The easy out when COVID-19 hit would have been for Holy Trinity Parish to delay its capital campaign until the pandemic had passed. With that approach, the Catholic community in Eldorado Hills, California, would still be waiting to relaunch its campaign.
Instead, the parish continued with its effort to reduce historic debt with a temporary redirect to shore up its offertory during the initial wave of the pandemic, said Jeremy Youngers, parish life director.
“Our parish responded in amazing ways,” he said. “Our approach was intentional in every step. It came down to our pastor communicating the message.”
Holy Trinity, months earlier, had selected the Steier Group to assist with its campaign, partly because of its experience running debt reduction campaigns and partly because of its experience working with parishes that embrace the four pillars of stewardship: hospitality, prayer, formation and service.
Step back several years. The 25-year-old parish had taken on debt in 2004 when it expanded its campus. The intention was to eliminate its loan by 2014. 2014 came and went and, as Holy Trinity approached a new decade, its debt stood at $1.8 million.
After a false start with a major gift initiative, parish leadership paused and engaged the Steier Group for a reboot. Holy Trinity looked to eliminate the debt, raise $1.2 million for building repair and another $500,000 for a reserve fund. The debt was the first and main target, Youngers said.
Parish and campaign leaders launched the One Parish Family campaign in early March as COVID-19 was beginning to invade the United States. Within weeks, Holy Trinity parishioners worshipped remotely, and parish leaders faced a dilemma when offertory dropped.
“Do we stop the campaign? Do we pause?” Youngers said. “What do we do? We looked at everything because there was so much uncertainty.”
Together, Holy Trinity clergy, campaign leaders and Steier Group’s campaign team evaluated Holy Trinity’s options. The decision: Pivot in March and April by turning the focus on restoring offertory to support operations. An emergency loan helped bridge the financial gap, but Holy Trinity’s debt reached $2.4 million.
Within months, parish finances had stabilized and the focus returned to the campaign and knocking down the increased debt. Throughout the effort, parish leaders – led by Fr. Larry Beck, and Holy Trinity’s deacons and administrative staff – shared a message of transparency: Our financial challenges and historic debt won’t be resolved without your prayers and support. We must act. We must look forward.
Not everyone agreed with this approach, Youngers recalled, and some were vocal in their opposition. But parish leaders remained on message, and the majority understood the parish’s plight and responded by supporting the campaign. Sparked by a Commitment Weekend in August (with in-person worship), the One Parish Family campaign recently reached $2.75 million. The debt – as parishioners pay off their three-year pledges – stands at $895,000 and counting down.
“The response was overwhelming,” Youngers said, noting that he looked forward to receiving the daily mail and checking his email as parishioners turned in their campaign pledges. “Their support was coming in so many directions, people saying ‘We’re in.’”