The Time is Now: 3 Steps to Avoid the Summer Giving Slump

Most churches across America have one thing in common during the summer months – other than hosting VBS or various camps for kids who are enjoying being out of school. I’m referring to the typical “summer slump” in giving.

online givingPeople enjoy making family plans and taking vacations during the warm summer months. But when people are absent from church, their giving is usually absent, too. Fortunately, there is a relatively simple fix to curb this summer slump (plus a super-handy and practical download to walk you through it).

And the time to start is now – to give your people ample time before summer is upon us.

So let’s get right to it! Here are three steps you can take now to avoid a summer giving slump:

Please note: In these three steps I’m assuming you have an online giving portal in place through your website. If not, you need to read this blog post first to understand the importance of having online giving, and then, the importance of being mobile. If you already have online giving in place, please continue reading… 

1. SET UP RECURRING GIVING YOURSELF
(AND ASK YOUR STAFF TO DO THE SAME)
First of all, you’ll need to do this yourself because you’ll be explaining it to your people. Having gone through the set up will also help you tell how easy it was to do, while you challenge your people to do the same. And you wouldn’t ask your people to do something you and your staff haven’t done. Most importantly, this allows you to be the leader. Remember: generous churches are led by generous pastors.

2. SET TWO MEASURABLE GOALS
You may have heard the Peter Drucker quote, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Well, this statement rings true in the case of giving, too. If you want to see success in this area, you will need to first determine what success looks like for you and your church. So take a moment and set some specific goals for your giving. Make sure they are measurable and achievable – nothing too far out of reach, but something you can celebrate as a church in the near future.

Important and Exciting News

As valued clients, ministry partners, and friends, I’m excited to share some great news with you today. Generis will be making an announcement later this week, but because I appreciate our relationship I wanted you to hear from me first.

Generis logoLate last year, we initiated a conversation with the parent company of RSI Church Solutions, that resulted in a consolidation of both teams under the name and leadership of Generis. These are two of the most respected names in church stewardship and generosity joining forces because we believe we can serve churches better together. I value our relationship and wanted you to hear this exciting news from me first.

Here are a few of the key benefits for you and your ministry:

  • We will have a hand in creating new data tools for effective on-going analysis of giving metrics that will help your ministry more effectively nurture a growing culture of generosity. I am most excited by this aspect of this announcement.
  • One of our values is collaborative strength. With a larger team and a deeper bench, our expertise and passion to innovate will only increase.
  • With Generis and RSI combined, more churches can apply proven strategies shaped to fit their needs to make their God-given visions a reality.

Additional information will be forthcoming through the official corporate announcement and subsequent press release. In the meantime, If you have questions or would like to speak with me directly, please reach out. I would value the conversation!

email: rusty@generis.com
phone: 800.233.0561 x243

3 Common Mistakes Churches Make When Budget Planning

Working with churches in the realm of generosity, I see it quite often – common mistakes in the church budget planning process. I see these with regularity, which makes me wonder if perhaps you too have committed one or more of the three most common mistakes in your church budget planning process and not realized it. (It’s ok – not only will I share with you what these three mistakes are, I will also share some ideas on how to avoid or fix them!)

church budgets

The three mistakes listed below come straight from a recent webinar on the subject. You will want to pull it up soon to hear Jim Sheppard, one of our Principal Partners at Generis, and William Vanderbloemen of Vanderbloemen Search Group discuss these common mistakes made in the church budget planning process.

MISTAKE #1 – Operational Expense Mistakes
Regardless of church size and mission focus, there are three common line item “categories” in every church budget: people (personnel) expenses, building/facility expenses, and everything else (ministry, missions, etc.). What problems do we typically see in this area?

Churches often let the people and building/facility expense categories grow too large, at the expense of ministry and missions. The most common mistakes here are:

  1. staffing expenses that have grown larger than they should for a specific church’s model of ministry.
  2. facility costs, usually including over-sized mortgage management, on a space that is too large or was a bit too aggressive financially to construct.

