Meet the Pastor Turned CEO Who's Helped Thousands of Churches Raise Hundreds of Millions of Dollars
A personal introduction to the CEO and co-founder of the world's leading church technology company.
December 16, 2019
If you don't know how to get millennials to give, your church will lose an entire generation of giving. Build a legacy by understanding the latest trends in millennial giving.
August 12, 2019
Millennials are a generation driven by authenticity, digital nativity, and a drive to discover purposefulness in their work and lives.
Their spending habits, earning history, and values tell the first chapter of the story of America’s next generation of wealth.
As the silent generation and baby boomers grow older and become dependent on their children, millennials are the young generation of entrepreneurs, church leaders, donors, backers, partners, and investors who will decide where the majority of money goes, why it goes there, and for what purpose it is given.
This means that donor appeals, moving forward, will have to take into account the psychology of millennials, their history with money, the ways in which they are different former generations, the nature of young loyalty, and how it can mature over decades into beautiful giving partnerships with churches that can transform communities.
Failure to understand or take seriously the millennial buying base will result in a failure to build significant partnerships with the next phase of wealth production, and therefore will fail to reap donations from the next generation of wealth.
In this article, we will unpack who millennials are and, more importantly, what are their core financial practices in so far as it reflects values related to money, donations, and and worthwhile charitable causes.
Millennials make up a major portion of the United States population—83.1 Million American Citizens are millennials, to be exact. (U. S. Census Bureau).
As far as giving goes, Millennials make up 20% of total giving (Blackbaud). And that number is only increasing.
Millennials are, according to the U. S. Census Bureau, those born between 1982 and 2000.
This population is deeply concerned with using the industrially produced resources of previous generations to effect social change in the world, measured along the axis of conscientiousness and physical wellbeing in the form of racial, sexual, political, and even economic equality.
But their concern for these issues is filtered through the highest standards of any generation for the moral integrity required for handling and processing this money. What were previously considered luxury features are now the presumed stock-and-trade of the millennial eCommerce and donation experience.
Here are eleven ways that this reality manifests itself for millennials:
83% of Millennials are concerned about security when Online Shopping (UPS).
The “Prince from Nigeria” scams have been replaced with cloaked instagram pyramid schemes.
While grandmothers are wiring their retirement to imposters through Wells Fargo, millennials keep high cybersecurity walls, actively use VPNs on their computers and smartphones, use machine-generated 16-character alphanumeric passwords, and guard their private identity.
eCommerce is especially a critical issue for millennials.
As tools become more advanced to guard internet users from malicious actors, millennials are wary enough of scammers to recognize that they should never share identity-critical information with anyone online—at times even recognizing that cloud-based servers are not as secure as internal servers.
Millennials are not strictly digital natives. They were born in an analog world, and migrated easily into our smartphone age. A growing majority of millennials use smartphones in place of credit cards, debit cards, and bank account information.
Primary methods of transaction have exchanged cash and plastic for Venmo, PayPal, Square, and even brand-specific apps such as Starbucks, which includes reward incentives for using the app to make a purchase in contrast to paying directly with a card.
This is partly because of the time that eCommerce saves. With distributors such as Amazon, nearly all commute time to brick and mortar locations can be eliminated, which saves on both time and gas money.
Therefore, if there is ever an opportunity to defer to a digital solution over against an analog or non-recurring model, millennials will opt for the digital option.
40% of millennials are enrolled in a monthly giving program.
Millennials prefer to make predictable, monthly purchases than need-based, fluctuating cost.
This is why Millennials lease transportation and housing longer and more often than any other generation.
More than that, 72% of Millennials have a Netflix subscription.
Pair this with the rise in monthly “box” clubs as alternatives to as-needed products—shaving, cooking, clothing, etc.—and you can see that Millennials would rather pay a predictable monthly lump sum for a curated and consistent user experience than pay sporadic, fluctuating amounts that are more some months and less others.
