Meet the Pastor Turned CEO Who's Helped Thousands of Churches Raise Hundreds of Millions of Dollars
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December 16, 2019
Reduce tasklist chaos. Create enterprise-level project smoothness on your church team. Use these 10 neglected practices.
August 5, 2019
Project management can be a point of weakness for churches.
It’s very easy to get passionate about ministry or a new opportunity to the point that logistics are overshadowed.
This is why the operational side of churches can easily crumble into a thousand incoherent pieces if someone sneezes the wrong way.
Here’s the good news:
This kind of organizational fragility can be easily prevented, healed, and mitigated when you implement the right principles for team leadership—specifically, project management principles that enable productivity and cultivate a healthy team culture.
More than that, your project management philosophy will become the de facto protocol around which your church organizes itself.
The protocol that your team and teams habitually use to create meetings, share information, and organize social networks within your organization directly correlate with the project management plan you implement to successfully resolve everything from incomplete tasks to major projects.
In this article, we’re going to breakdown those principles so that your church staff can easily apply them and begin reaping their benefits as soon as possible.
Each project needs a team leader to take responsibility for everything in the project.
This doesn’t mean that the team leader does everything in the project.
But it does mean that every detail in the project has a fall person who knows that they are ultimately on the line for the success of the project—and if the metrics for measuring project success are unclear, then the team leader is responsible for clarifying them with church leadership.
All questions, delegations, clarifications, and operational details come back to the team leader.
By making this a consistent practice in your church management strategy, no detail will be left undelegated.
The biggest error that senior leadership teams make is hiring the wrong people and assigning them the wrong tasks.
Most leaders don’t work with teams they’ve hired.
Employees are inherited.
Leadership culture is passed down.
Executives most often step into roles that have a heritage of expectations, practices, and boundaries.
Nevertheless, former culture should not impede the assignment of the right people for the right jobs.
This could result in assigning one person too many tasks.
This is actually an opportunity, not a problem.
If one person becomes the clear point-person for everything, because they are the only team member who can competently handle the tasks, then this indicates that it has come time for the organization to invest in professional development training.
Some people need to be trained on time management, productivity, task organization, psychological focus, emotional intelligence, and even their own strengths and weaknesses (with a program like StrengthFinder 2.0, for example).
The more information you have about your core employees, the better you are able to delegate—and where you cannot delegate, then to promote, demote, fire, hire, or train.
Each project should have a qualitative purpose for which it is established.
Think of each project in your church as ship setting sail from late-medieval Europe.
There is a christening, a breaking of a champagne bottle, and a speech given about the divine purpose of the expedition.
You don’t have to break a champagne bottle (especially if you’re a Baptist), but you can set aside 5 minutes during a church business meeting to officially codify the purpose of your project in the form of a mission statement.
Make this mission statement one sentence.
Clarifying what are the core tasks is essential, not only to completing the project, but for creating a clear chain of progress from start to finish.
More than that, it’s easy for employees and supervised team members to get distracted by tasks that don’t essentially advance the success or completion of the project unless they are shown by the team leader what are the core, essential tasks, and what are necessary but not mission critical.
Your team should all use the same task management tool to track the progress of the project.
In other words, your project should not be split across multiple task management tools.
Your team should regularly consult the single task management tool on which you are managing the project, and allow notifications from that task management software to send them emails, push notifications, and shareable task links.
The only alternative to this is organizational chaos in which the team doesn’t communicate about the progress of the project unless in a meeting, and couldn’t do so in an efficient way even if they wanted to.
Follow-up meetings are essential to keeping momentum on a project.
Meetings get a bad reputation for being unnecessary.
The truth is that they are very necessary.
From the worker’s perspective, it’s easy to see a meeting as a distraction from the work that was assigned to them—and in that sense an impediment to the work they’re meeting about.
And yet, from the team leader’s perspective, the purpose of the meeting is to provide an accountability point at which the team member will be asked about his progress, and should that progress be insufficient, what are the reasons for the lag.
Without follow-up meetings, the team will all operate under an “I’ll be done when I’m done” protocol, which is simply unacceptable and unworkable, especially for larger projects with dozens—or hundreds—of interrelated and interdependent tasks.
Follow-up meetings ensure that the project as a whole is moving along synchronously at an acceptable pace.
You should communicate regularly with each team member so that they have a reference point for project communication.
An MIA team leader will ultimately allow the project to lapse into incompleteness.
Each project deserves a team leader who will be vigilant in creating and maintaining project momentum so that, task by task, completion is achieved through the careful and informed practice of delegation, accountability, and strategic problem solving.
One of the best ways to keep your ear to the ground about insurmountable obstacles, tasks stalled or stuck, and even overburdened or underperforming team members, is to personally check in.
Keep a running list of all the ways your team’s work is making a real difference in your church.
People are motivated to work harder when they know that their work is producing a real good in the world, helping the church in serious way, or fulfilling a mission that they deeply believe in.
Make it easy for your team to make these connections so that they are motivated to complete tasks, and more than that, to proactively help other team members, work ahead, and take ownership or the completion of the project along with you.
This is an important practice for your team.
Your team members should understand that the early due date is not artificially early, but right on time for being ahead.
Therefore, your philosophy should not be “We work ahead just in case.”
Your philosophy should be: “We are finished early so that we are never late.”
Therefore, missing an early deadline is still late to the goal of being early.
Your team should understand that this is your philosophy so that they don’t treat the practice of finishing early casually.
Finishing early is an organizational virtue that translates into a reputation for reliability and success across your entire institution.
Your organization should evaluate which protocols have worked best for each team, and implement this protocol for all future team projects.
Ideally, this will already be done. Your senior leadership team should have streamlined a uniform project management protocol that each team adapts.
Yet, many organizations have never done this and must therefore transition from a multi-system protocol to a single-system protocol.
Some teams won’t be happy with this, but the transition cost of moving to a single-protocol system will pay organizational dividends, even if certain teams must go through a stalling process during which they retrain and reformulate their team structure.
Project management protocol is like the circulatory system of your church.
If you have a healthy circulatory system, all the parts of your church will get what they need.
The resources, information, and labor will reach the people and projects they are supposed to reach.
By attending to the health of your project management protocol, both at the team and organizational level, you attend to the vitality of your church as a whole, and enable it to function at an exponentially superior level than if you had not attended to it.
The payoff is simple:
More efficient use of resources, easier team collaboration, and higher team member motivation and ability to own and complete mission critical tasks.
Implement these 10 principles, and you will see this yield dividends both financially and culturally within your church staff.
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.