I recently had the chance to do something I really enjoy doing – talking with a pastor who just finished up a two-year generosity initiative using our One Fund approach. This particular pastor leads a growing church that has surpassed its goals, so the conversation was encouraging for us both.
Because I value sharing with you what I see working in other churches across the country, I wanted to let you in on a few key points he shared with me. Whether you are considering accelerating generosity in your church in the near future, or you just need a healthy dose of encouragement today, this post is for you!
So here is Pastor Matt Miofsky giving you five keys to a successful generosity initiative, based on his experience over the last two years at The Gathering. (These stories you’re about to read are just amazing – too good not to share!) Thanks Matt for your willingness to share your journey with us!
1. Prepare yourself ahead of your congregation
The winter before we launched our One Fund initiative called Chain Reaction, Rusty issued a challenge: my wife and I should go through some personal generosity introspection first, ahead of our people. And we did.
We were in the process of buying a new home at the time. When we stopped to talk about our personal levels of generosity, we soon realized we couldn’t be the generous people God was calling us to be and still move forward with the purchase of that home – at least not at that time. It would have throttled our ability to give at the generous level we sensed God challenging us to attain.
So we made a commitment. The topic of home buying was off the table for the next two years. We set a goal of doubling our tithe for Chain Reaction, and we gave more than we have ever given before. My wife and I found so much joy in being generous! It helped us be content in our home for two years. We could now talk with authenticity about what we were learning. And it equipped us to lead stronger conversations and to ask better questions.
The Christmas season has once again come and gone. You might already be seeing New Year’s resolutions in the rearview mirror. And your people may be settling right back into life as usual. It’s always interesting to see just how quickly that happens, isn’t it?
Your people may also be getting back to their normal routines in giving. But now is the optimal time to reinforce the message of generosity you shared during your special Christmas offering (or your Thanksgiving offering) late last year. Now is the time for celebration!
Here are three ideas you can use in the upcoming weeks to create a celebration of your church’s holiday generosity:
1. Videos, Photos, and Social Media
A picture is worth a thousand words and video is an impactful way to evoke heart-level emotion. With social media channels today, your message can quickly travel far beyond your inner core of people. Any opportunity you have to show your people the result of their generosity is a moment worth taking. (Showing these as introduction to your weekend offering is also tremendously effective!)
Check out this example of how The Gathering used video and social media to celebrate the impact of their previous year’s generosity to encourage this year’s Christmas Eve offering. If this isn’t motivating, I don’t know what is! (Nicely done!)
Then they sent out this message and video to build excitement for the upcoming results announcement of this year’s Christmas Eve offering!
Great news! The President made permanent the IRA charitable rollover as part of the latest tax bill signed late last week. But…
YOU MUST ACT FAST! To leverage the tax benefits in 2015, the IRA rollover must be transferred by December 31!
The IRA charitable rollover allows individuals age 70 ½ or older to make a rollover gift of up to $100,000 from their IRA to one or more qualifying charitable organizations. Charitable deductions are limited to 50% of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income for a calendar (tax) year. Taxpayers that make significant charitable gifts will benefit from the rollover because this gift is excluded from the charitable deduction percentage limit.
Donations are excluded from the taxpayer’s income and will count as part of the IRA owner’s required annual withdrawal. The rollover must be distributed directly from the IRA custodian to the designated non-profit. (Rollover contributions are limited to specific qualifying charities – churches are eligible to receive these gifts.)
Here are the details you need to share with those in the qualifying age bracket:
- The provision allows someone over 70 1/2 years of age to donate up to $100,000 of their IRA assets to a charitable organization.
- The donor’s contribution can satisfy the required minimum distribution for the year and does not have to be counted as taxable income.
- Those who qualify to make this gift need to seek counsel from their tax attorney or licensed financial planner for the details.
It’s that time of year again! With the busyness of the Christmas season, we need to be preparing an effective mailing of annual giving statements for January.
