Generosity

Church Fundraising Software: 4 Things You Need to Know

Fundraising software isn't confined to multi-million dollar organizations. There are tools in donor software every church and ministry can benefit from.

Church Fundraising Software: 4 Things You Need to Know
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“There’s an app for that” is not only a common phrase, but it’s also often more accurate than we realize. In the context of leading a church, we have apps or software for a variety of purposes including church management software (ChMS), accounting software, volunteer scheduling apps, and more. One tool you may not be as familiar with is fundraising software.

What is fundraising software?

Fundraising software (also known as donor software) is a tool for managing and facilitating giving. Contrary to what the name implies, it isn’t used solely for big fundraising campaigns.

Donor software typically includes a method for processing online giving, handling event registrations, managing donor information, and more.

Fundraising software is usually geared towards general non-profit organizations and is a combination of an electronic giving tool and customer relationship manager (CRM). For most churches, those features may overlap with what they already have in their church management and/or accounting software.

4 reasons why your church should use fundraising software

Passing the plate and receiving tithes via checks and cash is still standard operating procedure in most churches. However, based on charitable giving statistics, giving methods and trends are moving toward more online donations (although we don’t foresee the full extinction of passing the plate anytime soon).

Here are several reasons to consider donor software:

#1. Break down potential barriers to giving

According to a report from Bankrate.com, 40% of Americans carry less than $20 in cash with them most days. GOBankingRates found that 38% of respondents “never” write personal checks. In fact, only 26% stated they write a check “several times a month.”

With fewer people carrying cash or checks with them on a regular basis, your church needs to provide a way for your congregation to give with the device they carry with them everywhere - their phone.

When you leverage fundraising software, you can provide people with the option to donate via a text message, a church giving app, or online giving. By offering a giving method that’s convenient, you’re taking down a potential barrier to giving.

#2. Increase giving consistency

Do you dread the summer giving slump you experience as families go on vacation? That’s based on the idea that people have to be sitting in a church service to give. You can change that dynamic by encouraging people to automate their giving.

Most donor software includes the ability for givers to set up automatic recurring donations.  We’ve found that churches that offer a mobile giving option experience steady giving (and sometimes an increase) during the summer months.

Online, text, and mobile giving opens up opportunities for people to give at various times:

  • A businesswoman who is traveling for work who watches the service online and gives at that time.
  • The couple who knows they’ll be more faithful to tithe if they schedule a recurring gift each month.
  • The 20-something church member who doesn’t carry a checkbook (and hasn’t written a check in months).

#3. Support stewardship efforts

Receiving more tithes and offerings is terrific. However, you also need quick and accurate information so you can steward those resources well.

The best fundraising software includes reports that show how much your church received in tithes and offerings – by time period, designated or general fund, and other variables. This enables you to review trends and get a quick snapshot of your church’s income.

Related: How to Track Giving at Your Church

#4. Streamline record-keeping

When someone gives online, that’s one less check your bookkeeper has to process and deposit at the bank. It’s also less cash your team has to keep secure over the weekend.

Many fundraising software vendors provide functionality that makes it easy to record transactions in your accounting and/or church management software, run reports, and reconcile deposits with your bank statement.

With Tithe.ly, you can even enter check and cash gift information so you can track online and offline giving in a single system. This makes it easier to provide donors with comprehensive giving statements on-demand.

5 best practices for using fundraising software

If all that sounds great – don’t rush away to select your donor software yet.

No matter how cutting edge the tool or how many features it includes, it’s only as useful as your team is prepared to implement and roll it out to your congregation (although we wish we could automate that part for you too).

Before you jump into selecting which donor software to use, here are five keys to consider:

#1. Research potential vendors

We’ll admit to being a bit biased, but we think our fundraising software is the best.

However, we encourage you to carefully research any vendor you’re considering to ensure it best fits the needs of your church. Be sure to include your church administrator or bookkeeper in the evaluation process. This decision will have a significant impact on their responsibilities, so you want them to be involved.

