Health and Growth

The Future of Fundraising Software

The digital revolution is happening in the church. Befriend the right kind of technology so your church can befriend the right kind of growth.

The Future of Fundraising Software
by

Dean Sweetman

The digital revolution is happening.

Analog ways of doing things are passing away.

Paper. Pencils. Manual excel sheets. Counting cash.

These practices are all going extinct.

This digital revolution is happening around the world. And, what’s happening outside the church will eventually happen inside the church in the form of fundraising software.

This is particularly true of eCommerce and financial transactions.

A snapshot of modern eCommerce

A few years ago, a company got started called Uber. And you may not have ever used the Uber app. I use it just about every day. I live in Los Angeles. It's an urban environment. We have one car at home. I use Uber like this: I tap the app, I set the place I want to go, I get a car within three to five minutes, I get dropped off, I never touch a credit card, I never worry about anything, and I go.

About eight years ago, Starbucks came out with the first app where you could actually buy coffee within the app. I'd load my credit card into their digital wallet and then I'd go and get a coffee. I can even pre-order the coffee from the app, and it gets made before I even arrive at the Starbucks. I didn’t touch cash. I didn't touch a credit card. All of this was done from within the app.

This trend is happening across entire industries, including Whole Foods and Walgreen. Within 5 years, just about every retail experience you have is going to allow you to make purchases without even touching a credit card.

Very likely, credit cards will become obsolete because all the data you need to have for transaction will be stored in a mobile device. I know that might freak some people out, but this trend is going a million miles an hour and that's the way world commerce is going.

This year alone, two trillion dollars of payments were made through mobile phones. That number will be bigger next year.

The Church and eCommerce: Unbelievable data

Let's drop the church into this trend for a moment. Traditionally, the church has struggled when it comes to new technologies. When technology comes along, churches often want to shy away from it. They're scared of it. They're not sure if it's the right thing for them to do.

I have the total opposite view. Any technology that the world is using to increase their profits and their margins, we should be using to increase our profits and our margins. Our profits are the preaching of the gospel, the winning of souls to Christ, and the building of the kingdom on the earth.

So, as minister, a pastor, a church planter, I think it's essential that we update our methods with 21st century when it comes to mobile payments and commerce.

Over the last seven or eight years, the shift from giving from cash and check has really started to pick up speed. Today, $120 billion is given to faith based organizations in America and still only 15% are digital. That leaves $100+ billion still received by cash and check.

The problem is both demographics and the technology curve are shifting what's happening in churches.

We sign on hundreds of churches every month to our platform and the main reason that we hear back from churches that are calling out to get set up, is this: “Young people in our congregation wanted a way to be able to give through an app or through the website, or via text.”

Your congregations, as they get younger, are going to force you into a place where you have to have a really great digital giving strategy. Of course, we can help you with that at Tithe.ly, but whether you use our software or someone else’s, you will be in a situation where you’ll have to use an app or start losing financial resources quickly. You've got to have a really clear mobile ecommerce strategy for your church. The average gift size to a church in cash and check is about $40. The average gift size via digital giving platform, (on Tithe.ly, for example), is $177. You might wonder: “Why the disparity?” There are a few reasons.

Don’t shackle generosity to attendance

In today's society, people aren't in church every week. And we know, as ministers, that if they're not there, they’re probably not giving. But guess what they always have in their pocket? Their mobile phone. When you give your congregation an easy way to give from a mobile device, you are literally giving them the opportunity to give anywhere, anytime.

When it was the Fourth of July, I used to freak out pastoring my church in Atlanta. Fourth of July weekend we'd get snowstorms coming through in the winter. The church would not be there. No people. Budget crushed. The beautiful thing about having a mobile strategy is you've got the ability to have in peoples hands, they can give anywhere, anytime, and that is a game changer. That makes their giving more consistent.

We survey the churches that use our service at Tithe.ly. We find through all the surveys that people aren’t failing to give because they don’t want to give. They’re not giving because the church makes it really hard for them to give. And, unless they’re in the building, they aren’t able to make a contribution. With a great mobile strategy, all of that changes.

When people can give on their financial schedule, they give more

With a formulated mobile giving strategy in your church, you allow people to set up recurring giving with two clicks. When I can set an amount, if I get paid the 1st and 15th, I can enter: “Give X dollars to [CHURCH] on the 1st and 15th.” Done. Automatic gift through my phone. I set it up on the 1st of the month, I press send, and I'm done.

Again, don’t forget this basic truth—the people in your church want to give. They want to tithe. You're teaching on it. You're exhorting them biblically about giving and generosity. But if we don't give them the easy tools in this day and age to do it, they’re not going to give. Analog methods for collecting tithes were fine 50 years ago when 90% of your members came to church every single week. But we know with all the things that are pulling on families—sports, soccer, and everything that happens on the weekends now—families are just so busy, they're often not there every week.

