The 1% Generosity Difference

Initiatives // February 12, 2010

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to assist Morning Star Church, O’Fallon, MO with their annual giving appeal. This is my second initiative with the church, having led a capital project there two years earlier.

We have a toolbox full of strategies that assist churches and non-profit ministries as they seek to accelerate generosity towards their ministry, and this was another opportunity to put those tools to work.

One of those strategies involves an encouragement and challenge to the congregation to consider increasing their previous years’ giving by 1% – taking a step toward the tithe, (or above the tithe for those who are already giving at that level).

Prior to this challenge, detailed information has to be prepared and distributed to the church family. Tables and graphs are useful to help a member understand what they gave in the previous 12 months, and what percentage of their income that number represents. As you might imagine, there is some work here. Plan on putting in the time to do this right, or the appeal will not be effective.

As Pastor Mike Schreiner discovered, asking people to give an additional 1% does not impact the church’s giving by 1% as many might mistakenly think. Consider the math!

Based upon ongoing statistical research, the average churchgoer gives between 2.5 and 3.5% of income to the church. Let’s use 3% for this example. If the average attender steps up and gives 1% more, that is actually an increase of 33% in their dollar giving for the year! For the church with a $1,000,000 income, that would be an increase of $333,000 in one year. 1% makes a huge difference!!

For Pastor Mike Schreiner’s thoughts on the strategy, read on:

“We sent the mailing because Rusty told us to.” (It’s great when clients actually heed your advice!)

“The one consistent piece of feedback has been how much people appreciated knowing the information. And the real key to our stewardship campaign this year was the idea that, if each of us grows in our giving by just an average of 1% of our Annual Household Income, that will translate to about a $500,000 increase in tithes and offerings. This whole idea just came to me one day. I was thinking to myself: ‘Hey, if we all give 1% more, then the church will have 1% more, right?’ But that’s NOT right! Just a 1% jump—each family/giving unit increasing their giving 1% of their household income (i.e. going from giving 3% to 4%)—would, in fact, raise our overall giving by about 30%! This is something that I think every pastor and church could benefit from—seeing what could happen when each family commits to growing at least 1% more in a year (simultaneously encouraging them to tithe or to be intentional about growing toward the tithe).”

“We had a great last quarter. Overall our tithes and offerings increased 30% in 2009 over 2008! And I’ve personally heard more people talk about giving, stepping up to the full tithe and/or, for the first time ever, to commit to grow toward the tithe! It’s really been cool to see how God is using this… and blessing people in the process. (It should also be said that our church has now run Financial Peace University for a couple years, and this class has helped us in coming alongside debt-ridden families and offering them very practical teaching to equip them to be financially victorious.)”

Takeaways for Mike:

  1. Share information! Do it through mailings, Town Hall Meetings/All Church meetings/Small Group meetings, messages, website. People really DO want to know. And they need to see the same information multiple times and in multiple formats.
  2. Be transparent with your finances. (This isn’t something we learned through this. We always have been. But we hear lots of stories of folks coming from other churches where the details of financial spending and accountability were not open to the membership.) We encourage any and all questions through our Town Hall Meetings as well as in our worship services (we take questions via texting on cell phones, and we answer a few at the end of each message). Members of the church can come in the office and see a full, line-item detail of our budget and monthly Profit/Loss statements—anything we have is open for them to see.”

Mike’s final word of advice:

“Think with the end in mind: I’ve heard it said that communication isn’t about sending the right message; it’s about eliciting the right response. So, be authentic to your particular church environment. We can get a little sarcastic in our language because that’s kind of the “voice” our culture has around here. (That sounds terrible! It’s not disrespectful or vulgar of course . . . it’s just real.) If you were to repurpose our materials for your church and ended up offending half your people, that’s no good. So take time to explore the best way to communicate with your people.”

To reiterate, Morning Star’s giving was up 30% in 2009 over 2008, in spite of the economic headwinds all of us have been facing!

If I can assist you in your annual giving strategies, contact me! I would love to be of service to you.

About Rusty Lewis

As a church leader, there’s nothing more frustrating than not having the funding to do what God’s calling you to do. But when you think about trying to address that problem, you feel overwhelmed, you dread the potential pushback from your congregation, and you’re not sure where to turn for help. Over the last 18 years, I’ve helped more than 120 churches close the gap between their current financial reality and what they need to move forward in ministry.

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