In 2016, people gave $390 billion to charitable organizations, a record level for the third year in a row. According to the most recent data available, online giving is growing at more than four times the pace of overall giving, and data shows 31% of online contributions occur in December—with 12% happening during the last three days of the year.
There’s no doubt that the month of December is a valuable opportunity for you to encourage and equip your congregation to participate financially in your ministry. Follow these steps to ensure a successful year-end giving appeal.
Step 1: Know and Communicate Deadlines
Although some of December’s accelerated generosity can be attributed to the Christmas spirit, another piece of it has to do with people wanting to maximize their charitable contributions for tax purposes. Educate your congregation about the following deadlines to help them meet their goals:
- December 13: eChecks
- December 15: Non-Cash Assets
- December 28: ACH*
- December 29: Checks
- December 31: In-Person Checks and Cash
- December 31, 3 pm: Debit and Credit Card Transactions*
*Deadlines vary by processor. Find more detailed descriptions of these deadlines here.
In addition to these deadlines, make sure people know your church office hours the last week of the year. People who want to count their giving on their 2017 taxes will drive to your church to hand you their gift.
Step 2: Craft a Compelling Year-End Letter/Email
Your year-end letter/email should remind people of three things:
- Your church is doing worthy work.
- Your church family’s generosity is what makes that happen.
- Remember the church in your year-end giving plans.
You’re welcome to use the following template to create your message:
Dear John and Jessica* –
As I’ve been reflecting on 2017, I feel such gratitude for the people of Hillside Church. Because of your steadfast support:
- we celebrated 23 baptisms this year.
- we equipped a Kenyan village with resources to create their own sustainable small businesses.
- our first-ever summer camp was an overwhelming success, with 120 students engaged and 9 decisions for Christ!
Thank you for allowing God to use you and your resources to continue our mission at Hillside.
I’m looking forward to the start of 2018 with such anticipation, and I wonder if you would join me and my family in offering a final gift for 2017. Your financial support will help Hillside begin the new year strong, ready to accept any assignment God has in store for us.
Please bring your gift with you on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve (our final services of the year) or mail them by Saturday, December 30. You’re also welcome to give online [link].Thank you so much for your generosity. I love being your pastor.
P.S. I can’t wait to see the impact God will have through us in 2018. Let’s do this!
*Personalizing your letter is important. Don’t use “Dear Friends” or “Dear Church.”
Step 3: Make the Ask
Multiple charitable organizations are reaching out to your people with year-end giving appeals. If you believe your church’s mission is a worthy cause, you must do the same.
- December 19: Mail your year-end letter/email.
- December 24: As you introduce your offering on Christmas Eve, mention year-end giving opportunities and deadlines. You might say something like, “Your last opportunity to financially give this year is during worship services on December 31. Our church offices will be closed after the last service.”
- December 28: Send an email reminding people to bring their year-end gifts on Sunday. Be sure to include some specific instructions for those who’ll be out of town: “If you’ll be celebrating out of town, you can make your gift online [include the link to your online giving page]. If you’d prefer to mail a gift and want it to count as a charitable contribution for 2017, be sure to get it to the post office by Saturday, December 30.”
- December 31: Early in the afternoon, send a brief, “last chance” online giving appeal: “Make your end-of-year gift here [link to your online giving page].”
With a little preparation, your church can be positioned as people’s charity-of-choice during this month. Don’t let the opportunity pass by!
December is a critical month for churches, but it’s important to be purposeful with your generosity strategy throughout the year. Not sure where to begin? I’d love to help. Start with my free giving analysis.