Stewardship at Emmanuel in 2020:  An Asterisk Year

After almost a year of the Covid-19 pandemic, all of us are used to terms and phrases like “unprecedented” and “new normal” to describe how we live and changed world around us.    The words, “difficult,” “challenging,” and “uncertain” are commonly used to describe the times.  Sports enthusiasts, college and pro, have noted that 2020 and 2021 will go down in the record books with asterisks due to abbreviated seasons, cancelled games, and modified playoffs.


The same applies to our stewardship program in 2020. It was an asterisk year. We began the year with great enthusiasm and optimism. Emmanuel’s members were growing their generosity by leaps and bounds. Several large donations in February and very generous giving at Easter set another new giving record for the fiscal year ending June 30th.  


As the year and pandemic wore on, it certainly tested our resolve and affected stewardship. It also proved our resilience and faith.


The congregation’s goal for 2020 was to increase giving to the General Fund by $130,000 over 2019, or a total of $1,379,000.  We did not meet our goal. In fact, giving to the General Fund in 2020 was slightly less than 2019, the first decrease since 2014. However, overall giving was higher than 2019, which is certainly a sign of growing faith and generosity.


2019 2020
General Fund $1,249,030.84          $1,244,488.47
Other Contributions $40,150.61          $64,145.97
Total $1,289,181.45          $1,308,634.44
# of Giving Households * 338          332
# Commitments * 188          190
# Donate Electronically * 94          161
# Automatic Recurring Donations * 79          140

* As of 31 December


Last year was the second highest year for giving to the General Fund for Emmanuel, and the highest for overall giving other than the years 2013 – 2016 when the Building in Faith campaign was underway.


The year 2020 was a year of resiliency. That certainly was true of Emmanuel’s stewardship program. The Stewardship team supported or introduced several initiatives that may have helped to bolster the resiliency of the Church in continuing ministries and members in growing generosity during a pandemic.

  • We transitioned to a new pay provider called from Vanco (aka the Simply Giving program). The transition started in late April and ended October 1st.  We saw a huge increase in electronic giving last year; the ease of using certainly helped.  Through, members could donate online, from a mobile app, and through text messaging.  Managing accounts was much easier. Members donated over $415,000 to Emmanuel through in 2020. In December contributions were over $89,000, a new monthly record for electronic giving.
  • Collection plate offerings dropped to almost nothing for the year, given that in-person worship ceased from mid-March to September, and then resumed with limited numbers. Members still contributed by check, and we saw an increase in non-traditional gifts (stock and IRA transfers) in 2020.
  • Related to the transition to, we also began using Elvanto, our Church Management System, to store pledge and giving data for members.  This involved transitioning data from an older stand-alone system, revising internal bookkeeping and tracking systems, and introducing new giving statements and reports. The impacts are that members may now look up their financial giving transactions and annual commitments in the Hub online, and leaders and staff may easily generate and customize reports.
  • Several special appeals in 2020 accounted for the large increase in contributions to other funds. Those included Village of Hope, the Preschool, FACETS, and the new Endowment Fund.  Similarly, members continued to donate to established funds like Building in Faith, the Youth program, and Community Outreach. 
  • We presented stewardship education to Confirmation students and added them as active donors with giving numbers.  The impact was an increase in the number of “giving households” in our records.
  • Some volunteers and staff completed a significant effort to reach out to a special group of inactive members who were adult children (ages 19-28) of members to ascertain their membership status.  The impact was a decrease in the number of “giving households.”  The net result of these two initiatives was a modest decrease in giving households from 2019 to 2020.
  • We participated in a series of stewardship workshops with Pastor Tony and other Emmanuel leaders sponsored by the Metro DC Synod. All Council members and Team captains received a copy of the book, “Abundance: Creating a Culture of Generosity” by Mike Ward. The workshops and book were instrumental in shaping the “Faith Grows Here” campaign for 2021. For example, we produced more videos to tell outcome and generosity stories.


The recently concluded Faith Grows Here campaign was also an asterisk; there were some downsides and upsides.  The 190 commitments received for 2021 are valued at $997,000. The giving goal for 2021 is $1,565,000, which is a stretch goal. There were two challenge goals for the campaign:  1) reach 238 commitments, and 2) enroll 142 members in automatic electronic giving.  


 CHALLENGE GOALS:    # Attained         % of Goal
 1. 238 Commitments  190         80%
 2. 142 Enrollments in Automatic Electronic Giving  140         99%


Two anonymous donors offered special challenge gifts of $3,000 for achieving each goal.  While we did not achieve either goal, we were very encouraged by the increase in automatic electronic giving; a trend we hope to continue.  


More follow-up work is required on commitments (pledges) for 2021.  We were encouraged to see 36 commitments from members who had not submitted commitments in the past.  Conversely, we did not receive 2021 commitments from 34 members who had submitted commitments in 2020.  


We begin 2021 with the same feelings of enthusiasm and optimism for the future as we had last year.  We know we will put the pandemic behind us this year. We know we will continue to carry out God’s plan for our Church and our ministries. We know we have a deeper sense of resilience and faith.


Our profound gratitude to all members of Emmanuel for your generous contributions of time, talents, and treasure.