It doesn’t occur often, but occasionally I run across an article, webinar, or blog post with content so good I am eager to share it with you and expand upon it. Such is the case with a recent post from Tim Cool at eSpace, called “If It’s Phase-able, It’s Feasible.” I’ve known Tim for almost 15 years now, and have high respect for the work he does for ministries around the country.
Tim and I share a common frustration – seeing a set of well-intentioned church building plans sitting on a desk in the office that will never be built. Why? Because the church simply cannot afford to build what was designed.
How does this happen and, more importantly, what can you do to avoid making these same mistakes that lead to a similarly expensive and ineffective result? Let’s get to that in a moment. But first, some important background information.
HOW IT USED TO BE
Twenty-five years ago or more, it was fairly common that a church with a need to take on a construction project would do a three-year capital campaign to support it. As a result, the church building was built, being funded by the campaign, and the church incurred little to no long-term debt. Results in capital campaigns in those days averaged returns of approximately two times the annual income of the church.
Today, results in capital campaigns continue to return approximately two times the annual income of the church. However, that same church building project may require multiple campaigns and/or significant long-term debt to fund the project.
So what has changed? We raise the same multiple of income today as we did then. Church buildings built then were regularly funded with one campaign with little to no long-term debt, but today multiple campaigns and/or long term debt are required to build.
As valued clients, ministry partners, and friends, I’m excited to share some great news with you today. Generis will be making an announcement later this week, but because I appreciate our relationship I wanted you to hear from me first.
Late last year, we initiated a conversation with the parent company of RSI Church Solutions, that resulted in a consolidation of both teams under the name and leadership of Generis. These are two of the most respected names in church stewardship and generosity joining forces because we believe we can serve churches better together. I value our relationship and wanted you to hear this exciting news from me first.
Here are a few of the key benefits for you and your ministry:
- We will have a hand in creating new data tools for effective on-going analysis of giving metrics that will help your ministry more effectively nurture a growing culture of generosity. I am most excited by this aspect of this announcement.
- One of our values is collaborative strength. With a larger team and a deeper bench, our expertise and passion to innovate will only increase.
- With Generis and RSI combined, more churches can apply proven strategies shaped to fit their needs to make their God-given visions a reality.
Additional information will be forthcoming through the official corporate announcement and subsequent press release. In the meantime, If you have questions or would like to speak with me directly, please reach out. I would value the conversation!
phone: 800.233.0561 x243
Working with churches in the realm of generosity, I see it quite often – common mistakes in the church budget planning process. I see these with regularity, which makes me wonder if perhaps you too have committed one or more of the three most common mistakes in your church budget planning process and not realized it. (It’s ok – not only will I share with you what these three mistakes are, I will also share some ideas on how to avoid or fix them!)
The three mistakes listed below come straight from a recent webinar on the subject. You will want to pull it up soon to hear Jim Sheppard, one of our Principal Partners at Generis, and William Vanderbloemen of Vanderbloemen Search Group discuss these common mistakes made in the church budget planning process.
MISTAKE #1 – Operational Expense Mistakes
Regardless of church size and mission focus, there are three common line item “categories” in every church budget: people (personnel) expenses, building/facility expenses, and everything else (ministry, missions, etc.). What problems do we typically see in this area?
Churches often let the people and building/facility expense categories grow too large, at the expense of ministry and missions. The most common mistakes here are:
- staffing expenses that have grown larger than they should for a specific church’s model of ministry.
- facility costs, usually including over-sized mortgage management, on a space that is too large or was a bit too aggressive financially to construct.
If you have too much going to one or both of these categories, little is left to actually fund the mission of your ministry! For example, if you have 50% of your budget going to personnel expenses, and 40% to building/facility expenses, that only leaves 10% for everything else. And that 10% is supposed to fund all of your ministries and missions while staying within budget.)
So what portion of a church’s total budget should these categories hold? That depends largely on your individual church, but here are some benchmarks to consider:
The standard rule that has floated for years is to keep personnel expenses between 45-52% of total budget. But that isn’t appropriate for every church. It’s too much for some, and perhaps not enough for others. It depends on how you do ministry, and what resources you provide.
- Are you a staff-driven church, or one that is more congregationally driven, leveraging a large volunteer pool?
- What kinds of programming do you offer? A church that offers an on-site counseling center, daycare, or school might have larger personnel budgets than those that don’t have those programs on site.
- A church that outsources some roles might have a lower total personnel expense. I am seeing more and more the outsourcing of several areas previously handled by church staff, including communications (print design, website creation and management, video production of church announcements, etc.) and finance (accounting, payroll, etc.).
- What is too much or too little? Vanderbloemen shared that a personnel budget running lower than 40% or higher than 65% would both be numbers that might indicate need for some study and review.
I want to share a very important task with you today. This is an idea that, if you implement it by December 20, will increase giving in your church during the last two weeks of the year.
We know a large percentage of giving happens right at the end of the year. One third of all charitable giving happens in the last 3 months of the year, and 18% comes in the month of December. Also 31% of all ONLINE giving occurs in the month of December! Do I have your attention?
So here’s a way to receive a bigger slice of the pie. I’ll get right to the point of this post, and then let you read on for the full story: prepare and send an 11-month giving statement by December 20 (earlier if possible).
I’m not like most people sitting in the seats of your worship center during the weekend. I monitor giving closely. My wife and I set giving goals every year, and we strive to reach them. Giving is a priority for us.
I recall a few years back when I thought we were right on track toward our giving goal. At the end of December, I ran my usual giving report from my personal finance software. (I said I’m unusual, so here’s more proof: I actually run giving reports in my personal finance software!)
