Case studies

St Mary the Virgin, Datchet

St Mary the Virgin, Datchet

In 2017, the (then) vicar of St Mary’s Datchet, in the Diocese of Oxford, heard about the Parish Giving Scheme. He asked Barbara Desax to investigate further…

Why did St Mary’s sign up to the Parish Giving Scheme?

As a church, we were facing several challenges – one of which was finance. In fact, it was so severe that, at one point, we were unable to pay our Parish share.

How did you get involved?

Our vicar heard about PGS as some sort of ‘miracle cure’ for planned giving and asked me to look into it, as I was a member of the stewardship team at the time.

The PCC knew they needed to take action, so I agreed to lead on implementing the scheme – as long as one other PCC member was willing to help me do it.

What are the main benefits of the scheme?

It’s a good campaign; it makes people think and reconsider their giving. It’s really easy to sign up as a church and as a donor, and it’s also easy to manage.

What did you hope to achieve?

We really wanted to achieve two things. The first was to reduce our admin burden. We didn’t have a treasurer at the time – no one wanted to touch that job with a barge pole, because of the amount of admin involved. And we didn’t have a Stewardship Recorder, so no Gift Aid was being claimed.

The second was to get our regular giving sorted. The vicar had just given notice and we wanted to get our finances on a firm footing before the vacancy.

What has been the impact of introducing the scheme at St Mary’s?

Our cash flow has improved, as the Gift Aid is claimed monthly. And we have been able to fill the roles of Treasurer and Stewardship Recorder – as a result of reducing the admin burden.

What were the key things you got right?

The first thing we got right was the timing. We launched the Parish Giving Scheme in October/November, as part of our stewardship campaign – culminating in a ‘Stewardship Sunday’ at the end of November. This gave us enough time to get it up and running before Advent.

The second thing was how we presented it to the congregation. They were already wearied with repeated requests for money. So, rather than promoting it as “We need to raise money” – we said, “Let’s reduce the admin burden.” Once we explained the cost of running an envelope scheme, the congregation really got behind moving to PGS. As a result, we were able to completely eliminate the envelope scheme.

What changes might improve the scheme?

Follow-up is really vital. Even if donors have opted to increase their giving with inflation, it’s important that they are given an opportunity to review their giving every year – in case their circumstances have changed.

What would you say to a church considering introducing the scheme?

I would say, “Just go for it!” As long as the PCC is behind it, you only need one or two people to drive it and you can do it.

The other thing I’d say is – try and get as many people on board as you can, at the very beginning. That’s so important and makes life easier in the long term.