Inside Tithe.ly: Meet Barn Sweetman, Co-Founder of Tithe.ly
Get to know Barn Sweetman, the master architect of digital church giving.
November 27, 2019
Peter Greer and Chris Horst share 6 ways you can become a collaborative leader from their book "Rooting for Rivals."
July 25, 2018
When Craig and Amy Groeschel founded Life.Church in 1996, it looked like many church plants: forty people meeting in a two-car garage using a borrowed projector and a couple of construction lights. As of 2017, Life.Church has locations in eight states with a vibrant Church Online community reaching an estimated 235,000 unique visitors each week.
Early on, Life.Church decided to wholeheartedly embrace the words of Jesus that it’s more blessed to give than receive. Rather than desiring more for Life.Church alone, they desired more for the Kingdom of God. So they’ve made all the resources they’ve created available to others for free through the Life.Church Open Network.
On this site, pastors and church leaders can access children’s materials, creative resources, tools, ministry ideas, apps, trainings, and community. They decided against selling curriculum and resources and instead actively open-source everything.
Generosity is contagious. and today the resources available on Open Network aren’t just from Life.Church. They’ve also partnered with other ministries with the same heart for the local church—like Hillsong, Elevation Church, and North Point Ministries—to offer their resources as well.
Click here to see why thousands of churches and ministries trust Tithe.ly with their online giving and mobile giving solutions.
And it’s not just large-scale organizations like Life.Church modeling this open handed posture. Jared Nelms of the Timothy Initiative has a passion for discipleship.
After creating curriculum titled Disciples Making Disciples and implementing it both domestically and internationally, the Timothy Initiative realized their impact could be far greater by sharing it with other organizations.
Nelms shares generously and invites other organizations to “take our training materials, put your logo on it, and use it in whatever way would be most beneficial to you.”
We imagine what might happen if the type of radical generosity modeled by Life.Church and the Timothy Initiative were normative. Both operate from a spirit of generosity that prioritizes the Kingdom over their own kingdoms, acknowledging that all they have has been given to them and that God is the source of their abundance.
After working with many collaborative leaders around the world, we observed six common ways they became more generous leaders. We encourage you to practice these collaborative leadership principles in your life and ministry.
In The Death and Life of American Cities—perhaps the seminal book on urban planning—author Jane Jacobs writes, “A well-used city street is apt to be a safe street. A deserted city street is apt to be unsafe.”
Isolated, abandoned, and boarded-up city streets, Jacobs writes, are hotbeds of crime and neglect. The same is true for charities. It’s all too easy for us to live in our echo chambers, allowing our organizations to exist solely for ourselves.
To counteract this tendency, generous leaders like Jordan Steffy let no “street” go unused. Steffy, founder and CEO of Children Deserve a Chance, open-sourced his foundation’s strategies and operational plans for the Extraordinary Give.
Known as Lancaster County’s largest day of giving, the Extraordinary Give stretches donations made to various organizations by at least $500,000. The more an organization raises in those twenty-four hours, the more funds they receive from the “stretch pool.”
As other nonprofits recognized their unique approach and wanted to learn from their example, Steffy generously shared their playbook with others, inviting other organizations to learn from their example and increase their support.
Since greed is driven by a fixation on scarcity, focusing on God’s provision is a powerful countermeasure. In one of several such instances in the Old Testament, Joshua erects a monument after God stops the waters of the Jordan River, allowing the weary Israelites to cross into the Promised Land (Josh. 3-4).
Tangible reminders of God’s provision are powerful. And they help us recall the ways God has provided “manna” in our organizational lives.
Periodically at HOPE, we turn a wall in HOPE’s office into a place to list and remember the prayers we have seen answered and the mountains moved on our behalf.
When we find ourselves in a place of scarcity, we find tremendous encouragement in remembering God’s abundant provision.
Readily celebrate what others do well—mentioning them by name—and, when given the opportunity to draw comparisons between our organization and a “competitor,” refuse to speak ill of another organization.
One nonprofit leader we know even applies this principle in his speaking engagements, suggesting, “When speaking, leaders of the body of Christ should ask, ‘Have I said at least one strong and honest affirmation of an organization that the audience may perceive as a competitor?’”
Elizabeth and Steve Gilroy founded Face of Justice with an open handed posture.
They created the organization in 2009 in response to the overwhelming needs they found while traveling in San José, Costa Rica, specifically focused on fighting the human trafficking industry.
One of the ways they practice generosity is in the way they host mission trips. Rather than exclusively introduce volunteer travelers to their work, they always introduce their guests to at least four other organizations.
Their interns and staff members even go so far as to work on projects for these rival ministries. Rather than expanding as much as they could expand, they expand in ways respective of the strengths of their peer ministries in San José.
Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church is known not just for celebrating rivals but for creating them. During Redeemer’s exponential growth, Keller realized that he could best impact his community for Christ by planting other churches in his New York neighborhood.
He notes, “Our attitude to new church development is a test of whether our mindset is geared to our own institutional turf or to the overall health and prosperity of the kingdom of God in the city.”
Every November, churches across the nation participate in the Be Rich campaign to partner with other nonprofits. Since its inception in 2007, the campaign has sparked a movement of outrageous generosity.
Participants have donated over $29 million and have volunteered over 272,000 hours of community service in the past ten years.
“It’s our way to do corporately what we’ve already been called to do individually,” says Andy Stanley, senior pastor at North Point Ministries in the Atlanta area.
With an emphasis to give, serve, and love, the Be Rich campaign gives back 100 percent of the money they raise to support local nonprofits in efforts to better their communities by, among other things, alleviating homelessness, administering disaster relief, and providing clean water.
What have you found to be an effective way to collaborate with others? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This post was adapted from Rooting for Rivals: How Collaboration and Generosity Increase the Impact of Leaders, Charities, and Churches by Peter Greer and Chris Horst. Copyright 2018. Used by permission of Bethany, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
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:
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.
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.
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]!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.
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.