I am amazed at the number of churches who do not implement a stunningly simple and extremely effective step to accelerate generosity at the end of the calendar year. Time and time again, through my work conducting a Generosity Audit with the church, I discover the lack of frequency with which the church distributes giving statements.
Most of the time, only one is sent per year, and that just to satisfy the IRS. It usually contains a ‘statement’, with nothing else in the envelope, mailed in January.
Here’s what I recommend you start doing, immediately!
- Plan to mail 4 giving statements per year. You can select the timing, but I suggest January (for tax documentation), April/May (before the ‘summer swoon’ begins), August/September (start of the new church year), and early December.
- I know, the business administrators and bookkeepers within the church always love me for this suggestion. But this frequency is ideal to keep people informed and up-to-date regarding ministry successes within the church, and their giving to support that mission. But the timing I’ve suggested is also intentional.
- Yes – the January mailing is for that important tax preparation season so we can’t leave that one out.
- The April/May mailing is to remind people of their giving to date, and can serve as an example to ‘remember the church’ as you may be away for some family trips over the summer. It is wise to heavily promote your online giving options in this mailing. We find that churches who received a high percentage of total gifts online (over 50% of total giving) experience little to no ‘swoon’ in giving during the summer months.
- August/September mailings serve to welcome people back from summer vacations, and for those whose money has been on vacation with them (meaning their giving has been absent from the church with their bodies), it provides a gentle reminder to get caught up on their giving.
- The December mailing is vital! Most people believe they have given more year-to-date than they actually have. Without this mailing, they receive the January statement, regret that their giving wasn’t where they intended, realize it is too late to do anything about it for the previous year, and mentally promise to do better next time. Instead, this mailing hits them with time remaining in the year to catch up on any last minute giving to the church. It also hits the mailbox along with the dozens of other year-end appeals from competing charities.
- Include a bright, colorful, one-page cover letter in the mailing. This makes the mailing of interest, giving you space to highlight ministry successes during the past quarter. Tell stories of life change. Share stories of generosity. Celebrate the great work God is doing in and through your church.
- Send via Email AND snail mail. Yep – send it both ways. You don’t have email addresses for everyone in your church, so sending by USPS is still an important step.
- Include a giving envelope and a link to your online giving platform. Make it convenient for the recipient to respond. If I’m reading the letter at my desk, I can write the check and place it in the envelope. If I’m reading it online, I can click the link, make the gift, and I’m done!
- Mail it to givers and non-givers alike. Whoa – that’s a different idea. Rusty, are you saying we should send a giving statement to a non-giver with a big fat zero and unhappy faces printed all over it? Well, my flesh says “Yes – we should do that – that’ll show ‘em – let’s really rub their noses in this!!!” – but we know better. Instead, I would send the cover letter – the same one the givers will receive – but with a change in one or two sentences:
- To the giver, say ‘thank you for your generous support of the mission and ministry of ABC church…’
- To the non giver say ‘We would love to encourage you to join us in the financial support of the mission and ministry of ABC church…’
- Include giving total YTD, a list of each given in the calendar year. Also include the pledge amount and giving to date since the start of any capital campaign, annual campaign or other ‘pledged’ accelerated giving opportunities. You would be amazed at the number of people who forget the amount they wrote on that commitment card.
So what’s the urgency for today? That December statement mailing should go out no later than December 15. That gives you time to run the statements, write the letter and prep the mailing. That gives the attendee two more weekends to catch up on their giving for 2013.