Church Giving During COVID: Reasons for Optimism
God’s people are still giving, churches are learning from this pandemic, and God is still faithful.
October 26, 2020
The holidays are one of the best times of the year—spending time with family, shopping for gifts, eating great food, and sending out year-end giving appeals.
Wait, what was that last one?
Yes, ‘tis the season for year-end giving—at least for those of us who work for churches and nonprofits.
Churches and nonprofit organizations depend on donations. And the end of the year is traditionally the time when most charitable giving takes place.
Planning for end of year donations isn’t always easy for church leaders. Partially, because most of us don’t like to talk about money. But also because we’re so busy with planning for Christmas.
So how does your church increase year-end giving?
Here are five steps to get you started.
Most churches and nonprofits start their year-end giving push in November. Some begin asking for these year-end gifts as early as September. That might be too early for your church, but it still shows the importance of not waiting until the last minute.
Asking for year-end gifts isn’t a one-time thing—it’s a process.
To have a successful year-end fundraising campaign, you’ve got to show people why giving matters. And that takes time. More time than you get when you start at the last minute.
Plan so that you don’t get caught up in the busyness of the holiday season. Give yourself time to get ready to ensure you make the most of the end of the year giving push.
Before you share one year-end giving message, there’s one thing you must do:
Make a plan.
Don’t let this idea overwhelm you.
You don’t need marketing experience or a multi-million dollar budget to create a year-end giving campaign. What you do need is to know your congregation, create a plan, and choose a channel.
Let’s take a look at these in detail.
Think about your congregation.
Now, think about their demographics.
What about Generation X or Baby Boomers?
As you think about the demographics of your church, keep this in mind:
People within these different generational groups have different communication and donation preferences. For example, Millennials are more likely to donate online or with their mobile phone, whereas a Baby Boomer may prefer to write a check and have face-to-face communication.
Now that you know your congregation, it’s time to make a plan.
If you’re pressed for time, there are only three things you need to create a plan:
Who is your message for (e.g., Millennial)?
What channel are you going to use (e.g., church offering, email, direct mail)?
When are you going to send this message?
As you create your plan, keep this in mind:
Every message you create requires time and work. On one hand, if you want to send a mailer, you’ll need to create the mailer, review it, and have it ready in time to send. On the other hand, if you want to mention year-end giving during your church’s offering, you just need to prepare your talking points.
When creating your plan, you’ll want to keep an eye on what channels of communication you use, which leads us to the next point.
Do you have a timeline ready?
Not sure how to best connect with your congregation?
Here are a list of different channels of communication you can use:
You don’t have to use all of these channels.
You know your congregation best, so think through the best way to share your year-end giving campaign.
But let me forewarn you:
It will take more than one message to encourage people to donate.
Let me show you why.
One reason for starting your year-end giving ask early is because you’ll want to ask for donations more than once.
Asking for year-end giving more than once might make you uncomfortable. But your church needs donations to continue operating. So you’ve got to talk about money.
Year-end giving is important.
Make sure people are aware of that.
It often takes more than a few touch points before people take action. So don’t be afraid to ask for donations multiple times, and in multiple different ways.
How church members can donate should never be a barrier to donating.
Unfortunately, that’s the case for too many churches. Often, churches have outdated giving systems that make it difficult and confusing for members to contribute.
Your job as a church leader is to remove as many barriers to giving as possible. Part of that is offering a few different ways to give for different people in your church. That could range from giving in person at the church, to text giving through their phone.
The more ways you provide people to give makes it easier for more people to participate in year-end giving. Take away any excuses for why church members might not give.
The method of giving is one barrier for church donors.
The other big one is the reason for giving.
Why should people support your church financially?
You may not be asking yourself that question, but potential givers certainly are.
The reason why goes beyond just what the Bible says. Sure, God calls us to be generous with our money. But why specifically should people be generous to your church? What are you doing in the community that should compel people to direct their year-end gift to you?
The more clearly you explain why people should give, the easier it will be for them to do so. People aren’t driven to action because of what—they follow the emotion behind a powerful why, which leads me to my next point.
Perhaps the best way to explain why is by telling stories.
Stories connect with people on a deeper, emotional level. Stories about how your church is using donations demonstrate the importance of year-end giving. Don’t just tell people it’s important, show them with a story.
In the end, people respond to people.
Here are different stories you can share:
Share any type of story that highlights the difference your church makes because of the donations you receive. Keeping your givers front and center in the stories you share are essential.
Real life stories about transformation will inspire more year-end gifts than statistics. The stories you tell this holiday season can lead directly to greater financial stability at your church.
Feel ill-equipped to share stories?
Be sure to watch How to Tell Compelling Stories to Increase Giving. In this video, Phil Bowdle, a creative arts pastor, how churches of any size can tell compelling stories, and four questions every great story answers.
Creating a year-end giving campaign for your church doesn’t have to be difficult.
There are only six-steps you need to take:
If you’re just reading this today, and you feel like you don’t have enough time, that’s okay. Focus on making a plan, reduce your timeline, and share whatever messages you can from now until the end of the year. Sending at least one message about year-end giving is better than not talking about it all.