Many churches are uncertain about sending multiple giving statements throughout the year. Some are unsure about how often to send them. Others choose to not send them because of the cost involved or because they don’t want to burden their administrative staff. Most simply don’t see giving statements as effective—and that’s usually because they focus on the statement itself, rather than on the cover letter.
Here’s the truth: Giving statements are a critical communication channel—particularly at this time of year.
Rethinking the “Quarterly” Giving Statement
For years, I’ve recommended an unusual pattern for sending “quarterly” giving statements. Rather than spacing the mailings every three months, I suggest sending two statements fairly close together on the calendar. The giving statement for IRS reporting should go out in January. But another statement should have been mailed just a few weeks earlier, in early December. That may seem redundant or a poor use of resources, but an 11-month giving statement (January through November), is actually an effective way to inspire giving.
Four Reasons to Send a Giving Statement in Early December
- A disproportionate amount of giving happens in December. According to Blackbaud’s 2017 Charitable Giving Report, almost 20% of all charitable giving happened in December 2017. For online giving to faith-based organizations, that number jumps to 23%. Those figures are more than double any other month’s giving. While it’s true that trends show people spreading their charitable donations throughout the year, December remains the most financially lucrative time of year for churches and faith-based non-profits. It only makes sense to put your organization’s mission in front of your givers this month, as they are making end-of-year giving decisions.
- People lose track of their giving. Many people think they’ve given more in 2018 than they actually have. There could be several reasons for this. One certainly is the change in attendance patterns. Your people are not in worship 50 out of 52 Sundays per year as they were years ago. And if they’re not in worship, they’re likely not thinking about giving. (This is one of the strongest reasons to promote recurring giving—but that’s another post for another time.) As the year draws to a close, they mistakenly assume they’ve given regularly, not realizing how many weekends they’ve not been in service. We have good intentions of “catching up” on our giving when we get back to church, but we’re honestly not very good at it. Our actual giving can be 50%, 30%, or even just 20% what we thought we’d given.Think of it another way. If you’re a credit card user, have you ever been shocked by the balance on your latest statement? A purchase here, a charge there, and before you know it, you’ve amassed a much larger bill than you had anticipated. It really can add up. The same is true with missed giving. A missed weekend here and there, forgetting to log in and give online regularly, and before you know it your “missed” giving has added up to quite a number. People often think they’ve given more than they actually have.
- A December statement allows time to align 2018 giving goals before the end of the year. My wife, Andrea, and I have giving goals for the year, and I pay pretty close attention to our progress toward those goals. A giving statement in December reflects where we are, and it allows us time to complete our goal before the year-end. I know many people who have giving goals. But I know many of those people are not as detailed in tracking their progress. Instead, they rely on their church to track their progress. So, we should provide a report in early December, reflecting January through November giving, so they have the information necessary to complete their annual giving goal.
- Tax strategies will continue to motivate end-of-year giving. While the 2018 tax reform has changed this for many Americans, there remains an audience for whom end-of-year giving is partly motivated by taxes. Conversations with tax attorneys and CPAs occur in the fourth quarter, and if a significant tax bill is on the horizon, the tax pro will often recommend strategies to help the family reduce their potential tax hit. One of those suggestions usually includes charitable giving. Having a mailing from your church land in their hands as they are contemplating those gifts for 2018 is wise.
Learn How to Send Effective Giving Statements
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Watch for my next post on a critical step you should take the last 48 hours of 2018. You will not want to miss it!