If you have too much going to one or both of these categories, little is left to actually fund the mission of your ministry! For example, if you have 50% of your budget going to personnel expenses, and 40% to building/facility expenses, that only leaves 10% for everything else. And that 10% is supposed to fund all of your ministries and missions while staying within budget.)

So what portion of a church’s total budget should these categories hold? That depends largely on your individual church, but here are some benchmarks to consider:

  • Personnel
    The standard rule that has floated for years is to keep personnel expenses between 45-52% of total budget. But that isn’t appropriate for every church. It’s too much for some, and perhaps not enough for others. It depends on how you do ministry, and what resources you provide.

    • Are you a staff-driven church, or one that is more congregationally driven, leveraging a large volunteer pool?
    • What kinds of programming do you offer? A church that offers an on-site counseling center, daycare, or school might have larger personnel budgets than those that don’t have those programs on site.
    • A church that outsources some roles might have a lower total personnel expense. I am seeing more and more the outsourcing of several areas previously handled by church staff, including communications (print design, website creation and management, video production of church announcements, etc.) and finance (accounting, payroll, etc.).
    • What is too much or too little? Vanderbloemen shared that a personnel budget running lower than 40% or higher than 65% would both be numbers that might indicate need for some study and review.

31% of All Online Giving Happens in December

Did you know 31% of all online giving occurs in the month of December? 18% of total giving happens in December. And, even more shocking is this statistic – 12% of all giving occurs during the last three days of the year!

Here’s a snippet from Network for Good’s Digital Giving Index infographic recapping 2015 giving. (view infographic online)

Giving By Month

Many of your givers often want to make their year-end gift on the very last Sunday of the year. This year that Sunday falls on December 25 – Christmas Day – while your people may likely be out of town enjoying celebrations with relatives and friends. More significant - I see many churches in my area not even planning to have worship services on Christmas Day this year. (If you’re doing an online or streaming service on Christmas Day, make sure your offering moment is well prepared!)

I anticipate there will be several who will drive to your church office during the last week of the year to give that last gift in time to include it in this year’s tax deductions. (I remember doing this more than once before the convenience of online giving.)

What should you be doing to prepare for this?

This December Mistake Could Cost Your Church Thousands

I want to share a very important task with you today. This is an idea that, if you implement it by December 20, will increase giving in your church during the last two weeks of the year.

giving statementWe know a large percentage of giving happens right at the end of the year. One third of all charitable giving happens in the last 3 months of the year, and 18% comes in the month of December. Also 31% of all ONLINE giving occurs in the month of December! Do I have your attention?

So here’s a way to receive a bigger slice of the pie. I’ll get right to the point of this post, and then let you read on for the full story: prepare and send an 11-month giving statement by December 20 (earlier if possible).

I’M UNUSUAL
I’m not like most people sitting in the seats of your worship center during the weekend. I monitor giving closely. My wife and I set giving goals every year, and we strive to reach them. Giving is a priority for us.

I recall a few years back when I thought we were right on track toward our giving goal. At the end of December, I ran my usual giving report from my personal finance software. (I said I’m unusual, so here’s more proof: I actually run giving reports in my personal finance software!)

Expecting to see my giving at a particular place, I was surprised, (shocked actually) that where I THOUGHT we were for the year, and where we ACTUALLY were, didn’t match. We were significantly behind. How could that have happened? It didn’t matter – it had happened.

Fortunately it was December 30, so I was able to run a check up to the church office, and our goal was attained. (I am now in the practice of running my giving report more frequently. I don’t like last minute surprises!)

Resource for Pastors: Minding His Business

While engaged with churches across the country, I get the opportunity to work with some really outstanding people and organizations. Sometimes these people have resources and expertise I suspect my readers might value.

Minding His Business

And that’s the case with Don Corder, Founder of  The Provisum Group - an organization driven to assist pastors and leadership teams in the effective day-to-day management of the church. Don and I met while I was engaged with his church in a recent generosity initiative. His church is also a Provisum Group client, and they speak very highly of the assistance they receive from their partnership.

I had a recent conversation with Don to get a bit more information about the book and his work with churches. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: You recently wrote a book called Minding His Business - what prompted you to write it?

