You Asked for It – Encouraging Generosity Outside the Offering Moment

Late last year I reached out to more than 500 church leaders across the country with a survey on the topic of generosity. At the end of the survey, I offered an opportunity for respondents to ask me any questions they had on the topic.

You Asked for ItI must say, you and your fellow church leaders posed some great questions. Thank you! (In fact, one of the most common questions has started developing into an e-book I’m eager to get into your hands soon, so stay tuned for more on that!)

But first, I’m excited to start answering these questions one by one with a string of blog posts in a “You Asked For It” series. Today’s question was one raised by several respondents, so I figure that’s a good place to start.

Q: How can we include generosity as a regular element in worship beyond the weekly offering?

What do your Numbers Really Mean?

What are your numbers? Ever been asked a question like that before?

impact report

If it’s your doctor asking, then he or she is likely inquiring about your blood pressure, cholesterol, temperature, height and weight, right? Basics that, at a glance, help to determine the state of your current health.

If your golf pro is asking, then he or she is likely inquiring about your driving distance, number of putts per round, percentage of fairways hit and percentage of greens in regulation. These are basics that help a coach know the current state of your game, and where you might want to focus for improvement in your score.

The Giving Pledge Update

I recently posted a blog regarding the challenge given by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, called The Giving Pledge. In it, Gates and Buffet challenged the nation’s billionaires to pledge to give away at least 50% of their fortunes to charity, either at death or while still living.

to pledge

Buffet reports that roughly half of the people approached to participate have agreed to do so thus far. Great results and we’re barely two months into the challenge! The number one reason most high capacity donors share for not giving – “No one asked!”

The Leadership Challenge

In what is being called one of the biggest fund raising pitches in US history, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet recently launched a campaign to challenge the nation’s billionaires to give at least half of their fortunes to charity.

leadership challenge

Starting with the Forbes list of 400 wealthiest Americans, the initiative will challenge the group to pledge at least 50 percent of their net worth to charitable causes, either while still living, or at death. The combined net worth of the Forbes 400 in 2009 totaled an estimated $1.2 Trillion, meaning an additional $600 billion or more could flow to charity if all raised to the challenge. (For perspective, total charitable giving in the US has topped $300 billion in each of the last three years.)

Wow! Now that’s fun stuff. Lot’s of zeroes. Big names, internationally known. Huge headlines.

Certified Fund Raising Executive Certification

I am honored to have recently passed the final exam for certification with CFRE International as a Certified Fund Raising Executive. It is exciting to be one of approximately only 257 other men and 499 women in the US who serve as consultants to the philanthropic community with these credentials.

Prior to being allowed to sit for the exam, one must have a minimum five years of fund raising experience and have attained a minimum point requirement in four different areas, including Education, Professional Practice, Professional Performance and Service.

Learning a New Language

Language is important part of growing generosity in our congregations. Consider the following alternative words that, if used consistently, can create a new world of giving among your membership.

languagelearning

Annual Ministry Plan instead of budget

Estimate of Giving Card instead of pledge card

Compassion Card instead of pledge card

Contributions instead of income

Costs of Ministry instead of expenses

Generosity instead of stewardship

Solutions (the church’s) instead of needs (the church’s)

Ministry Successes instead of budget deficits

Ministry Expansion Project instead of capital campaign

Where is the Economic Climate Balance?

I just finished reading yet another article on the economic climate’s effect on church giving in the United States. Many articles have been written and surveys conducted, portending to know the outcome for 2009.

While I agree there will be affects in many churches, it is unwise, even unfaithful, to believe that ALL churches will be affected negatively. Some continue to flourish, even in these times! Should our 2009 ministry plan (budget) anticipate a shortfall? Perhaps. It is thoughtful to be conservative in times like these.

But we know that in three of the last six recessions dating back to 1968, church giving actually increased! And two of the three instances where giving did decline in past recessions were in the final year of a multi-year recession. In a study published by The Empty Tomb, they concluded that giving does not necessarily decline due to an economic recession.

So what’s the problem? All these articles share the same “doom and gloom” without balancing the positive things that have and continue to occur in churches all over this land. Clients share with me the generosity welling up in their congregations to serve those that are truly hurting. Isn’t this the kind of opportunity that affords Christians to really shine the light of Christ? It has happened before!

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.

2 Corinthians 8:2-4