Expecting to see my giving at a particular place, I was surprised, (shocked actually) that where I THOUGHT we were for the year, and where we ACTUALLY were, didn’t match. We were significantly behind. How could that have happened? It didn’t matter – it had happened.
Fortunately it was December 30, so I was able to run a check up to the church office, and our goal was attained. (I am now in the practice of running my giving report more frequently. I don’t like last minute surprises!)
Generosity has reached record-setting levels, making 2015 “America’s most generous year ever,” according to Giving USA in a report they published just last week.
An estimated $373.25 billion in charitable giving came from individuals, estates, foundations, and corporations last year, growing donations by 4.1% over the previous year. Giving USA marks this as a new record for the second year in a row.
As for donations categorized as religious giving, numbers were up 2.7% over the previous year, accounting for $119.30 billion in gifts and 32% of total giving.
That’s the good news.
This small percentage of growth, however, shows us religious giving is losing ground when compared to other categories of giving that are growing at a higher rate.
What’s Coming Next?
Looking at the 2016 predictions, The Atlas of Giving is calling this year a potentially “perfect storm” for charitable giving.
Your people have questions. And they’re not just about the next children’s ministry event or where to take their canned goods for the food pantry. They have questions about giving – big questions about why they should give and what happens to their money when they give.
As their pastor, it’s your responsibility to make sure they have answers to these questions. This is an opportunity for you to make sure your people are being guided and encouraged on their generosity journey, all while making sure your God-sized vision for ministry is being funded.
So here are 5 questions your people are likely asking, based on 5 things people need to know before they will give. (Trust me – most of your people are asking at least one of these questions!)
1. CAN I TRUST YOU?
The news is unfortunately frequent with stories of improper use of charitable gifts – the Wounded Warriors Project being the most recent example. People want to give where they know their gifts will be stewarded well. Be transparent. Work to build integrity and trust in your personal leadership, and in those in positions of leadership. Communicate well, and often.
Follow through. Do what you say you are going to do. Don’t ask people to do something you yourself are not doing. (Be an example.) People give to those they can believe in and trust. How have you shown your church is trustworthy in the last six months?
2. WHAT’S THE VISION?
Givers give when the mission of the organization aligns with their passions. Most people aren’t as motivated by need; they give to vision. It’s not about the money, but what the money will accomplish. It’s not about facilities, but the ministry the facilities allow.
People just don’t like to talk about money. Maybe you’ve already come to that conclusion. But did you know this? More people dislike talking about money than death or politics or taxes. (Yes, you read that right!)
A survey from Wells Fargo last year revealed “nearly half of Americans say the most challenging topic to discuss with others is personal finance.”
It’s not just your church. It’s not just the people at your church. No one seems to like it!
Interestingly, although conversations about money seem to be avoided or heated, financial concerns are staying top-of-mind. Two in five people in the survey said money is the source of the most stress in their life, and one in three people said they’ve lost sleep worrying over finances.
And when you look generationally, 71% reported learning to spend and save from their parents, but only one-third of today’s parents reported teaching these principles to their children. You see, there’s a fallout happening.
Do you limit the generosity of your church? Now, I have to believe you would never intentionally limit the generosity of your church. In fact, I believe you would love it to improve, to grow, to flourish. But are there things you are doing unknowingly, or habits in place at your church, that hinder or interfere with your giving culture?
I just returned from the UnEarth Conference in Jacksonville this month, and I was blessed again to share information with church leaders from across the country on the topic of generosity. This time the topic was “8 Ceilings that Limit Giving to Your Church” (and several solutions to fix them). My thanks to colleague Brad Leeper, President of Generis, for contributions to this content!
Today I’ll share with you these “ceilings” and we will explore the solutions in my next post, so stay tuned!
First, let’s look at something quickly to get us started. From data collected through Generosity Audits and giving analyses of hundreds of churches, Generis has found the following to be the typical pattern in church giving:
OF 100 PEOPLE
- 50 give nothing
- 20 give $1,200
- 30 give more than $1,200
- If you have 10 elders/deacons/trustees, 2 are likely not giving
- 1/3 of your staff is likely not giving
Now those figures might surprise you, but here’s what is typically going on behind the scenes to create such skewed giving metrics.
We are continuing in our “You Asked For It” series with another question that came from our reader survey late last year.
In case you missed the first two topics in this series, you can quickly catch up on recent posts: encouraging generosity outside the offering moment and 3 steps to creating a culture of generosity.
Today we tackle a question multiple pastors submitted with their survey. It’s one I hear quite frequently in meetings with church leaders across the country as well.
Q: How often should we preach on the subject of giving, stewardship, or generosity in general?
A: What I find in many churches today is that many pastors only preach on this topic once a year, either in a single sermon or in a sermon series. Often, the sermon or series occurs during the church’s fall “annual stewardship campaign,” in which everyone is asked to make a giving pledge for the following year. I call it “The Hunt For Green October.”
Convenient. Fast. Innovative. Google “church giving kiosks” and you’ll find those adjectives in abundant supply on manufacturer websites . . . along with promises of marked increases in financial giving, an upsurge in event registrations, and a unicorn with your church’s logo hand-stitched on its saddle. (Okay, maybe not that one. But the claims can feel slightly far-fetched.)
“So?” you’d be right to ask your favorite generosity consultant. “Should we hire one of those companies and get things installed? I mean, the unicorn sounds amazing!”
Well . . . No. You shouldn’t. While it’s true that many churches have experienced an uptick in generosity after installing giving kiosks in their buildings, it’s important to realize that those results have very little to do with the machine itself.