A: I wrote Minding His Business for one reason: To make pastors’ and ministry leaders’ lives easier by sharing 35 years of experience conducting business in and out of the Church. If you think about it, the people God calls to be pastors are usually creative, relational lovers of people. That person is more like an artist than an accountant. Yet, sometimes pastors are expected to have expertise in accounting, finance, marketing, web development and more. They are sometimes expected to be pastors and CEO’s. It does not happen in all churches but it does happen in many. It is a recipe for burn-out and failure.

Minding His Business is a business primer written specifically for churches and faith based charities, but written to the right side of the brain. The book is divided into 40 short, easy to read chapters and the content is written in parable and anecdote. On its pages you will read of church after church facing similar challenges, what was done to meet the challenge, and how it turned out.

Q: Tell me about the book and how it helps “make life easier” for those in ministry.

A: After years of helping churches all over the United States with their business administration, I kept seeing the same problems and challenges happening over and over again. I began to realize that there are very few “new” problems in the Church. There are just “new” people having the same “old” problems, usually for similar reasons and requiring similar solutions.

Encouraging People on their Generosity Journey

The idea of a “giving pathway” isn’t a new concept. We’ve talked about the Next Steps of Generosity before, and I have shared a generous giver’s prayer. But what if we stopped thinking about this journey of generosity so much in terms of percentages and numbers?

Giving PathwayFirst – why is a pathway important? For the same reason you likely have a formal assimilation program in your church – you desire to move people from where they are, to where you (and God) want them to be. You have developed a logical “next steps” process – for example:

If you’re a first-time guest with us this weekend, we invite you to our monthly “Open Mic” night – come and learn anything you’d like to know about our church, mission, and ministries. At Open Mic night, you talk about their next step – attending your New Member class. Then in the New Member class, you talk about the importance of getting plugged in – take a spiritual gifts assessment, and get involved in a small group. Once engaged in the church and involved in a small group, you work to get them serving in a ministry area that aligns with their gift assessment. And so on. There is a logical, and easy-to-understand series of steps that helps the worship guest know how to engage with you and the church.

A similar process is wise in your giving discipleship program:

  • Non-givers need help understanding what their first step might be. “I’ve never giving before – where do I start? How much am I supposed to give? How/where do I give?” These may seem like easy questions for you, but consider the new believer who wasn’t raised in the church. Don’t assume even the most basic of questions – anticipate and answer them all.
  • Casual givers need a nudge to become a consistent giver.
  • Those who are tithing often believe they’ve “arrived” – that there is no next step for them. They believe they are right where God commands them, without considering that there is room for them to grow in their personal journey. We know that to be wrong, don’t we? Isn’t God always challenging us to grow with him in ALL areas of discipleship? Prayer, Bible study, service, giving, sharing the Gospel. A pathway helps to understand that we are always challenged to grow in our giving.

Often a giving pathway (or “Generosity Ladder” as first coined by Nelson Searcy in his book by the same name), is somewhat organized by gift amounts or income percentages. The first level is initial giver, while a higher level represents a tithe, and a still higher level represents an amount above the tithe. Well…can’t an initial giver begin giving at the level of a tithe? Do we have to wait until a higher step to reach that amount?

Today I want to challenge you to consider this pathway from a new perspective. Let’s look at this concept in terms of behavior. Rather than defining each step by an amount given, or a percentage of income, let’s define each step with a new behavior. How can we define each step in the pathway by a new behavior?

Let’s start at the beginning – with someone giving for the very first time.

An Initial Giver is someone who decides to give for the first time; someone who decides to give something and trust God and the leaders of the Church with this gift (2 Corinthians 8:7; 15). Before doing so, there are five things a first-time giver will likely need to know before they will give. These five things educate them, reassure them, and provide logistical information to empower them to give for the very first time. And as church leaders, that’s our job – to empower our people in spiritual growth. The new behavior – practicing generosity through a tangible act of giving.

New Year-End Giving Guide Now Available

With fewer than 100 days left in the year, you may find yourself wondering how you can encourage your people to “finish strong” this year in terms of generosity. Now is the perfect time to be asking yourself that question.

