10 Ways to Maximize Your Year-End Offering
Year-end giving is a crucial time for your church. Here are 10 ways you can maximize end of the year giving in your church.
November 14, 2019
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).
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.