Customer Story

A Church Grows in Brooklyn: How Trinity Grace Raised Over $30,000 in 30 Days


Planting Churches One Seed at a Time

Isn’t it interesting that when we talk about moving from one place to another, we tend to describe ourselves as trees? We uproot and transplant. And in a city dubbed the concrete jungle, where buildings seem to outnumber trees, the gardening analogy stands out.

Even more unusual is the notion of “church planting.” Would it be fair to say that New Yorkers are better known for making greenbacks than they are for a green thumb? That most New Yorkers fare better at growing a startup than they are at trying to keep a ficus tree alive?

Yet in the commercial capital of the U.S., churches have been springing up all over the New York metropolitan area. Trinity Grace Church (TGC) is one of them.

Or rather, TGC is a family of neighborhood churches, called parishes – similar to the Roman Catholic and Episcopalian traditions. TGC began as a seed, a congregation that met in a school auditorium in the Upper West Side of Manhattan.


Growing Communities Into Congregations

The congregation didn’t just grow, it multiplied, spreading to other neighborhoods in Manhattan. Then about three years ago, Trinity Grace Church (TGC) took a step of faith by branching out, across the East River, and planting a parish in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

The fledgling parish began as a community group. Taking their cues from the business & nonprofit sectors, the pioneering parishioners of TGC Park Slope turned to God by way of crowdfunding to fertilize their growth.

They chose CauseVox to power their campaign. On their website, they created and shared a compelling video to tell the story of the budding parish.

James Cernero is one of the original members of TGC Park Slope and served as the parish’s Media & Community Life Coordinators.


“I moved to Crown Heights ‘cause I was poor,” he said, and eventually, “fell in love with the neighborhood.”

James wasn’t alone and emerged as the “spearheader” among fellow Crown Heights residents/TGC Park Slope parishioners.

In addition to joining “God in the renewal of all things,” including their lives and their neighborhood, their desire is “for people not just to attend church, but to be the church.”

As this nascent community group got to know their neighbors over the course of two and a half years, they grew aware of the neighborhood’s needs. Though there were other groups doing great work in Crown Heights, there were few places for the youth to turn to, James noted.


They learned of other ways to get involved and along the way, connected with other community groups who already shared the same burden and heart for the neighborhood. This approach of coming alongside already established efforts was “super important,” said James.

Over a year ago, TGC’s central leadership gave the blessing for community group to transplant as a parish when Rashad Clemons joined TGC Crown Heights parish. James and Rashad tag teamed, as it were, and Rashad serves as the soon-to-be launched parish’s lead pastor.

Using CauseVox to Crowdfund a Transplant

While the cause for TGC Crown Heights was more organic than that of a typical nonprofit, the fundraising campaign was a savvy, structured one. TGC Crown Heights also turned to CauseVox to fuel their efforts.

“Fundraising can be hard without a deadline,” said James. And so they set their campaign duration at thirty days, a “nice round number that corresponds with the amount being raised.”

James deemed thirty days a sufficient amount of time “to get people aware and figure out how much to give and give it in a timely fashion.”

So the campaign began October 2, 2013 and ended November 2, 2013. About a month and a half prior to the launch of the campaign, they built up anticipation by telling the story of their church, presenting a narrative with a clear past, present, and future. The “hard ask” was made in the video and homepage of the campaign website.

How did they figure out the timing and how much to raise? There was no exact formula used to arrive at either decision.

Three years since the missional community started and a year since Rashad joined as pastor seemed a “good all-in moment” to Rashad and James. In addition to the actual need to raise money, the timing of the campaign was a way for the members of second of TGC’s Brooklyn parishes to put their “skin in the game to plant the church with us.”

The initial goal was $30,000 – not a number pulled out of thin air. That was how much TGC Crown Heights would need to begin operations, but also goal that would motivate community involvement.

The campaign exceed its original goal, raising a total of $32,822. The funds came in “big chunks”, said James. It took about four days for the money to start flowing in.

“I was pretty excited to see the campaign exceed its goal,” said James.

James was a fan of the following features that CauseVox offered:

  • The video box at the top of the page, which he described as “really great.”
  • The counter that made it easy to show the campaign’s progress.

Lessons Learned

Overall, James said CauseVox is a “really good platform” that was “intuitive” and “easy to use” and fit in with TGC’s overall branding.

If hard-pressed for a formula for the success of the campaign, perhaps it would resemble this: social media + collaboration + buy-in.

  • Social media = The means by which the community spread the word and drove traffic to the campaign website.
  • Collaboration = Pastors from fellow TGC parishes lent their support & encouragement, retweeting and sharing the link to the campaign website to their parishioners and personal networks.
  • Buy-in = Commitment from the core community that would help TGC Crown Heights take root.

The campaign helped cultivate “stronger passion and love for the neighborhood,” said James. And the funds will help the seedling congregation serve “practical and measurable needs.”

What kind of fruit TGC Crown Heights will bear remains to be seen. But what started out as one person’s need for an affordable place to live has flourished into something bigger.

For TGC, planting a parish in Crown Heights isn’t about growth for the sake of growth – weeds do that all the time. Their mission is to be an agent of renewal, greenspace in a sea of urban gray.

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