Mobile Giving

The most immediate benefit of a year-end giving project is, of course, increased giving. And we can all celebrate that result. But planning a strong year-end giving initiative with care and excellence will yield far greater results. Let’s take a look:

1. It prompts spiritual growth.
Growth in the area of generosity is a journey. Each time you broach the subject, you encourage people to take a step on the giving pathway. You encourage people to adjust their thinking and behavior patterns to align more closely with their faith. This time of year provides an excellent opportunity to raise this topic once again.

2. It normalizes the conversation.
Many church leaders are hesitant to talk about money. And your people don’t want to hear about money either – so it’s avoided completely. While most feel this avoidance solves the problem, it actually helps to ensure a negative outcome. As pastors, avoidance is simply not your friend. We need to do all we can to normalize the conversation, and an emphasis on year-end giving will help you do just that.

3. It provides an opportunity to talk about mission and vision.
An annual vision weekend or generosity series rarely creates any long-term traction in the lives of your donor base. Donors want to play a part in the larger story. It’s your job to show them how. It is critical that you take every possible opportunity to discuss, in a meaningful way, the church’s mission and vision and the role generosity plays in supporting the ongoing ministry of the church. Connecting the dots between generosity and ministry will help your people see how their giving truly makes a difference.

Year-End Giving GuideTo help you in your mission to encourage generosity, the Generis team has created a new e-book called “The Year-End Giving Guide” available as a free download for you.

This resource serves as a pathway to design and implement an excellent year-end giving project that will leave you excited and prepared.

In addition to several practical helps throughout this newly updated 42-page resource, this e-book will also:

  • position your church as the best year-end giving option
  • help you create a natural on-ramp for first-time givers
  • list the 10 elements of a year-end giving project
  • deliver a sample impact report
  • and much more!

Download your copy today, and encourage year-end generosity in your church in a way that will provide results that surpasses increased giving, but reaches the hearts of your people.

DOWNLOAD NOW

New Resource: Understanding and Engaging Your Givers

Count on it: your givers and potential givers are not all alike. In fact, they break down into at least four kinds of givers.

increase giving e-bookThe Generis team has just released a new resource designed to help pastors in churches across the country increase giving – with all four types of givers.

This new, 26-page e-book will share with you the differences between each of the different types of givers, as well as what you can do to bridge the gap between funding and vision.

This new resource will:

  • help you identify the different givers in your ministry
  • give best practices to engage different types of givers
  • encourage and equip your discipleship efforts
  • and much more!

The more you recognize different types of givers and meet them at their level of need and expectation, the stronger your culture of generosity can become.

This guide, available to you now as a free download, was designed to equip you with the knowledge Generis has gained through 3,000+ successful capital campaigns. This e-book provides you with a practical tool to help fund your church into its next phase of ministry expansion.

DOWNLOAD E-BOOK

Looking for more resources like this one? Check my resources page for more great material!

Looking for more information or personal assistance? Let me know. I’d love to help you and your church fund its God-sized vision!

Pastor, what would best help you encourage generosity?

I did something a couple years ago that was super helpful to me and to the churches I serve. I asked for feedback. I asked for input. I asked the church leaders in the trenches day in and day out what they needed most in the realm of generosity.

communicationkidThat feedback led to several practical blog posts about creating a culture of generosity, preaching on generosity, and how to talk about it outside the offering moment. (Great stuff – thank you for requesting it!)

It also led to the creation of several e-books about giving technology, communicating to impact giving, and the importance of recurring giving.

And now it’s time to circle back and ask again:
What do you need, want, and desire most to help you and your team impact the generosity of your people to fulfill the God-sized vision of your church?

As is always my focus, I want to make sure I’m providing you what you need – not just what I think you need. So I would love to give you an opportunity to share with me exactly how I can best help you.

Please take five minutes to answer a few quick questions for me. I’ve put together a short survey (yes, it’s short – I promise!) to allow a quick and easy way to speak into what’s coming in the near future.

Now is the time. The floor is yours.

I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

TAKE THE SURVEY

Blessings,
Rusty