Multiple Income Streams: A Necessary Strategy for the 21st Century Church

Leadership // September 1, 2009

In the 21st century, having intentional multiple income streams is a necessary strategy. Here are several of the most popular income streams.

Regular undesignated gifts are used for funding the congregation’s annual ministry plan (the budget). Encourage donors to establish a monthly pattern for their contributions. The key is to get donors to commit to a monthly amount and then increase the monthly amounts every year or as often as possible.

Major gifts are usually one time gifts or gifts pledged over time that are significantly larger than a donor’s annual giving. Most major gifts are raised in campaigns for specific capital projects. It is possible to begin a major gifts program without having a campaign. The Pastor and key volunteers raise gifts through personal solicitation.

Referred to as deferred gifts. A program of planned giving will take from five to seven years to be productive, but afterward will be the cheapest money raised. The most prevalent deferred gift is the bequest in a will. All staff, governing board and key volunteers should make a bequest to your church.

In many instances, large deferred gifts are used to create endowment funds. Income from endowments often preserves the possibility of ministry in communities that have been abandoned by many churches. Research has shown that endowment income up to 15% of a church’s annual budget does not cause low member giving.

Grants are awards from endowment funds held at public and private foundations. Grants are similar to major gifts in that they are limited in duration and specific use. As with major gifts, they require time, relationship building and personal involvement in asking. Simply writing a grant request is not enough.

The scale of need and opportunity to minister today often is larger than any one congregation. Churches and nonprofits partnering together can share the costs of ministry and have a larger impact. While not income, partnerships can lower church costs.

Leasing space to organizations whose missions are compatible with the church’s mission can become a reliable source of income. Some congregations lease property, parking or space to businesses. A church and business partnership can provide job training opportunities for the church’s local community as well as income for the church. Unrelated business income (UBI) tax will be paid by the church.

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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