Health and Growth

12 Key Strategies to Promote Your Next Church Event

Boost church event attendance with these 12 plug-and-play promotion strategies from event industry insiders.

12 Key Strategies to Promote Your Next Church Event
by

Paul Maxwell

Nobody wants to be the promoter.

Promoting something means people will tell you “No” over and over.

Because of this, many pastors shy away from promoting anything at all.

As a result, people don’t show up to church events.

It’s easy to write this off: “Eh, my church isn’t committed to these events. They’re a lukewarm church.”

Not so!

Dipping event attendance in any other space wouldn’t be blamed on attendees, but on promoters.

Pastors and church leaders, if you want engagement in your church outside of the Sunday Service, you’ll need to put on your “Promoter” hat as part of your not-so-9-5 job. 

If you can own that this is simply part of your job description, people will love you for it, attendance will boost, and you’ll be looking at a spike in event engagement in no time.

Here are 12 plug-and-play promotion strategies that event industry insiders use to boost attendance when attendance is thin.

1. Sell, sell, sell

This may sound trite, but you need to press “Mute” on all those voices in your head that are embarrassed by promoting. 

I’ve never understood why people were embarrassed by promoting events. It’s completely natural. Every successful business, event, product, and church has owned promotion as part of their marketing strategies.

Give yourself permission to sell the event.

When you do, you’ll find yourself bringing it up organically on Sunday, in conversations, in emails, and even with new people you meet.

If you’re always selling events, people will get the sense that you are actually excited about them.

Don’t be shy about your event.

Here’s something insidious about being shy toward your event: When people find out they talked to you, and you didn’t invite them, they might actually think you didn’t want them there (gasp).

That’s how humans work. A lack of invitation—a failure to sell—can easily translate as: “You’re not a good enough Christian to attend this event. You’re too ‘outside’ our inner circle.” 

Sell. Sell. Sell every single event.

If it’s worth your members attending, it’s worth you selling.

Don’t shy away from the “Promoter” role of pastoral ministry. Your engagement really hangs on it.

2. Create a VIP element

One way of selling an event is by selling certain tiers of access or benefits.

For example, if you’re having a pot luck at church, create a “Contest” element that gives people the option to participate in the event at a deeper level. A generic pot luck could have a “Best Apple Pie” content to ensure that everyone will have dessert, and to incentivize families to come by entering their pie.

The Contest prize can be a $100 gift certificate to a local restaurant, an iPad, or even a cash prize.

Another way of creating a VIP element is by adding a pre- or post-event event that includes drinks, food, games, or fellowship that requires some kind of buy-in. 

If everyone at the event ends up buying into the VIP event, all the better. 

3. Host babysitting

If you want any adults past the age of 25 to show up to your event, you need to host babysitting. 

Now, it’s important to have the proper church security protocol in place to ensure that those running childcare have been vetted, are trustworthy, and can relatively guarantee your childrens’ safety (as well as any professional childcare environment).

4. Run ads in your community

Run ads on Facebook.

Put signs up in your community. 

Take out a page in your local newspaper.

Heck, run Google Ads.

Get as many people as possible to as many events as possible.

The result might be many pastors’ worst nightmare—people will actually show up.

Pastors often underestimate how many people want to be involved in their church, and they end up handicapping their church events by assuming nobody wants to come.

This is a fatal mistake.

Not only does running Ads get new visitors to your church (the gold rush of pastoral ministry), but it also makes your current members feel a swell of pride when they see your church’s ad in a local paper, on Facebook, or around town. They think: “That’s my place. I belong there. I’m really glad I go to this church.” 

5. Push it on Sundays

Every. Single. Sunday.

Before worship: “Remember to sign up for our event!”

During your sermon (jokingly): “Esau sold his birthrights for a bowl of soup. Which reminds me. Our chili cook-off is happening in 2 weeks…”

Find ways to shoehorn it in there.

Make fun of yourself for it: “I know ‘pastor’ is always trying to get people to come to church. Dang right I am. I hope to see you there!”

People get it. In fact, they depend on it. People rely on pastors to try to get them to come to church.

In a sense, pastors are like personal trainers—half of why you hire them is to be the bad guy you don’t have the discipline to be for yourself so that you can live a better life.

Be the church event personal trainer, coaching people to take each small step to come to church.

Promote it.

Preach it.

Email it.

Text it.

Post on social media about it.