Elevating the giving conversation in your church by saying thank you to your givers is huge. Don’t miss this natural moment to invest into the spiritual life of your people. It’s worth the focus and the work to demonstrate a spirit of gratitude!
As you prepare this annual communication to your givers, there are two main ideas I encourage you to consider: the mailed statement itself, and how you communicate directly to your people on the weekend. Let’s take a look at both of these to help you get this off the ground and running!
THE MAILED STATEMENT
Please don’t take lightly the content and form of this mailing. It’s not “just another mailing” – in fact, it can have a huge impact on the generosity of your church. So here are a few practical pointers:
- Type the recipient’s name on the envelope. (Avoid window envelopes with the name showing through the front. Remember this is about building relationships, not about sterile communication of a transaction.)
- Use a church envelope so the recipient quickly realizes this mailing is from you. This will increase the likelihood it will be opened right away.
- Include a statement showing the giver’s giving data for the last year.
- Include a cover letter from the senior pastor on church letterhead that exudes gratitude and shares vision. Please keep this to one page for maximum effectiveness. (This should be the first page they see when they open the mailing.)
- Use a large, colorful, first-class stamp for this mailing. Envelopes using this kind of postage are opened at a much greater rate than metered mail.
Content of the cover letter should include the following segments:
- Several statements that highlight values of your church and celebrate what actions you want more of. “We are a church that…”
- A version of your mission statement, but generally not the actual mission statement that is often written in business language rather than faith-inspiring words.
- At least two facts that demonstrate power in the ministry and value in their financial investment. “We grew by 28% in 2014. We baptized 130 people last year.”
- One brief story of a person to personalize the ministry and mission.
- A reference to the exciting quarter or year ahead.
- An affirmation of the spiritual value in their intersected faith and finances.
- An alert to read their enclosed statement.
- A relational affirmation to conclude.
- An inspirational closing.
The week before the annual statements go out in the mail, we’ll want take two or three minutes within the worship service to alert people to watch their mail and to highlight the statement. The time around the offering is a natural place to make this work. This can be accomplished via video or live announcement.
There are several objectives in this announcement, including:
- Saying thank you to your givers.
- Normalizing the conversation of faith and finances in a small way that will help to craft the larger spiritual value of giving.
- Making the connection once again with the giver, saying, “Your giving makes an impact. You give and great things happen!”
- Telling a brief story of how your church has made a difference this week.
- Alerting people that the statements are coming soon.
- Affirming that the church financial leadership takes their work seriously. We manage funds well, honor your giving, and guard what has been entrusted with us. (If you have an annual independent audit, here is another perfect moment to remind the givers of the integrity around the church.)
- Making this moment so fun and informative that those who have yet to give are more likely to give. (It is appropriate to mention that if you have yet to invest into your church, why not start today?)
- Asking the people to open and to interact with the communication that comes this week.
LOOKING FOR MORE?
Generis has created a resource to help you surprise and delight your givers through their newest e-book called 2016 Annual Giving Statements Guide. And it’s available for your free download today!
Please use this resource to frame your work. This e-book will walk you through several important steps to engage with your givers on a new level this year. Engaging them like this opens their hearts and develops deeper roots in their church engagement.
This fall has been filled with the busyness of another campaign season. Much like you, I’m running from one meeting to the next. And when I’m not in a meeting, or traveling to one, I’m preparing for the next video conference, giving analysis, or on-site visit. It is a true blessing to be very busy in this ministry!
But I saw something recently that helped me slow down. It helped me remember the main reason why I do what I do. My guess is that you could use a reminder of why you do what you do on occasion too, so I took out the smartphone and snapped a picture that has already become a favorite in my library.
