Health and Growth

How to Run a Successful Church Event: The Definitive Guide

Everybody wants the perfect church event. No errors. No mistakes. Don't let anyone tell you that's a pipe dream. With this guide, it can be real.

How to Run a Successful Church Event: The Definitive Guide
by

Paul Maxwell

Wouldn’t it be great if the next church event you planned went off without a hitch?

We all want the perfect event.

Think about this for a moment:

The day of the event arrives.

You’ve crossed your t’s and dotted your i’s.

Every detail has been looked after.

As people arrive, things start moving.

The planned activities have people connecting, laughing, talking, and learning.

Their experience from start to finish is seamless.

Everyone leaves happy and satisfied.

Someone leans in to tell you what a fantastic event it was as they walk out the door.

You look around afterward and all you can see is a job well done.

Be honest—this feels like a fantasy more than an attainable reality.

Well here’s the good news:

It is an attainable reality.

You can plan a successful event.

And you know what? Everything you need to know is right here in this article.

Let’s get busy.

1. Incentivize attendees to pre-commit


It’s much easier for people to work your event into their schedules if they are aware of it ahead of time. Later on, it’ll incentivize others to sign up as they see how many others are already attending.

If you’re planning something like a conference, the best way to do this is to offer an Early Bird special.

If a more low-key occasion is what’s on the table, offer an incentive for the first few people to RSVP.

2. Be proactive against last minute bail-outs

Let’s face it—We’ve all bailed-out on our plans at one point.

You were in a better, more optimistic mood when you signed up for that conference or rsvp’d to that party. Now that the day has actually rolled around, you think you’ll probably have a better time in sweats on the couch watching Netflix and smashing the pizza you’re about to order for delivery.

Believe it or not, this could happen to your event attendees, too.

Build value into the event. Give them something they want

Show your attendees that this is a valuable investment of their time. Things like food, games, and other fun activities will draw people in.

Regularly remind them the event is approaching.

Send out recurring emails, push notifications, texts, or messages to refresh that event in their minds.

3. Know what kind of experience you want your attendees to have.

Remember: Great events don’t happen by accident.

So how do you make sure you’re laying the right foundation?

It’s simple:

Know what you want your attendees to experience.

Get together with your event team and brainstorm.

What do you not want for this event? What do you need to happen at this event?

Make sure there are quantifiable and attainable measures that are employed to ensure your success.

4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew


We’ve all been to that event where things just did not go right at all.

You know what I’m talking about, right?

The wedding where a stack of 100 programs get dumped in the trash because no one passed them out. The men’s breakfast Bible study where they had mistakenly prepared to feed no more than 5 diet-conscious squirrels. Or how about the 1-year-old who falls asleep in their Smash Cake because their parents planned a party in the middle of nap time?

These mishaps do not have to be your burdens.

Be realistic about what you can and, more importantly, cannot do by yourself.

Delegation is a valuable practice, especially when it comes to large scale events.

Don’t try to do too many things at once. That will lower the overall quality of your event.

Instead, try focusing on a handful of valuable and simple elements that you can use to create a welcoming and entertaining atmosphere.

5. Ensure there is enough prep time the day of

Think you can just roll up the day of the event, maybe an hour beforehand, maybe just 30 minutes (depends on if you stop for Starbucks on the way or not), and still be satisfied with your result? You’re out of luck.

The best thing you can do for the success of your event is to prepare, prepare, and prepare.

A good rule of thumb is to give yourself 20%–50% more time than you had expected it to take if all things went according to plan.

Here’s a secret:

All things will certainly not go according to plan.

We live in a world full of unknowns, and it’s best for you to embrace that now.

6. Structure the event to accommodate late arrivals


You’ve been late before. It happens! But what about when it happens at your event? How will you take that inevitable possibility into account?

Give your event a buffer time.

Let’s say you’re hosting a dinner. Invite people to arrive at 6:00 p.m., even if the food won’t be ready until 6:30 p.m. Instead, make drinks and set out hors d’oeurves for your guests.