People want that.

6. Showcase the spiritual payoff of the event

This isn’t necessary for every single church event—for example, a post-service event. If you are promoting a post-Easter BBQ, the Easter service itself explains why people are getting together.

But if you’re trying to get people to find a babysitter, climb into their cars, and come to church, explain what is the spiritual payoff of attending this event.

Fellowship.

Prayer.

Study.

Community service.

Fundraising for the youth group mission trip.

But never, ever, ever, ever “Just because!”

If someone asks you, “Why should I come?” have your elevator pitch nailed.

Don’t apologize for your event.

Don’t say, “It’s really not that important—you don’t have to come.”

Obviously you don’t want to be pushy, but you should always have a backbone about the spiritual worthiness of attending each church event.

Quite honestly, if you don’t, you shouldn’t promote the event until you can figure out how to get one and place it square at the center of your event’s promotion.

7. Create benefits for pre-registration

This benefit can be anything—but make it something that compels people to register.

If there is food, make the food ½ price for anyone who registers before a certain date.

A free book.

A free shirt.

A free anything.

Get people signed up and paid for early so that you can secure attendees, plan better, and get people spreading the event word-of-mouth.

When someone asks one of your church members, “Are you going?” They don’t say: “Meh, I’ll play it by ear.” 

They say: “Yep. Signed up yesterday. Did you know the food is half price if you sign up early?”

People can’t resist telling their friends when they get a deal. For that reason, pre-registration benefits serve as both a user acquisition and word of mouth marketing tool.

8. Create scarcity

Scarcity works to drive traffic to your event very well.

One way to create scarcity is to take your pre-registration benefit and cap that number at 100.

That way, people aren’t just interested in signing up—they’re rushing to sign up.

9. Guarantee a fun element 

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make a church event boring. It’s almost as if church events are intrinsically boring, and making them fun is like putting makeup on a pig.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

If you value fun, and you’re running events, people will want to be where you are. 

Sell that you love fun by always doing fun things. 

Showcase the fun element.

Front-load it.

It won’t detract from the meaningfulness of the event. 

10. Showcase the food

Everyone loves to eat.

Full stop.

No exception.

There’s a reason that when you go on a road trip, 90% of the billboard ads you see are 20-foot tall cheeseburgers, tacos, and french fries—they work.

On the brochure for your event, pick a stock picture of the kind of food you’ll be serving from Unsplash.com (stock food photography is really good now, randomly), and include it on your marketing files for this event.

Where words fail, show pictures of food.

Amen.

11. Network with your target audience

Is your event audience-specific?

Even if it isn’t, it’s important to ask yourself: Who is your primary demographic within your church for this event? Youth? Grandmas? Parents? Families? Young, new visitors? New families to the area?

Network with leaders in those sub-communities so that you can leverage their help to recruit for the event.

This network marketing works particularly well of those leaders are motivated to recruit leaders.

For example, you could say: “For every person you bring, we’ll give you a $5 credit at the church coffee shop.” Or: “Whoever brings the most friends will get this beautiful goat skin journaling Bible.”

Weirdly, even people with very nice Bibles will go a long way for a nice Bible.

I mean … I totally get it.

12. Get event registration software

Here’s a very hard pill to swallow:

If you don’t have an event registration software, you shouldn’t be doing any of the other promotional tactics.

You can’t electronically register people.

You can’t collect payments.

You can’t create kiosk sign-ups with your computers, iPads, and iPhones.

You don’t have any way of collecting data from prospective attendees (a crucial part of the event industry).

Use an event registration software like Tithe.ly Events, which works even better than most generic event management systems because it integrates with Tithe.ly Church Management System, Tithe.ly Giving, and a whole host of other church-specific tech features.

Get Tithe.ly Events so that you can collect sign-ups, payments, create discounts, and do everything else you need to get the maximum number of butts-in-seats the day-of.

Over to you

I know that church event promotion can be intimidating.

But you can do this.

With the right tool (Tithe.ly Events) and the right strategies (above), you are set up for fantastic success.

Just take it one strategy at a time.

Practice each strategy so that you become better and better at promotion.

After 3-4 events, you’ll feel like a pro.

Any pastor can drive large numbers to their church events if they’re willing to be unembarrassed by the promotional aspect of pastoral ministry.

Be a good pastor. Promote your church events with excellence.

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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12 Key Strategies to Promote Your Next Church Event