Here are several questions to ask as you evaluate fundraising software vendors:

  • How long has the vendor been in business?
  • Is the vendor focused on serving the church or non-profits in general? Does the company have experience with and understand what churches need?
  • What are the fees? You’ll need to know about fees per transaction, monthly fees, setup fees, etc. Ask for details.
  • Will the vendor help you get started? Do you need to get a merchant account or will the vendor help with that step?
  • Does the vendor provide training for your staff? Do they offer online videos and documented instructions on how to enter transactions, reconcile deposits, transfer data to your ChMS or accounting software, etc.?
  • What ongoing support does the vendor provide?
  • When does the vendor deposit donations into your church bank account? Will they process those deposits the next business day, once a week, or once per month?
  • Does the vendor adhere to industry standard online security protocols? Ask about PCI compliance and how they protect credit card data.
  • How many clicks does it take to donate? If someone has to go through ten screens and a lengthy account setup process to make a one-time gift, they’re not likely to use it.

#2. Review your church administration processes

Once you’ve decided which fundraising software to use, your church administrator will need to work with the vendor to set up the software. He or she will also want to develop processes for recording the transactions that come through the fundraising software and how you receive reports regarding giving.

One way Tithe.ly makes this process easier is by integrating with popular ChMS tools such as Elvanto, Church Community Builder, Breeze, Shelby, FaithTeams, and ROCK RMS (with more on the way). You don’t want your church administrator spending time entering donation data when a simple integration could do the work in a fraction of the time.

#3. Run a pilot group before the big launch

Anytime you launch something new, you’re likely to have a few bumps along the way. It’s best to have a small group of people experience and help you smooth out those bumps instead of the entire congregation.

Before the big rollout, ask church staff members, elders, and a few key volunteer leaders to try out the giving options. Make sure you have a few people in this pilot group who aren’t exactly known for being tech-savvy (their questions and feedback will be very helpful as you develop instructions for the main launch).

Related: Launching Tithe.ly: A Program to Help You and Your Church Build a Culture of Generosity

Take notes on what questions you receive from the group and any input they provide. Use this information to develop your communications materials to the full congregation (information on the church website, slides, stage announcement script, videos, bulletin). This leads to our next recommendation.

#4. Plan the rollout

You’re introducing something brand new to your congregation. You want this to be successful from the start, so that requires a bit of planning. Decide how you’ll present these new giving options and what communication methods you’ll use.

Communication should be a multi-pronged approach including:

  • Announcements from the stage
  • Videos
  • Slides
  • Handouts
  • Information on the church website
  • Posts on the church’s social media accounts

To make this process easier, Tithe.ly provides a full launch kit with slides, graphics, and videos you can use to introduce it to your congregation.

Related: How to Quickly Create a Communication Strategy for Your Church

#5. Keep communicating

You’ll need to continually mention the new giving options beyond just the first Sunday. People will forget, or they may not have been in service that week.

Remind your congregation at each service that they can give online, via the app, via text, or at a kiosk. Post information about online giving on the church website and social media accounts. Also, place instructions in the bulletin and on-screen during the giving time of your worship service.

Periodically (especially around year-end), announce that donors can view their giving record online and provide instructions on how to do that (your accounting team will love you for this one!).

Fundraising software impacts church administration

While most of the focus is on making the experience easy for donors, fundraising software can have a positive impact on the church’s back office. Here are a few things your church administrator will appreciate:

  • Fewer checks means less data entry
  • Less cash and checks means less time spent counting and recording the offering each week
  • Built-in integrations between the donor software and your church’s ChMS and/or accounting software keeps your church administrator from having to enter that data manually
  • The ability for donors to set up recurring donations, view their giving records online, and even print an annual giving statement reduces the volume of requests for those transactions – saving your church administrator countless hours (especially during year-end and tax season).

When you save your church administrator time, you free him or her up to handle other projects to support the growth and health of your church.

Donor software is a valuable tool that can lead to more consistent giving, increased giving overall, better giving reports, and less time spent on bookkeeping. As more people seek to donate online, it makes sense to provide them with that opportunity.

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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Church Fundraising Software: 4 Things You Need to Know