By Sarah Carson
They determined that they were going to raise $40,000 for the ELCA Malaria Campaign to help send mosquito nets to countries most afflicted by the disease.
Malaria, a preventable and treatable disease, is a leading cause of death in Africa, claiming the life of a child every 45 seconds. Through the ELCA Malaria Campaign, rolled out by the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, ELCA members are working with Lutheran churches in Africa to prevent, treat and contain the disease by 2015. A goal is to raise $15 million and support the anti-malaria efforts of Lutheran churches and organizations in 11 African countries. The ELCA Malaria Campaign is uniquely positioned to provide mosquito nets, insecticides, medication, health care, education and more to help eliminate deaths from this disease — for good.
The idea for members of Nazareth to raise funds for the campaign came from the ELCA Northeastern Iowa Synod.
“The synod had put out a challenge to each congregation to raise money for the (ELCA) Malaria Campaign, and they said, ‘Take your total membership and multiply that by $10.’ We came up with $40,000,” says Lori Haag, Nazareth’s financial secretary.
It costs $10 to send a mosquito net through the ELCA Malaria Campaign. That means $40,000 would yield 4,000 nets for people in need.
So, how long did it take members to raise this amount?
“We ended up raising that in four months,” says Lori. That’s $10,000 per month, which was collected in 2012.
According to Lori, the response to the call was overwhelming. “I think keeping it in people’s minds helped inspire people to give.”
To encourage the congregation to contribute to the campaign, Brian King, pastor of Nazareth, integrated malaria awareness into his sermons. The church’s youth ministry, Chaos, held two bake sales, and a parent decided to match the money raised at one. And since the fundraising idea came so close to Christmas, the congregation also created Christmas “postcards” to allow people to give donations as gifts or in memory of a loved one.
Wall of inspiration
But probably the most effective method of raising awareness was Lori’s interesting way of keeping track of the donations.
“Just before the (idea) was announced, we had done a (study) series on families, and our creative team had cut these stick figures out of foam. They were up on the wall in the sanctuary,” Lori says. “Our idea was that we would cut out a little person for each net that we raised, and as the money came in, I would put them on the wall.”
So Lori enlisted the help of the Nazareth’s fifth- and sixth-graders in cutting out 4,000 brightly colored stick-figure people, and for each net the congregation was able to give, one more stick-figure was put up in the halls of the church.
As people began to notice more and more of the brightly colored cutouts being hung, they started to get excited. “When people would walk down the hall as I was putting them up, people would ask, ‘Where are we at? Where are we at?’” Lori says.
The cut-outs also caught the attention of the congregation’s children. “We have a preschool program in our church. Those little kids loved to look at all of those different colors.”
Involving the children of the congregation proved to be useful. “We had a third-grader host a lemonade stand, raising $100,” Lori says. In addition, she remembers “a kindergartner that read to his grandparents, and for each book he read he got a quarter. Then when he raised $10, he bought a net with that money.”
As the donations began to pile up, the multi-colored stick people started to snake through the church halls. “It sounds silly, putting those people up on the walls,” Lori says, “but I think it got people excited.”
More important is the people who will be helped with that $40,000 donation.
“We looked at it as this,” says Lori. The stick people on the wall represent “how many lives we’ve saved.”