How Amazon Changed Church Giving Forever
Amazon (and eCommerce) has changed church giving forever. Here's what you need to know and how your church can respond before you get left behind.
January 22, 2020
Need help preparing giving statements for your church? Here's how you can take this opportunity to remind your church about the faithfulness of God.
December 21, 2018
There are some things in your church you cannot avoid.
And I’m not talking about …
I’m talking about taxes.
In particular, I’m talking about giving statements.
Giving statements are a regular occurrence in the life of your church.
They are statements the IRS requires your church to send out no later than January 31.
This date may not be as celebrated as Christmas or Easter. But it’s a date your church needs to write down on the calendar as a friendly reminder.
Here’s the deal:
Don’t just stuff envelopes with a piece of paper that only includes the IRS jargon for tax deductions. Leverage this tax requirement as an opportunity to remind your church about the faithfulness of God.
In this post, I’m going to share the best practices for sending giving statements to your church, including:
Let’s get started!
Giving statements are more than a necessary evil.
They are reminders of God’s faithfulness toward us.
Think about it this way.
The people who have financially supported your church have made financial sacrifices. Many people in your church (maybe you?) have had to dig deep into their pockets or cut back on expenses in order to scrape up enough money to donate.
What’s more, through the financial contributions of your church members, God sustained your church for another year. He provided your church with the financial resources you needed to preach the gospel, build Christian community, and support the well-being of your community.
This is why including a cover letter with your church’s giving statements can be so powerful. It allows you to remind your church of God’s goodness.
Need help writing a cover letter?
Don’t sweat it.
I’ve got you covered below.
But first, let’s take a look at common mistakes to avoid.
You may be tempted to take the easy road by sending people giving statements.
This makes sense.
As a pastor, your time is limited.
You’re pulled in a thousand directions, and just printing and sending giving statements sounds like an easy task to mark off your to-do list.
But here’s the deal:
Even though you have a looming deadline, you can’t rush sending giving statements. There are four common mistakes you’ll likely commit if you hit the print and send button too soon.
Here’s what you need to be on the lookout for:
Don’t rush creating and sending giving statements.
Sure, you can print every giving statement from your church in a matter of moments (we make generating giving statements super easy). But this doesn’t mean you should just stuff them in envelopes and drop them off at the post office.
Like anything your church shares publicly, you want to do it with excellence—which means you need to take your time.
Here are three things you’ll need to do at a minimum:
Is everything ready to print and deliver?
But not so fast.
Be sure to run spellcheck. There’s nothing that screams a lack of professionalism more than sending an important document riddled with errors.
If you think you’re ready to send your giving statements after running spellcheck, hang tight.
You’ll need to have your letter and statement proofread.
Here’s the deal:
Using spellcheck in Microsoft Word or Google Docs isn’t enough. Even using a beefed-up service like Grammarly won’t catch every mistake.
You need the help of a professional.
To catch every misspelling or grammar mistake, it’s best to have someone proofread your cover letter and giving statement. This added layer of review will provide your church with a higher-level of quality and control and will help you make sure you didn’t include an embarrassing mistake.
Finally, the last thing you’ll need to is double-check names.
Even if you pull every name from a database, there’s a chance someone’s name will be misspelled. Be sure to review names so that they’re spelled correctly.
“Hello, Church Family!”
There’s nothing that says impersonal more than an impersonal greeting.
It can be easy to take this for granted in the church for different reasons. But it’s a big deal for anyone to donate money instead of spending what they’ve earned or received.
For your church, unless you have donor information stored in your giving tools or church management software, you may not be able to create a personal greeting. In this situations, it's okay to mail your cover letter and giving statements with general greetings.
Another part of your cover letter you don’t want to take for granted is your closing.
For most churches, it’s best for the senior pastor to sign his or her name in the closing.
To do this, your senior pastor doesn’t have to know what each person donated (if that’s important for your church, you can add a comment saying the senior pastor did not review donations). He or she can simply sign their name on the cover letter.
