How a Pyramid of Volunteers Raised Millions

How a Pyramid of Volunteers Raised Millions to Build Church in Minneapolis Parish

By Mary Rose of Church of St. Michael, Minneapolis

A pyramid approach to personally inviting parishioners yields plentiful pledges.

"There are two foundational pieces to any successful parish capital campaign for the priest: first, the people must know that their pastor loves them; second, he must build up their faith and generosity over time by his own witness and words. Vision and the courage to ask are also key ingredients.... Still, in the end it is all a matter of Divine Providence." Fr. Michael Becker, St. Michael, Minnesota


Raising funds for a new church building due to the significant increase in parishioners.


Four years ago, St. Michael’s Parish had 1,680 registered families and was housed in a beautiful historic church. Many Sunday Masses were filled to capacity, with the overflow in the finished church basement participating via closed-circuit TV. The projected increase of parishioners in the next ten years required the planning of a new church building. Father Michael Becker, the pastor, desired a capital campaign that would effectively involve all the members of the parish, cultivating in them a true spirit of stewardship.


Fr. Michael initiated the capital campaign, called “Heaven on Earth”, by personally inviting a few families that were able to donate a significant amount. Father then formed a pyramid-structured group of volunteers that would visit with each registered parishioner, inviting them to make a monetary pledge over a three-year period.

At the top of the pyramid were 6 chair leaders who each had 4 division leaders under them. The division leaders then found 10 more volunteers each. Every volunteer committed to personally visiting 5 parish families by a certain date, leaving them with literature detailing the plan for the new church and a response card. Every parishioner 18 years and older was asked to prayerfully consider a confidential monetary commitment.


An amazing 65% of the registered parishioners participated in the “Heaven on Earth” capital campaign. Pledges totaled $4,254,823, with $4,074,847 collected thus far, and the parishioners now have a new church building! St. Michael’s is currently home to 2,020 families with 18 new families registering each month.

A second three-year capital campaign, “Moving Forward in Faith”, has been started to pay off the new church’s remaining debt, and to fund a social hall and K-thru-8 school classrooms. The same strategy is being implemented, with a pyramid scheme of volunteers, though they began this campaign with an "in-the-pew" solicitation during Sunday Masses over a four week period.

So far $2,756,403 has been pledged and $180,764 has been collected, with 35% participation. As in the previous campaign, volunteers will visit the parishioners that have not yet signed a pledge.


The priest must be a true witness of generosity and charity.

Personal contact from a parishioner volunteer, inviting each registered person or family to participate in the three-year pledge campaign.

Treat everyone over 18 as a contributing adult of the parish.


Define your fundraising goals and the needs it will meet.

Clearly present the plan to parishioners, e.g. display a model of the new church or produce literature on the plan.

The pastor himself personally invites families who may be able to give a substantial donation.

Develop a pyramid of volunteers: 6 chair leaders, 4 division leaders for each chair leader, and 10 volunteers under each division leader.

Ask for volunteers to commit to meeting personally with 5 other parishioners/families who have not yet made pledges.

Have one meeting with the volunteers to give practical tips.

The pastor sends out hand-signed thank-you letters to each parishioner/family that has pledged, with their pledge amount pointed out in the letter.

Continue mentioning the campaign -- briefly -- at Mass, expressing gratitude and excitement for the future church building.

Post collection updates in the Sunday bulletin.

Submitted by Mary Rose at the parish office on January 15, 2007. Fr. Michael Becker is pastor of Church of St. Michael.

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