Generosity

3 Key Findings & Online Giving Best Practices from Dunham+Company Fundraising Research

Here are three key findings from Dunham+Company, as well as a list of online giving best practices.

3 Key Findings & Online Giving Best Practices from Dunham+Company Fundraising Research
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How people shop and give continues to change. From making purchases to donating money, online is becoming the new normal.

You can probably observe these changes taking place in your life, as well as in the life of your church and community. For many people in the United States, we tend to think digital first when we’re shopping for something new, and we’re slowly getting accustomed to using our phones for social media, shopping, and even giving.

To help you stay up-to-date with these latest changes, we like to keep our thumbs on the pulse of the latest research. According to a new study by Dunham+Company, they have observed a dramatic increase in churches who offer online giving since 2015. In their research, they not only uncovered this significant finding, but they also unearthed several additional trends you and your church need to know and plan for.

Here are three key findings from Dunham+Company, as well as a list of best practices to increase your church’s online giving.

#1. A significant jump in churches who offer online giving

Based on the Dunham+Company/Campbell Rinker study, there has been a significant increase in churches who now offer online giving. From their research, they discovered that 74% of churches in the United States now offer online giving, which is up from 42% in 2015.

Based upon trends in consumer behavior, we believe the number of churches who offer online giving will continue to climb steadily. What is more, there are also several reasons why we think the number of people who give online or with their mobile device will increase, and that churches both big and small will observe an increase in their online giving.

For more information on these trends, check out How Giving Changed in 2017: 4 Trends Your Church Needs to Know.

#2. Smaller churches struggle with online giving

Even though smaller churches observed the most considerable uptick in offering online giving, smaller churches also experience the greatest challenges in leading people to give online.

From 2015 to 2017, the number of smaller churches in the U.S. who now offer online giving increased from 29% to 59%. As you can see in the graph above, despite the significant increase in the number of smaller churches who offer online giving, the number of people who actually give online in these churches decreased.

Commenting upon this trend, Trent Dunham, President of Dunham+Company, said, “Clearly larger churches are making [online giving] a priority while smaller churches are still struggling—even though the percentage who are offering the option to give online has basically doubled.”

As smaller churches embrace online giving, there are several reasons why many of their members are not giving online, which leads us to the next point.

#3. Common hurdles to online giving

Whether your church is big or small, there are various hurdles every church faces in leading people to give online. Here are some obstacles to online giving Dunham highlighted in their study:

  • Lack of promotion
  • Demographics
  • Unavailable giving kiosks
  • Complicated technology
  • No church app

Depending on the demographics of your church, you may have a congregation of people who are not inclined to give online for different reasons. This isn’t something to be concerned about, but it’s still a good idea to provide people with several ways to give, which will increase your church’s giving.

A giving Kiosk may seem out of reach for smaller churches, but that’s not the case. With Tithe.ly, you can turn your tablets or computers into a giving Kiosk that allows people to make a one-time donation or set up recurring giving in seconds.

When it comes to building an app for your church, the concerns usually are the same as giving Kiosks. Many church leaders believe they’re cost prohibitive, time-consuming, or not necessary.

Well, things are changing fast, and the costs of getting an app for your church are declining, and mobile giving is rapidly increasing. What is more, as I pointed out above, providing additional ways your members can give will increase giving in your church.

Related: 9 Charitable Giving Statistics Your Church or Ministry Needs to Know

If you’re the pastor of a small church or a volunteer leader, don’t allow these common hurdles to keep you from moving forward with using and promoting digital giving tools in your church.

#4. Best practices for encouraging online giving

To help you lead your church to embrace online giving, I reached out to Eric Bryant, Tithe.ly’s Implementation Team Lead, to provide some insight. Eric has been in ministry for more than 10 years, and he has helped countless churches launch new digital giving tools.

From his experience working, Eric said, “When it comes to giving, the biggest pain point for pastors in smaller churches is that their desperately needs more giving to grow.” He went on to say, “Some pastors are worried that if they teach Biblical generosity that people will be offended and stop giving altogether.”

In combating this fear, what Eric learned over the years is that people “will be more offended if you skirt around the issue of giving and don’t speak clearly and concisely.”  

1. Boldly teach the Bible

Talking about money isn’t easy. It’s a personal conversation, and most people don’t like the idea of someone knowing about their spending or giving habits. But this discomfort isn’t a reason to shy away from preaching or teaching on the subject.

Eric encourages church leaders to not "be timid when talking about giving and generosity.” Instead, he suggests, "Be bold and direct.”

If you’re not sure where to start or need help on what to preach about giving, check out 2 Sermons on Giving Your Church Must Hear.

2. Show people how to give

For promoting online giving, you don’t need a fog machine, light show, or fireworks. The only thing you need to do is to let people know all of the ways they can give regularly. .

“When you’re making an offering, let your church know that they can give online or with their mobile device. It doesn’t have to be flashy. Just informative.”

If your church uses a projector, Eric also recommends this idea, “Display a slide on the screen showing all the different ways that people can give when talking about giving in service.”

Offering more giving opportunities and just letting people know what options are available will go a long way in building a generous culture in your church.

3. Share stories

God is alive, and he’s at work in your church. He's giving people new life in Christ, he’s restoring marriages, and he’s transforming people into generous givers.

To capture God’s work in your church, Eric suggests, “Use personal testimonies from givers in your church. Give people the opportunity to share how being generous changed their life and the lives of others.”

Sharing stories with your church is one way you can illustrate God’s work in the lives of people and encourage the members of your church to honor God with their money.

What have you found helpful in leading people to give online? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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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3 Key Findings & Online Giving Best Practices from Dunham+Company Fundraising Research