Meet the Pastor Turned CEO Who's Helped Thousands of Churches Raise Hundreds of Millions of Dollars
A personal introduction to the CEO and co-founder of the world's leading church technology company.
December 16, 2019
Read this article for the definitive guide on giving and receiving cryptocurrency gifts at your church.
November 20, 2019
While watching baseball on TV recently, a commercial for one of the big computer companies came on between innings. It was one of the worst commercials ever, as if repeating all the buzzwords of the day would convince consumers that they’re smart. But the commercial actually revealed the company didn’t really know what they’re talking about. Among this wall of words without context was talk about AI, Blockchain, Cloud, and app integration.
The whole world is like this right now. If a company just mentions blockchain as part of their quarterly plans on a shareholder call, their stock price jumps. Everyone is talking about Bitcoin and blockchain, but most of us feel completely lost. A lot of people are talking about this stuff. About half know something about it. Very few have a good grasp on the topic.
For those new to the conversation, and looking for a little guidance, we intend to simplify and educate.
To start, let’s talk about the technology behind this entire conversation: Blockchain.
Interested in accepting cryptocurrency donations? Scroll below to learn about our partnership with Engiven.
Blockchain is basically a database. This is the easiest way to think about it.
A database, in the simplest terms, records and stores information. One can also think about a database as a ledger. Like an accounting ledger, blockchain is used to record transactions or changes to the ledger as new entries are made.
The unique thing about the blockchain database is that it is distributed. It doesn’t exist on any one computer, but on many.
When our elementary school class used to visit the library, we learned how to look up books using the library’s database. The central server that housed all the data was called the Master. Various terminals located around the library were Slave computers that could only access the Master.
In very simple terms, the internet works this way. Your personal browser is used to access a server, retrieve files, images, and data from various servers to then display a website. If I want to update my website for the world, I only need to login and update my files hosted on the server.
Blockchain technology is different. Rather than a Master/Slave relationship, the database is Master/ Master, or rather peer-to-peer. Blockchain uses multiple computers connected in a peer-to-peer network with each computer hosting the entire database. This description is overly simplistic, but the main idea is that the blockchain is completely distributed. It does not exist in one place, but many places, and all versions are exactly the same.
How can this be?
How can a distributed database be kept in sync and up to date? We’ll cover that in a bit. First, let’s talk a bit more about the implications of a distributed database.
Because the blockchain doesn’t exist in a central location, authority for the database is decentralized. No central authority or governing body controls the blockchain, and this is something that is fundamental to our understanding of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, smart contracts, and all the other concepts that use the blockchain to exist.
This technology is both distributed (lives on multiple computers) and decentralized (not controlled).
The blockchain represents the most innovative and significant advance in computer science since the invention and proliferation of the internet. Like the internet, it can be used in all sectors of all economy and all industries. Blockchain technology has already been adopted and used by various organizations and companies that want to provide efficient and fast service to their thousands of clients and customers worldwide.
If blockchain is a database that is both decentralized and distributed, then we have something that is very unique. Anyone, anywhere is able to view the database at any time. Anyone is also allowed to add to the database at any time. No permissions are needed.
But, for this kind of freedom of use, some rules must exist. What’s more, they must be followed and enforced.
This is where the blockchain is, in our opinion, amazing.
Following the devastating earthquake of 2010 that caused widespread destruction to an already fragile Haiti, donations for the relief effort began to pour in to organizations helping in the region. An estimated $13 billion was raised to help the people of Haiti in the months that followed the event.
Five years later, compassion gave way to outrage as donors learned that little had changed, and much of the funding had been squandered or lost.
Many of these issues that arose among these nonprofit organizations could have been avoided with the use of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. The transparency and real-time traceability of blockchain technology promises greater accountability for donors who demand to know how their funds have been used. Imagine tracking the relationship of donations to relief efforts through the supply chain with blockchain-enabled smart contracts. Donors and nonprofit leaders can know where money has been sent, how it has been used, and to whom aid has been distributed. This kind of transparency goes a long way to fight against corruption that is so common during relief work in at-risk countries.
Transfer of funds from a central location to field offices become faster and more reliable with the use of cryptocurrency. Instead of couriers carrying and declaring large amounts of cash across borders, a head office can simply make a transfer into the digital wallet of a field office or on-the-ground workers. The transactions are fast, secure, and able to avoid the security risk of currency exchange and transport.
Organizations often raise funds in one location and rely on contractors to accomplish their mission on the ground in another country. Contracted work and payment tracking is simplified when blockchain transparency is applied.
Tracking supply chain, added transparency, and increased security for field workers are just a few ways that blockchain technology will help advance trust between nonprofits and their donors.
Cryptocurrency is still wildly volatile. But this volatility was also the reason why some early adopters have made millions in the space. As agencies like the SEC and IRS begin to craft regulation and tax laws for cryptocurrency, we believe that opportunities to give cryptocurrency as a tax-deductible contribution will continue to rise. This could be a windfall for nonprofits ready to receive these gifts.
In addition to the obvious benefit of receiving a valuable asset to help advance an organization’s mission, accepting cryptocurrency donations offers some other advantages that may be appealing to donors. If the opportunity to give crypto for good is promoted properly, nonprofits may even attract new donors to their cause— donors they wouldn’t have engaged otherwise.
In 2018, cryptocurrency has a liquidity problem. One can use Bitcoin to purchase some items, but for the most part cryptocurrency holders have trouble exchanging their crypto for goods and services.
When nonprofits begin freely accepting cryptocurrency donations and provide tax-deductible receipts, owners of cryptocurrency have new opportunities for generosity and financial savings. Capital gains taxes apply to cryptocurrency asset growth. Donations to 501(c)3 organizations can offset this tax liability and simultaneously help solve a liquidity problem for cryptocurrency investors.
Nonprofit leaders have long known that some donors prefer to give anonymous gifts to their organizations. Though we think that cryptocurrency donors are more likely to be attracted by the tax benefits, we can’t ignore the fact that anonymous donations through cryptocurrency are very attractive to givers who wish to remain unknown.
Ministries and nonprofits regularly see an increase in giving when they choose to offer multiple giving options. I recently learned that churches launching online giving platforms for their congregations can expect an immediate net increase of 10%–20% in giving. Donors like to have options!
If online giving platforms are any indication, nonprofits can expect to see an increase in giving simply by offering cryptocurrency donations as an option to their donor base. Platforms like Engiven (see below) will make it easy for donors to give and simplify the receiving process for nonprofits.
For these reasons, we’re beginning to see major nonprofit organizations like Red Cross, United Way, and The Water Project open up their doors to cryptocurrency donations. Future advancements in cryptocurrency giving will help other organizations take advantage of this opportunity too.
At Tithe.ly, we’re excited to introduce you to Engiven.
We’ve partnered together to give you an opportunity to benefit from cryptocurrency donations. For a limited time, you can get a one-year membership with Engiven for free.
When you sign up for Engiven, you can …
If you want to offer your congregation an opportunity to receive cryptocurrency donations, then we highly-recommend that you sign up for Engiven.
To see how their platform works in action, check out these two churches:
When it comes to cryptocurrencies and blockchain, we’re just getting started.
We encourage you to take the time to better understand their development, and see how your church can get involved on the forefront of this new medium of exchange.
Editor's note: This is an excerpt from Crypto for Good: Demystifying Cryptocurrencies for Nonprofits by Nils Smith and Nick Runyon.
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.