Can Your People Afford to Give?

Can your people afford to give? Can they afford not to? Here’s the current reality: Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency.

Pastors Fund Visions

That statement caught my eye in a personal and revealing article called “The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans“ that recently appeared in the Atlantic. And as a ministry leader, this should sound a huge wake up call.

In this article, which is lengthy but definitely worth the read, the author admits his dismal failure in managing his own personal finances. He takes us on a very raw and personal journey through his trials of financial management on which we soon learn that, while his outside appearance reflected a financially secure lifestyle, behind the curtain hid the true realities of living paycheck to paycheck. And he’s one of almost half of all Americans.

Statistics shared include:

  • When asked how they would respond to a $400 emergency, 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. (Federal Reserve Board survey)
  • Only 38 percent of Americans would cover a $1,000 emergency-room visit or $500 car repair with money they’d saved. (Bankrate survey, 2104)
  • A total of 55 percent of households don’t have enough liquid savings to replace a month’s worth of lost income. (Pew Charitable Trusts, 2015)
  • Of 56 percent of people who said they’d worried about their finances in the previous year, 71 percent were concerned about having enough money to cover everyday expenses. (Pew Charitable Trusts, 2015)
  • The American Psychological Association conducts a yearly survey on stress in the United States. The 2014 survey—in which 54 percent of Americans said they had just enough or not enough money each month to meet their expenses—found money to be the country’s number one stressor. Seventy-two percent of adults reported feeling stressed about money at least some of the time, and nearly a quarter rated their stress “extreme.”

The Ultimate Church Capital Campaign Guide Now Available

With experience leading over 3,000 capital campaigns and generosity initiatives, the Generis team has learned a thing or two about funding ministry. Now you can benefit from that knowledge – through the Ultimate Church Capital Campaign Guide.

Church Capital Campaign GuideCampaigns can be approached from many angles and with differing attitudes – excitement, optimism, hope, caution, hesitation, and even skepticism. Some church leaders have previous experience funding projects and ministry that influences those ideas and attitudes, while others are looking for a new, fresh approach altogether. And let’s not forget that many pastors don’t like talking about money (and many of their people don’t want to hear the pastor talk about money).

Whatever your perceptions around capital campaigns, this new guide (now available to you as a free download) will provide you with a wealth of information, including whether your plan is on track, should be delayed, is wise, or is unwise. It will answer some questions you don’t even realize you have!

This 69-page resource covers topics like:

  • common campaign mistakes
  • the role of the pastor
  • developing major gifts
  • a campaign’s spiritual impact
  • the importance of prayer
  • the time needed to implement a successful effort

A church campaign should be transformational, not transactional. This e-book will explain how a capital campaign can actually affect heart-level change and further disciple your people in the area of generosity.

This guide was designed to equip you with the knowledge Generis has gained through 3,000+ successful capital campaigns while providing a tool to help you fund your church into its next phase of ministry expansion.

DOWNLOAD GUIDE

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!

 

Is Your Church’s Annual Report Appealing?

The topic of an annual report isn’t a new one for my blog. We’ve talked about it before (and even before that). But I want to talk today about something I haven’t hit on all that much before – the appearance of your church’s annual report.

annual reportTo many lead pastors, executive pastors, and business administrators, this may sound odd. But it’s important to see your annual report through the eyes of your givers.

I’ve said it before, and it may sound cliche, but it’s the truth. Photos and videos evoke heart-level emotion. And that’s right where you need to be. More importantly, when people see an annual report that is visually appealing and intriguing, they’re much more likely to read it and much less likely to discard it.

We learn best from real life examples, so let’s take a quick look at a before-and-after annual report makeover. Here’s what a client church recently compiled to send out as a year-in-review annual report (after I redacted church and pastor names):

Microsoft Word - 2015 year end_02_03_16 no church identifiers fo

Now THAT’S How a Church Says Thank You!

In a blog post last month we talked about the importance of celebrating your church’s generosity. Just a few days later, I received a thank you note after giving to a church for the first time.

After receiving that, I wanted to share a few ideas with you to help illustrate the power behind your church saying thank you. Those two simple words can stir emotion and encourage future behavior at the same time. Here’s how it worked for me:

Thank you cardI immediately felt valued.
When I saw the card in the mail and soon read its message, I immediately felt valued. I knew someone there took the time to say thank you for the gift I gave that day. I felt I mattered to the church and its leaders.

The address on the envelope was handwritten – someone took the extra, personalized step and made an investment of time, as I’ve mentioned before. Instead of allowing their automated post-online-giving email message to suffice, they took the time to send me a card, so I knew I was valued in their eyes.

I learned the gift was appreciated.
In the handwritten note inside, the pastor made mention of their church’s initiative to which I gave. Through this letter I can sense his excitement about what they can accomplish through this initiative, so I know my gift was genuinely appreciated.

It reinforced my investment choice as a wise one.
Receiving this note reinforced my decision to invest. The pastor personally thanked me for my gift, further confirming my decision to give as a wise one.

Five Keys to Our Successful Generosity Initiative

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.

pastor meetingBecause 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.

3 Ways to Celebrate Your Church’s Generosity (and why you should!)

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?

Video set from TJYour 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!)

The Gathering Video

Then they sent out this message and video to build excitement for the upcoming results announcement of this year’s Christmas Eve offering!

ALERT: Act Fast for IRA Charitable Rollovers in 2015

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!

church givingThe 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.

The Impact of an Effective Annual Giving Statement

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.

mailing statementElevating 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.

WEEKEND COMMUNICATION
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?
Annual Statements E-Book
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.

GET MY FREE COPY

 

Why We Do What We Do – A Reminder

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!

worship center construction

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.

Free Generosity Speaks E-Book Now Available

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!

Generosity Speaks

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