Having a mobile solution for them to be able to give puts them in a setting where they can give anywhere, anytime. Then, when you're teaching about giving and stewardship, helping people set up recurring, this absolutely changes the game for you.

We have churches in our network for whom 70-80% of their income comes in through recurring giving. Do you know what that means? With digital giving, 70-80% of their budget is going to come into the church no matter if they turn up on Sunday or not. That's a game changer for churches. That's a game changer for you to be able to budget, to be able to work out what you can do with the funds that you receive.

Formulating a digital strategy is an enormous asset to your church—and that's happening because the marketplace is already persuading and teaching your church to do this. Amazon, Starbucks, and the rest of the mobile eCommerce early adopters have already familiarized your congregation with this digital giving’s legitimacy, security, and ease.

The best way adopt a digital giving strategy in your church

Your congregants are already putting their credit card in apps in their phone and using those apps to get a car, to buy a coffee, pick up their prescriptions, and go to Walmart. The question isn’t “Why would the church adopt mobile giving technology?” but rather: “Why hasn’t the church adopted this technology yet?”

When you adopt this technology, your congregants will think: "Oh, the church is finally here. I've done six things this week with my phone and now it's just going to make total sense for me to be able to give and contribute through my mobile device.”

Clarity must be a key performance indicator in a successful digital strategy. You have to lay it out very clearly. You have to instruct people on how to give through the app. Risk overemphasizing the logistics of giving so that people are never wondering how to give. More than that, emphasize that digital giving is a priority for your church.

As you make digital giving a priority, you will see your offerings go up. Our data looks at hundreds of millions of dollars, thousands and thousands of offerings. Every month we look at that data and we see a couple of really cool things.

Break free from Sunday-only giving

Most (⅔) of the giving on our platform is not on a Sunday.

Monday through Saturday giving on our platform is two-thirds. Only ⅓ is Sunday. If I were to survey most churches that don’t use digital giving, they'd tell me that at least 80-90% of their income comes from the offering plate on a Sunday.

You're missing out, conservatively, on 30-40% of the money that people would've wanted to give, but won’t, because giving is not made convenient through an easy-to-use digital giving platform.

We see people giving all times of the day and night. We see them giving all hours of the day. We see them giving all throughout the week. It’s truly amazing. When people set up recurring giving through their phone, we have big spikes on our platform.

When it's the 1st of the month, and the 1st is a Wednesday, we see millions of dollars coming in our platform because of all the people that get paid on the first and the 15th. It generates an automatic gift. Taking this into account in your church’s digital giving strategy is absolutely critical. Especially if you're planting a church, you want to create a culture that, from the very beginning, fluently gives recurring gifts digitally. You want to be a digital-first giving church.

When you lead people down that path, anyone under 40 is automatically going to do it, but you'd be astounded how quickly 40+ members pick it up. Everybody becomes comfortable with the convenience of digital giving when they're convinced how secure it is (more secure than cash and check) and how easy it is (easier than putting cash in a plate). When they see these things, they'll jump on board, and your digital giving strategy is going to be absolutely critical for your moving forward.

Ditch your medieval record keeping routine

Could your current financial record keeping strategy be duplicated on a scroll? If so, it’s analog, and will evaporate from church professional “best practices” in the next 10 years.

Digital giving makes record keeping far easier. That data behind your church’s giving trends is very important, and this is an entirely separate subject. Understanding your giving data gives you the best key performance indicators you can have in running your church in the same way as a successful business.

Don't get me wrong—I understand the kingdom is not a business. I understand what we're all involved in and even though I'm working with business-minded people, I understand that you're in the business of building the kingdom, planting a church, and growing that church.

But again, you're drawing on the wisdom of business principles to help you grow your church. Some of the key performance indicators that you need to be looking at are the trends of your giving. Year in and year out, you need to be able to see if your church is growing. You want to see that giving growing.

When there's summer (here’s a very cool thing), most churches go through what's normally known as the “summer slump.” Not on our platform. We see giving go up through the summer.

That's why when your members are at the Fourth of July barbecue, on a boat somewhere and they're missing church, they get a push notification Sunday morning, "Hey, have a great Fourth of July. Don't forget to give. Swipe left." And people do. Or, even better, they’ve already set a recurring gift to automatically send on the 4th.

We see in our churches using Tithe.ly that giving increases through the summer. Again, people want to give. Mature and maturing Christians desire to give. People often don’t give, not because they don’t want to give, but because the church has made it almost impossible to give if they’re not physically at church every Sunday.

Over to you, church leader

Creating an informed and growth-minded great digital strategy is so critical. That's why getting the data that you capture from the digital giving is so critical. You're going to be able to use all the technology in such a way that it's going to take a burden off you as a minster. Your budget is going to be shored up as a result of employing a digital strategy.

Adopt a digital giving strategy for your church today that employs these commonsense principles from the growing mobile ecommerce trends emerging in the marketplace today.

Your church will grow faster.

You will understand your growth better.

And you won’t be leaving kingdom growth on the table.

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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The Future of Fundraising Software