40% of Millennials refer to online reviews before purchasing a product (Millennial Marketing).
This means that, in an eCommerce marketplace in which there are not 2 major companies competing for market share, but rather 2,000 brands competing for single-digit percentage points of market share, reviews drive purchasing decisions more than any other factor, after price and availability.
Millennials care about the reputation of the brands they buy from, whether their products will last, and what is the longevity of their buying relationship with any particular company.
Most preferred method of giving is debit/credit card (55%), compared to cash (14%), bank transfer (11%), or PayPal (10%). More than that, millennials more than any generation are inspired to give through social media (39%), but want to give through social media payment portals less than any other generation (16%) (2018 Trends in Global Giving Report).
This means that millennials want to engage in online commerce, but due to their security concerns, are less trusting of Silicon Valley giants who may later use or abuse their payment information privacy.
Retaining control over one’s own payment information is a critical concern for millennials, which is why it takes earning an enormous amount of trust before they are willing to permit certain apps or websites to save their credit card information.
Millennials more than any other generation (46%) contribute to crowdfunding campaigns.
This is clearly prompted by the millennial instinct to contribute to something meaningful.
If others are contributing to a cause, joining in that cause to help someone in need, or helping to fund someone’s medical bills, millennials are very loose with their money.
Where they might spare their money on entertainment (more below), trips, or major purchases, they are willing to give large portions of their paycheck to help others in need through crowdfunding campaigns.
Social media companies have attempted to take advantage of this by pairing “birthday” events with crowdfunded donations.
This is compelling to millennials, and when they see someone is reaching out to the community for help, they are highly likely to give.
In the 2018 Trends in Global Giving Report, female millennials’ (3,782) top 5 causes did not include faith & spirituality, but for males, faith was fourth (9%). The top 3 causes to millennials are the economy, education, and health care (Millennial Impact Report).
These “causes” represent deeply rooted values in millennial psychology that non-profit organizations should keep in mind as they craft their pitch for millennials to donate to them.
For example, if the non-profit is a faith-based organization, it is better to craft its pitch to boomers in terms of faith and spirituality, and it is better to craft its pitch to millennials in terms of the social impact of the organization. Both pitches represent real work that the organization is doing, but it offers each population a different angle for participating in a solution to a common problem.
This means that millennials are earning almost exactly the national average ($56,516). Some assume that millennials have not yet come into their capital—and this may be true to a degree—but they have been able to generate enough wealth to meet the national average, which means that as they age, they will likely continue to build wealth and exceed the wealth base of boomers and GenX within the next several decades.
Millennials spend 50% less on entertainment than GenX and Boomers (Bureau of Labor Statistics). This is partly because U.S. millennials’ expenses are, on average, $47,112 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). A large part of these expenses are children, as over 40% of millennials are parents (Pew).
Messaging was always important to millennials—that is, before they became parents—and yet, now that they are having more and more children, the values that they look for in messaging have matured into a more conservative vision for the economy, the future of education, and the social fabric into which their children will grow.
Millennials most often post on Facebook (87%) about social causes (Millennial Impact Report). This means that millennials are highly active on platforms that launched adjacent to and along with the iPhone in 2007—including Facebook, Twitter, and later Instagram.
These are distinctively millennial platforms, and derivatively boomer-oriented platforms.
Facebook is the platform most-often used by millennials to express social concern, explain values, and crowdsource opinions, resources, and mobilize a community for an event or cause.
Churches should keep this in mind. Paired with our previous insight about the millennial predilection for security and desire not to give through Facebook directly, Facebook is a tool best used to mobilize interaction, activism, and giving elsewhere.
Use this information to guide your interaction with millennials, your growing relationship with them, and your strategy for fundraising from them as a unique wealth base.
They will play an active role in shaping the next generation of church life, not only because of their population size, but because their growing capital will give them a voice in the growing and changing landscape of the Christian church on a global scale.
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.