If you’re putting on a lecture or conference make sure there are open seats in the back row. Also, if there will be various meetings happening at the same time behind closed doors, make sure the meeting titles are posted outside the meeting rooms so late arrivals know where their stop is.

7. Make logistics clear to attendees upon arrival

The worst thing for an event attendee to experience is when they arrive and have no idea what to do. This is your job! Make it as clear as possible.

Get balloons, streamers, and/or signage to indicate entrances. This includes entrances to parking lots, buildings, or even conference rooms.

Make sure a hard copy of the event schedule and details are available on-site. While it’s helpful to send out an email with this information a day or two before, not everyone will have read it.

If you have buffets or kiosks set up of any kind, think strategically about their placement. Before you settle on a setup, think about the flow of traffic in and out of the space.

8. Put forth clear responsibilities for volunteers


The last thing you want is an event that’s falling to pieces, all the while volunteers are standing around waiting for direction you didn’t have the foresight to give them.

Ensure that all volunteers have a clear list of expectations before the day of the event.

Take it a step deeper: Give them a one-sheet the day of the event in addition to having emailed it a few days prior.

If your event is big enough, assign team leaders and create a roles and responsibilities laminated pocket guide that every team member carries with them.

Why is this important?

Because it helps you utilize one of the best assets and events can have: elbow grease. If you aren’t properly managing your volunteers, your event is sure to run into problems it can’t handle.

9. Make sure there’s a way to capture attendee data

What if you could keep in touch with all of your attendees? This doesn’t just need to apply to before your event. It’s crucial to be able to follow-up and connect with them.

So what am I talking about?

There’s a way to communicate with and manage all of your attendees. It’s seamless, easy to use, and the perfect asset to ensure you’re fully prepared for any event.

Forget about collecting checks or keeping track of PayPal transactions.

Say goodbye to juggling spreadsheets and online forms.

Never think about the hassle of setting up check-in tables and leafing through a packet to hastily highlight a name.

Click here to learn more about Tithe.ly’s stellar event management program. Get started free in 5 minutes, no fees, no contract, no credit card required.

10. Prepare for worst case scenario

Nobody likes to talk about it. Not you, not me, not anyone.

But you need to. You have to.

Anything could happen.

Make sure that you have an emergency protocol in place that has been clearly communicated to your volunteers.

Alert your local law enforcement of the event you’re putting on. They’ll want details like the time, location, nature of the event, and an estimated number of those attending.

Take it a step further: get a consultation from a safety and security professional. They could provide insight that you’d never be able to find on Google.

You’re putting on this event to show people a good time. Don’t miss this crucial component of preparation.

11. Make sure you plan and market well and in advance

I’m sure we all remember the disaster that was the Fyre Festival, but in case you don’t, here’s the gist: young guy with connections and some pocket cash puts on a festival, charges an arm and a leg for people to get there, only they’re stuck on a deserted island with no plumbing, no electricity, and minimal food.

No one tries to put on an event like that. It just kind of...happens.

Why does it happen?

Because the event coordinators don’t start in advance.

You’re going to need time to ensure a successful event! How early should you start? It depends on the size and magnitude of your event.

If you’re planning a dinner party with a few friends, allow yourself at least a full week.

Planning a women's retreat? You should be advertising the dates at least three months in advance. Attendees will need to save for the cost as well as get the time off of work.

Now, if you’re taking on a conference, the dates and ticket prices should be available at least 6 months before the event.

Need last-minute help? Check out this guide to quickly creating a communication strategy for your church.

Over to you

So what are you waiting for? There’s nothing standing between you and planning your picture-book event.

You could even have tickets available for purchase today. In the next few minutes, with the help of Tithe.ly’s online event management, your event could be live.

Will it be a lot of hard work? Yes. Will you be tired after all is said and done? Yes. Is it totally worth it? Absolutely.

Author: Paul Maxwell, Ph.D., is the Content Strategist at Tithe.ly. He lives in Fishers, IN with his beautiful wife and rowdy wheaten terrier.

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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How to Run a Successful Church Event: The Definitive Guide