From social media to printed bulletins, your church shares a tremendous amount of information. In everything your church shares with the public—even giving statements—you need to strive for consistency in your church’s branding.
Said another way, be sure to include your church’s logo and add elements to your cover letter and giving statements to reinforce your church’s image.
I understand sending giving statements is a requirement by the IRS.
But this doesn’t mean you should only send people their giving statements.
This is an opportunity for you to do three things:
To accomplish these goals, you’ll need to include a cover letter.
Now it’s time to take a look at how to write a cover letter, and a few examples from other churches.
Writing a cover letter doesn’t have to be complicated.
There are only three big things you need to include:
Here are the details for each section.
It’s best to include the names of people in your greetings.
This personal touch may not seem like a big deal. But a general greeting can feel like a small, impersonal slight on the receiving end.
Don’t forget to add this essential detail in your greeting.
Your greeting will serve as a slide into the body of your letter.
There’s not much to understanding the body of your cover letter—it’s the primary message you want to convey.
In general, there are three topics you want to capture in the body of your cover letter:
Let’s take a look at these individually.
The first thing you want to include is an expression of thankfulness.
Without the financial support of people, your church could not …
In short, your church needs money to function.
Make sure to include a heartfelt expression of thanks at the beginning of your cover letter.
God is at work in your church.
God doesn't work by himself as a Lone Ranger.
He works through the men and women in your church to accomplish his purposes.
Take this time to remind your church how God worked through them in the previous year. To do this, identify at least 2–3 milestones you can share with your church.
Here are some questions you can ask to stir up ideas:
There are more questions you can ask and different things you can share.
But here’s the big idea:
Let your church know that what was accomplished would not have been possible without their financial support. Because they participated in God’s work by donating money, they too can enjoy the benefits of these treasures in heaven.
When sharing highlights from your previous year, considering sharing a story from an individual or family, or an individual or ministry you supported.
If you only share data, such as …
You run the risk of sounding robotic.
By including at least one story in your cover letter, you add a human element to the numbers you’re talking about and highlight the real, tangible work of God through your church.
God’s work doesn’t cease on December 31.
He doesn’t take a break.
His work building his church will continue tomorrow, next year, and until Jesus returns.
In your cover letter, cast a vision of what your church can expect next year.
What do you have planned?
Is your church pursuing new ministry initiatives?
Will your church provide more financial support for local or foreign missions?
Does your church have a need to hire new staff to provide pastoral care?
If you can, share a few goals your church is pursuing.
By casting a vision for tomorrow, you’ll be in a position to encourage your church to participate in the work of God.
In the closing of your letter, there are two big ideas you want to cover:
Let’s take a look at these individually.
Don’t forget why you’re writing this cover letter:
You’re sending your church’s financial supporters their annual giving statements.
Before signing off, call attention to the enclosed giving statement for their review.
In the end, include a signature from your senior pastor.
I understand this may be too much to ask for churches with attendance in the thousands.
But if your church has membership in the hundreds, it’s a good idea to include a handwritten signature from your senior pastor. A signature is a nice personal touch you can’t afford to miss.
A signature might be overlooked by your church when reading your cover letter. But it’s something they’ll notice if it’s missing.
Another way you can send your church’s giving statements is via email.
Many people in your church prefer receiving emails instead of direct mail. Be sure to email your church giving statements too.
In this email, it’s also a good idea to include your cover letter.
Here’s an email example from C3LA:
In this example, C3LA led with a short cover letter and included a link for their church to download their giving statements.
Here are two examples of cover letters from our friends at Generis:
Don’t be caught off guard by annual giving statements.
The IRS requires you to send one at the end of every fiscal year.
Fight the temptation to just stuff your giving statements into envelopes.
Write a cover letter to …
Including a cover letter with your giving statements is one way you can encourage your church to continue to excel in the grace of giving (2 Cor 8:7).