Written by Daniel Hazard
Stillspeaking launches $3 million fundraising campaign
The Stillspeaking Initiative has announced plans to develop a new 30-second television commercial that will air nationwide later this year, provided that churches and individuals, as well as national ministries, will offer $3 million to underwrite an unprecedented advertising buy.
Ron Buford, coordinator of the UCC's Stillspeaking Initiative, promises the new ad will be just as provocative as the "bouncer" ad that made national headlines last December.
"It is going to be edgy again and it will create a buzz," Buford says. "There will be a buzz everywhere about it." Buford, however, refuses at this point to discuss the ad concept in detail. "Tell people I'm being tightlipped about it," he says with a coy smile.
Just one small thing stands in the way — $3 million.
That's how much money Buford says will be needed in order for the church to "blanket the nation" with its message of extravagant welcome. A combination of broadcast and cable television time will be purchased, he said.
"We want to be able to buy even more air time than we bought a year ago," Buford said. "If we are able to do what we want, people will see this commercial a lot more often throughout the day. They will see it a lot."
Buford made the announcement last month at General Synod 25 in Atlanta, where he simultaneously unveiled an ambitious fundraising campaign that calls for individual donors and local churches to contribute $1.5 million by All Saints Day, Nov. 1.
If successful, Buford says, the UCC's Collegium of Officers has agreed to approach the UCC's four national Covenanted Ministries — Local Church Ministries, Wider Church Ministries, Justice and Witness Ministries and the Office of General Ministries — with a request that they collectively match the $1.5 million — dollar for dollar.
"Between now and October, it is not a lot to ask these churches for," Buford says. "And the feedback that I have gotten from people so far is, 'yes, this is something that we want to do' and 'yes, this is something that we can do.'"
The Stillspeaking Initiative is specifically asking the UCC's 2,327 "Stillspeaking congregations" — those that have formally "opted-in" and affirmed the Initiative's vision — to provide the bulk of the initial $1.5 million.
Stillspeaking churches with annual operating budgets of less than $100,000 are being asked to make a one-time gift of $500, Buford says. Churches with operating budgets between $100,000 and $499,000 are being asked to make a $2,000 gift, and churches with budgets greater than $500,000 are being asked for a $5,000 commitment.
Buford's hope, he says, is that two-thirds of churches will respond, a benchmark that would exceed the $1.5 million goal and put the church well on its way toward being able to fund an additional airing of the commercial in Lent 2006.
"What I am hoping we have happen is that we do so well during the Advent campaign that the Lenten [fundraising] campaign becomes unnecessary," Buford says. "That would be a very joyful thing to be able to say."
Donaldson Hill, head of financial development for the UCC and who will be coordinating the effort to secure major gifts from individual donors, says it is more imperative than ever that the church raise enough money to ensure the long-term solvency of the Stillspeaking Initiative.
"The amount of money we were able to raise for the Lenten series this year was astounding," he says. "Both the success of that effort and the momentum we have seen coming out of General Synod makes it important that we do whatever is necessary to continue the work. For us not to continue to be aggressive would have an impact on the church for years to come. It would be hard for us to recreate the momentum that we have right now."
The new commercial, created in both English and Spanish versions, will be unveiled publicly on Nov. 1.
Buford, like Hill, says that the time is now for the UCC to capitalize on the momentum it has built during the past 18 months and to increase its ever-expanding base of inclusiveness. "What is so important about the Stillspeaking Initiative is that we have heard from so many of our members who have said, 'This makes me proud of my church and of who we are,'" Buford says. "People now know who we are, what we stand for and what we are trying to do. That is a new day in the UCC. To the people who are saying things about destruction and doom and gloom, we are focusing on the mission — helping people overcome alienation from God and communities of faith. We are sticking to that."