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):
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
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:
You’ve heard me talk about “connecting the dots” for your church – helping your people see how their giving is making a difference in other people’s lives.
Because many people tend to think of giving only as a means to fund a budget, helping them connect the dots to ministry impact is critical! In fact, it encourages them to continue giving. It shows them the fruits of their efforts, that their generosity is hard at work making a difference.
I thought you would value seeing a video from one of my clients in the St. Louis area. They created this video as part of a series of videos they are showing as part of their one-year anniversary for their One Fund initiative. Wisely, they are intentionally playing the clip just prior to the offering time during the service. While it’s a bit longer than I would typically recommend, what a great way to connect the dots between giving and progress, between generosity and making a difference!
Looking for an in-depth look at how you can design communication to impact giving? Check out my e-book called Generosity Speaks!
Did you ever get one of those tee shirts from your parents after their amazing vacation trip to Hawaii? Well, I had that same kind of feeling after opening my mail early this year.
It was the feeling of “I gave to your ministry and all I got was this lousy statement.”
Yes, the IRS requires churches and other nonprofit organizations to provide a statement of giving to its donors each year.
But your giving statement doesn’t have to look like it came from the pages of a legal handbook. Quite the contrary, this is yet another opportunity to connect giving to ministry impact!
In my last post I wrote about why you should consider a video blog. Now let’s consider some best practices to get your new blog started on the right foot.
Use a Sidebar - I was watching some highlights of the Sochi Winter Olympics on ESPN’s Sports Center last night. There is something I love about their show.
It’s on the side of the screen – the sidebar showing the list of topics they are discussing next. As I watch, I realize that’s what, at least partially, keeps me interested and tuned in.
It’s knowing what is coming up next. So I keep watching. (OK – I’ll admit it – it also lets me know when I have a moment to run to the kitchen for a quick snack!)
Here is the rest of my interview with Kelley Hartnett of March Hare Creative – the importance of communication.
We’re hearing more and more about branding these days. That seems like a very business-oriented concept, so why do churches need to be concerned with it?
I once heard the word brand associated with the word promise. In essence, a church’s brand is a promise to its community: Who we say we are is actually who we are.
When I complete a Generosity Audit for a client, the deliverable is a multi-page report that addresses strengths and weaknesses, followed by a 6-9 month strategy to address those areas of weakness.
The church’s communication approach is almost always a topic covered in the report and resulting strategy. It is something every client attempts to do well, but most have opportunities to improve how and what they communicate as well as which channels they use use to distribute that information.