Generosity

7 Charitable Giving Trends Your Church Must Know for 2019

Here are seven trends in charitable giving your church can expect in 2019.

7 Charitable Giving Trends Your Church Must Know for 2019
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The way people donate money continues to change.

These changes are not only taking place on a national level—they’re occurring in your community.

Social media usage, one-click shopping, and technology adoption play an essential part in transforming the way people give and how they think about giving.

As a church leader, how you adapt to these changes will influence the financial livelihood of your church for better or worse. Being able to see changes in charitable giving ahead of time will help you adapt to the way your church prefers to tithe and donate money.

Here are seven trends in charitable giving your church can expect in 2019.

#1. Focus on results

Your church cannot simply expect people to give out of a sense of obligation.

There’s an increasing desire among donors to know that their financial contributions are doing more than keeping the lights on—they want to know that their money is making a difference.

In other words, there’s a shift away from donating to organizations, and a shift toward donating to causes. It’s what the New York Times dubbed “The Millennial Way of Charity."

Practically speaking, as you share Bible verses about money and generosity with your church, you also have to show church members how their donations support the work of God in your church. This is a subtle shift away from giving out of obligation to giving out of desire to participate in the work of God.

Said another way, share specific ways God has worked through your church.

For instance:

  • How many new people joined your church?
  • Did you baptize people last year?
  • Did attendance increase in your small groups or Sunday school?
  • Did your church support local or foreign missions? 

When sharing these highlights, you can …

  • Include them in your giving statements
  • Mention them during your church announcements
  • Share them on social media
  • Send them in an email
  • Add them to your church’s bulletin

Don’t be afraid to continually remind your church about the ways God is making a difference. Your church members will be glad to know that they are participating in God’s work of transforming lives.

#2. Tax reform

There’s still uncertainty about how the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) will influence the amount of charitable donations.

According to a study conducted by Dunham+Company, a 60–70 percent decrease in the number of people who itemize deductions. This sweeping change in the tax law will not necessarily influence someone’s intent to give. But it may affect how much someone donates—especially church members in a middle-income bracket.

After taxes are filed in April 2019, keep an eye on whether giving to your church decreases or remains on an established trajectory.

#3. Rise in peer-to-peer fundraising

On Facebook, you’ve probably received more than one notification encouraging you to donate toward a cause for one of your friends’ birthdays.

As popularity for this feature continues to climb, expect more people to donate money through Facebook.

The rise in Facebook’s Charitable Giving Tools may not directly affect your church.

But it does highlight a few interesting trends:

  • Rise in peer-to-peer fundraising
  • Increase in the personalization of giving
  • Popularity of cause-based giving
  • Improved ease of technology 

We’ll take a look at a few of these points in detail below.

But take the time to think about how Facebook has tapped into the desires of people to give, makes it really easy for them to take ownership of raising money (peer-to-peer), makes it personal, makes it easy with technology, and empowers their users to raise money for causes they believe in. Implementing these four trends will make a world of difference in increasing giving and engagement with your church.

#4. The Amazon affect

You know what’s easy?

Amazon’s one-click ordering.

You’re probably thinking:

What does this have to do with charitable giving?

In short:

Everything.

During our interview with Rick Dunham, the Chief Executive Officer of Dunham+Company, he shared how Amazon’s one-click ordering is shaping donors’ expectations. As consumers grow accustomed to purchasing online with a click of a button, they will expect to have a similar experience donating money.

Here’s the deal:

If your church doesn't make it easy for people to donate online or with their mobile device, then many people may not donate at all. A difficult giving experience is one surefire way to confuse, frustrate, and discourage people from donating online.

Need help creating an amazing giving experience?

Make sure to use the best church giving tools and optimize your church’s online giving page to boost giving.

#5. Personalizing giving experiences

It pays to provide a personalized giving experience.

Based on one study, half (50%) of donors prefer to receive a personalized thank you versus a fast, general response. Remember, as I pointed out above, the personalization of giving will continue to be important as time moves on.

Your church members don’t give in expectation of the praise they’ll receive. But it doesn’t hurt to express your appreciation to them. Besides, without the financial support of your church—your church wouldn’t exist.

Now, we understand it’s nearly impossible to say thanks every time someone donates money. But technology makes it easy to automate a personalized response of appreciation.

In Unleashing Generosity, we shared several ways you can express thanks online:

  • Include a “thank you” confirmation page
  • Send an automated “thank you” email
  • Send a “thank you” text to people who give by text


In these personalized responses, be sure to lead with the donor’s name (first or last).

Creating a highly-personalized digital giving experience will boost goodwill and increase giving.

#6. Influence of subscription services

The popularity of recurring giving will continue into 2019, which makes perfect sense.

As consumers, we're used to making small, monthly payments for a variety of subscription services, such as Netflix, Amazon, and Adobe. What’s more, according to one study from 2010, 41 percent of all monthly bills are paid automatically every month.

What’s the moral of the story?

Many people in the United States prefer to process financial transactions in small, automatic installments.

By providing recurring giving, and making it easy, your church can get ahead of this trend by providing your church members with a way to donate money that they’ll prefer.

#7. Go mobile or go home

The use of mobile phones for nearly everything will continue.

Not only do the vast majority of Americans (95%) own a cell phone. But 77 percent of people in the United States own a smartphone.

What’s more, the use of mobile phones to access the Internet continues to climb. As of 2017, more than half (51%) of global Internet traffic originated from a mobile device.

Not only are people visiting your church’s website from their mobile phone, but they’re also inclined to make a donation with their cell phone.

Mobile giving continues to increase year-over-year, and, according to The Millennial Impact Report, 84% of millennials want to give online.

With more people in the United States owning smartphones, and as the trend of online shopping, banking, and giving continues to climb, it won’t be long until the vast majority of your church members will prefer donating with their mobile device.

In the end, mobile-friendly is no longer trendy—it’s a must.

Over to you

It’s impossible to know exactly what will happen next year.

Significant changes in the economy, the introduction of political policy, or advancements in technology and services may influence charitable giving in 2019.

However, as we observe the giving patterns of the churches we serve, talk with experts, and review national trends in the United States, we’re confident your church can prepare to take advantage of the above charitable giving trends in the new year.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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7 Charitable Giving Trends Your Church Must Know for 2019