I’ve said it for 15 years now – ever since beginning my work in generosity and stewardship consulting. It’s not about the building (or the renovation, or the money, or the fill-in-the-blank). As churches conduct generosity initiatives to fund God-inspired vision, we always need to remind people that while the building they are hoping to fund is a desired outcome of the project, it in itself is not the true vision behind the initiative. The building is but another tool in the ministry toolbox that we pray God will use to reach others with the good news of Jesus Christ.
What you say and how you say it has a direct correlation to what your givers give. Have you ever considered that? Have you ever considered what it might look like if you were to leverage your communication to accelerate giving? It could truly change your ministry and fund the God-sized vision of your church!
That’s the premise of our new e-book called Generosity Speaks: Designing Communication to Impact Giving. And this new 38-page resource is available to you for free starting today!
In this new e-book, Kaycee Parker and I have teamed up to provide you with:
- the often missing link between ministry and generosity (and how to fix it)
- a bit about why givers give, and how you can reach your givers
- practical, step-by-step instructions on how to make sure generosity is not just part of an annual sermon series
It’s e-book launch month again! And after the feedback I received from my last e-book, I can hardly wait to get this one in your hands. As I promised in my last blog post, this is another very practical resource to help your church accelerate generosity – this time with a focus on intentional communication.
While my co-author and designer Kaycee and I are finalizing the very last details, I wanted to provide you, my faithful blog readers, a sample of what this resource holds for you and your church.
So let’s take a look today at chapter 4 – specifically the section on worship bulletins. (I told you it was super practical!)
FROM GENEROSITY SPEAKS:
Part of the purpose of your bulletin, whether you are intentional about it or not, is that it informs and educates those who have just come through your doors, especially the very first time.
What you say (or don’t say) impacts what your people give (or don’t give). There’s a direct correlation between the two. And, if done well, you can increase the generosity of your church by implementing a basic (but strategic) communication plan.
That’s the premise of our new e-book called “Generosity Speaks: Designing Communication to Impact Giving” launching here in just a few short weeks.
I’ve teamed up with Kaycee Parker, founder of KP Communications, to write this one. I know you’ll appreciate her insight from 15 years of experience in the communication world – namely the last few as communication director for a mega church in the St. Louis area and now working freelance to support churches across the country.
So what’s in this new resource designed to help you accelerate generosity with solid and intentional communication? Here’s a quick list of wins for you and your church:
Last weekend was awesome! I had the privilege of worshiping in a brand new worship center at a church I’ve been partnering with for the last couple years – Harvester Christian Church in the greater St. Louis area. It was their grand opening weekend, and excitement filled the air.
It was a blessing for me to see the fruit of their dedication and efforts, and to celebrate with them. Seeing what happened that day, and hearing of what happened at another church a colleague of mine has been coaching, made me want to share these successes with you – to encourage you and to give you ideas on how to make something similar very special for your people. So here are several ways to ensure the success of your church’s grand opening.
1. Conduct a Soft Opening
Much like a new restaurant serves their family and friends before opening the doors to the public, it is wise to have a soft opening a weekend or two prior to your publicized grand opening.
A few years ago I wrote a blog post called “Eleven Reasons NOT to Offer Online Giving” – a rare tongue-in-cheek post meant to encourage the implementation of electronic giving solutions in churches across the country. It’s a quick and easy read if you want to revisit it. But little did I know then just how relevant that post would prove itself today.
This summer a Dunham+Company / Campbell Rinker study showed only 42% of churches in the US offer an electronic giving option. Less than half. While larger churches have an increased likelihood of having electronic giving solutions, that percentage drops to 29% in churches with fewer than 200 in attendance.
While the percentages themselves may not surprise you, another recent Campbell Rinker study showed that 70% of other (non-church) non-profit organizations offer online giving. Now there’s a discrepancy worth talking about!
What’s the difference? Non-profit organizations throughout the country (of which there are over 1.5 million currently, by the way) understand the importance of this technology. It’s really pretty simple: Non-profits employ giving technology because it works. Your people have a choice where they give, and these non-profits make it easy for the giver.