as the cathedral for the Diocese of Lincoln. It is a small parish with a faithful following of parishioners and regular visitors – those who work downtown and those in Lincoln to attend events or see their college-age children. Visitors account for nearly two-thirds of weekend Mass attendance. The parish, now nearly 140 years old with its last major renovation work dating to the 1960s, sought to complete Phase 2 of its master plan, focusing on installing a new HVAC system, upgrading the electrical system, installing a fire alarm system and retiring a long-stand parish debt.

The Steier Group relied on its long-proven approach to fundraising by inviting parishioners to participate in a volunteer-driven, peer-to-peer campaign. 27 volunteers, including Fr. Walsh, completed 219 personal visits as follow-ups to their pastor’s request for support. Parishioners responded with $1.16 million in pledges and one-time gifts.

As for visitors, the Steier Group created a special commitment card that was available in the pews. Fr. Walsh and campaign leaders shared a consistent message at Mass that their support was vital to ensure that St. Mary’s would remain a place where they could worship when visiting Lincoln. This message was routinely included in the parish bulletin, in social media messaging and on the parish website. Visitors responded with more than $1 million in support, mostly in one-time gifts. The cards remained in church pews long after the active portion of the campaign had concluded and visitors continued to give their support.

Now for Fr. Walsh’s request: The campaign theme – Opening Doors to the Heart of St. Mary – A Campaign for St. Mary – sent a message that the Blessed Mother was the foundation of the effort. All campaign materials carried this message.

The Opening Doors campaign – with the Blessed Mary at the forefront – drew more than $2.3 million in pledges and one-time gifts, 144% above the Steier Group’s high-end fundraising projection of $1.6 million.

Fr. Walsh said the Steier Group proved to be a blessing. He wrote:

“You were thorough, professional, consistently operating with best practices for capital campaigns. And you did it with no ‘scorched earth’ left behind.”

“Thank you for allowing the Blessed Mother to be front and center of this campaign. Our best decision, after hiring your firm, was to entrust this work to our Blessed Mother. Opening the Doors to the Heart of St. Mary was a perfect expression of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. And she was part of the purpose, insights, and accomplishments of the entire enterprise.”

“An extension of this thought is in the manner in which Steier understood “the Catholic way” in doing this work. You seamlessly entered into the community, spoke our language, respected the Church and worked in a very spiritually appropriate manner to help us raise money.”

At the end of the campaign, the parish came together in gratitude to celebrate a successful campaign. Fr. Walsh noted that several parishioners personally thanked the Steier Group campaign manager and supervisor who attended.

“It was a simple thing,” Fr. Walsh said, “but I was really impressed.”