Church Giving During COVID: Reasons for Optimism
God’s people are still giving, churches are learning from this pandemic, and God is still faithful.
October 26, 2020
Do you need to raise money for a new ministry initiative or to cover a big expense?
A standard fundraising tool many church leaders have used to raise the funds they need is a capital campaign. They have a history of success, and there are many organizations and resources you can consult for help.
At Generis, we’ve helped more than 13,500 faith-based organizations to raise more than $17.1 billion for Kingdom expansion. During this time, we’ve observed that running traditional capital campaigns isn’t the right tactic for every church and situation. In other words, a church capital campaign is a versatile fundraising tool that works exceptionally well for many situations—but not all.
This is an alternative approach to capital campaigns.Here’s the big difference between the two :
Instead of asking your congregation to give “over and above” their regular giving toward a project (or projects), will lead your church to consider their total giving.
Know what’s surprising about these initiatives?
In working with more than 300 churches, we have not only observed an increase in overall giving, but we have also witnessed accelerated giving toward specific capital projects or initiatives.
Related: How to Track Giving at Your Church
As we help people lead their congregation to pursue God in their giving, we also coach church leaders to direct their church to participate in what God is calling them to do together. For your church, this can be purchasing a larger building to reach more people, expanding your current facilities, or supporting more missionaries.
Do you need to run a church capital campaign or a One Fund initiative?
To help you think through what’s best for you and your church, here are five wrong reasons to start a church capital campaign and why you may need to consider the second option instead.
A traditional church capital campaign won’t change your giving metrics (much). You need an approach that leads with discipleship—not a project.
A giving analysis of most of the churches we’ve worked with shows:
Traditional capital campaigns focus on funding the project(s), and that is why this approach works so well. However, the limitation of traditional campaigns is that they don’t boost overall giving significantly—if at all. Additionally, the traditional approach doesn’t onboard new givers well.
In (traditional) campaigns, your congregation typically experiences some ambiguity: Give “over and above” what?
For non-givers, a traditional church capital campaign could potentially exclude them or, because they’re asked to go “over and above” nothing, they may experience only a short-term increase in giving—without true discipleship of growth in generosity.
Repeated traditional campaigns may produce a diminishing return over time or even feel routine. You need something fresh.
A One Fund approach provides a true “this is different than anything we have done before” feeling, which is especially crucial to your faithful, long-time givers.
Project-based campaigns may only interest people with a specific stake in that particular ministry.
When my wife and I were young parents, a campaign to update or build new children’s ministry space would have really captured our hearts. We would have been “all in” as our kids were involved in that ministry, and so were we.
That same vision would still garner our support, but because our kids are older and we’re empty nesters, we won’t have the same level of passion as before.
Even more difficult are those campaigns for debt reduction or campus maintenance. It’s not especially motivating to inspire large financial gifts to replace that million-dollar HVAC system.
The vision cast in a One Fund includes every single ministry the church currently supports, along with new funding priorities you desire to add. It’s about children’s ministry, student ministry, missions, discipleship, outreach—everything you do. There’s something in it for everyone to get behind.
A successful capital campaign for church growth will raise funds for that new project. But at the end of the church capital campaign, general giving will most likely remain close to where it was when you started. There’s nothing bad about this; it’s just a reality with the traditional “over and above” approach.
So what happens with your ongoing ministry plan (budget)? It’s helpful to grow funding for existing ministries and missions and for new ministries you’d like to begin.
A One Fund initiative creates a “long tail of generosity” as the initiative focuses more on the heart change of the giver instead of the need of the church.
Often in traditional campaigns, donors see their campaign commitment as “their” money. When a traditional church capital campaign ends, givers typically repurpose those “over and above” dollars back to their budgets. But in a One Fund, givers are less likely to return to a lower level of giving because they see the enhanced amount as growth in their relationship with Christ.
For example, One Fund campaigns have a two-year timeline. In year three), we see churches retain 40-60% of the new giving.
Let me explain.
Let’s say a church has $1 million in income before launching a One Fund. During the season, they double their annual giving to $2 million. That church will likely receive $1.4 million to $1.6 million in year three—after the “campaign” has officially ended.
It’s difficult to onboard and engage new families who begin attending in the middle of your traditional capital campaign process.
We always try hard to engage new families. But most will view the campaign in progress as something you did before they arrived. So they’ll often wait for the next campaign and plan to commit to it when it rolls around.
In a One Fund, a new attendee is part of the initiative as soon as they begin giving. Even if they don’t make a written commitment, a new giver has joined the effort.
In closing, let’s be clear: The traditional capital campaign for churches remains a healthy and viable approach to raising money. It also might be the best approach for your church at this time.
However, the One Fund initiative is a new, fresh, and discipleship-based approach that may be a more useful direction for your church to consider. At the very least, it’s a viable alternative that merits your attention.
Is your church considering these options ? Do you have any questions? Drop your questions in the comments below.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on August 21, 2020 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.