As a church leader, you probably wish you had more money to do more ministry. But your church’s financial bandwidth is tied to your congregation’s financial generosity—and that can be frustrating. How can you encourage people to trust God and give more?
Some of the strategies for improving your generosity culture have to do with discipleship. Many others, though, come down to improving communication. So today I’m beginning a series of practical posts to help you avoid (or fix) the most common mistakes within the church generosity landscape. The list of six mistakes we’ll be discussing is a result of dozens of generosity audits I’ve conducted with churches all around the country. You can learn from these mistakes!
More than 18% of all giving occurs in December, making it the most charitable month of the year. Last year, 23% of online giving to church happened in December. Let’s leverage those statistics to your advantage and increase your year-end giving.
To have a successful year-end giving appeal:
- Prepare an email to your entire database using the formula below.
- Schedule the email for Friday, December 28 or Saturday, December 29.
- If you do a special Christmas Eve offering, send this email anyway. You won’t have 100% attendance on Christmas Eve, and some people who celebrate with you that day will give again.
Many churches are uncertain about sending multiple giving statements throughout the year. Some are unsure about how often to send them. Others choose to not send them because of the cost involved or because they don’t want to burden their administrative staff. Most simply don’t see giving statements as effective—and that’s usually because they focus on the statement itself, rather than on the cover letter.
Here’s the truth: Giving statements are a critical communication channel—particularly at this time of year.
For most churches, summer vacations bring a dreaded trend: Attendance wavers more than usual and giving declines. And with the exception of the most mature givers, people simply don’t make up that giving when they return. The result? We lose valuable ministry revenue. Fortunately, you can take five very simple steps to counteract the summer giving slump.
I’ve partnered with churches for more than 15 years, and I’ve learned a lot about what it takes for a church to disciple people well and make a difference in their community. Without a doubt, church communicators play a significant role in their church’s effectiveness.
As I’ve met with communications directors around the country, I’m consistently struck by how challenging their responsibilities are. Kelley Hartnett, a church communicator with whom I first became acquainted through my work with Morning Star Church near St. Louis, Mo., understands—first hand—how demanding the work can be. Her recently released book, You’ve Got This: A Pep Talk for Church Communicators, offers her tribe some much-needed encouragement and practical insight.
Successful churches have several things in common. Among other qualities, they tend to have a generous culture, they’re more concerned with reaching new folks than they are about keeping the ones they already have, and they’re relationship-oriented. And in my experience, effective, growing churches tend to have great communication.
The field of church communications is relatively new, but more and more churches are beginning to realize how important it is to have coordinated, consistent messaging. And so, many pastors are making the great decision to bring on a staff person to do that work.
The trouble is, the world of church communications is complex and requires significant skill in multiple areas: social media, websites, graphic design, storytelling, project management, writing and editing, technology, and more. For a new church communicator, that can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are several resources available to new church communicators, including a new one from the Center for Church Communication called Courageous Storytellers.
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.
To 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):
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:
I 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.
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.
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