Health and Growth

Verified Volunteers at Church: How to Build, Lead, and Grow Your Official Team

A verified volunteer system is the new frontier of maximizing church growth, professionalizing your brand, and crafting a premium member experience.

Verified Volunteers at Church: How to Build, Lead, and Grow Your Official Team
by

Paul Maxwell

Your church volunteers are the heartbeat of your church.

Your church volunteers the first people new visitors see.

Your church volunteers are the last people to leave.

Your church volunteers are, head to toe, the lifeblood of the entire church experience.

And, very much like your body’s circulatory system, you want to have a healthy volunteer team.

You want church volunteers with quantifiable experience.

You want church volunteers who are reliable.

You want consistency.

You want buy-in.

You want team players.

One of the best ways to build a strong, healthy, vibrant, and attractive team of church volunteers is to implement a verification system so that you can create a team of verified volunteers.

“Verified” has become a popular concept through social media.

Volunteer verification filters out inconsistency, off-brand, poorly trained, culturally toxic elements in your team.

Volunteer verification also serves as a way to safeguard and hardwire your church’s core values in your volunteer team so that visitors and members alike have a unified church experience.

In this article, we’re going to unpack a 9-step system for implementing verification into your church volunteer strategy so that you can create a sold-out team of verified volunteers for your church who you can trust to and advance your church’s mission with every person they talk to, every pie they bake, every child they care for, every door they open, and every chair they stack.

Let’s dive right into it—a 9-step system to create a team of verified volunteers at your church.

1. Make volunteering easy

There are many ways that churches make volunteering too difficult.

Opt-ins aren’t accessible or discoverable.

Opportunities are over-guarded.

These are easy obstacles to remove.

As a church, you should be proactive about giving everyone the opportunity to serve, to find a place, to share their gifts, and to gain a sense of participation as a member of the body of Christ.

If you make volunteering too difficult, there are two likely consequences: (1) you will struggle to find sufficient manpower for your church teams, and (2) you will create a culture of in-groups that are difficult to access in the church, creating a sense of “us and them” between members and leaders.

Thankfully, this is easy to overcome.

Place a button on the primary navigation of your website that makes volunteering extremely easy. The button can say Serve, Volunteer, or Join Our Team—whatever best fits the brand and culture of your church. 

Make this button highly visible.

More than that, drive people to get plugged in as volunteers by inviting members to sign up during Sunday service. 

State specific program needs that people can apply for—childcare, security, greeting, chair stacking, etc. Always have a culture that communicates: “We want you to be involved! And we are serious about finding everyone a place to participate.” 

Volunteering is a great way for members to feel like they really belong in your church.

Make sure that your web design, volunteer culture, and volunteer recruitment philosophy communicates that you believe every Christian has something to offer the church.

2. Use a third party vetting system

Background checks are very important.

Using a third party vetting system for background checks may sound a bit intimidating, but it’s a great way to safeguard the culture among your volunteers. 

Vetting people, even in a church that wants to communicate radical inclusion, is important, because it communicates two things: (1) “We care about the safety of our volunteers so much that we want them to feel safe,” and (2) “We take church security so seriously that when you trust us to serve you, you can trust that these are safe, law-abiding, vetted people.”

Vetting can be an awkward tool for a church to implement.

However, most people are very forgiving of this process.

They understand that the desire to serve is a desire to be depended upon.

To serve is to be trusted.

This is especially important for childcare. In fact, formal background checks for any volunteers who work with children is a nonnegotiable element for any church. 

This straightforwardly translates into church growth. If people don’t feel they can trust you with their kids, they won’t come to your church. 

Church growth 101: If you want people to become members at your church, make child safety priority #1 for every single event, and communicate that unapologetically.

3. Train your senior leadership team in leadership

Management is a skill.

Like all skills, it must be learned.

The fastest way to build a toxic volunteer culture, and gain a bad reputation among your members, is to place an amateur with no leadership experience in a leadership role—with no mentor, no training, no guidance, and no direct oversight.

This obstacle is easily remedied.

Create a leadership training curriculum for all volunteer leaders.

Articulate a leadership philosophy that you can appeal to when you face difficult situations.

Make it abundantly clear how leaders best lead, how teams best function, and give your leaders opportunities to self-develop as team leaders, responsibility takers, and competent people-managers.

Some important management skills include dealing patiently with delays, teaching simple concepts to new learners, project management, task tracking, and the ability to set, meet, and revise key performance indicators (KPIs).

Good managers and leaders alike have a mix of analytical and interpersonal skills.

If your leaders are lacking in one area, provide them the opportunities to self-develop under the guidance of the church leadership to become more competent in that area (an opportunity to lead by example).

4. Train your volunteers in the soft skills of their job

Every volunteer will likely be doing two things at once—their actual task, and the important soft task underneath it.

For example, a church greeter’s job is to greet new people. But imagine a church greeter who greets a new family with a half-smile, “Good morning!” and then rushes to give a hearty hug to a long-time family, leaving the new family alone in the lobby.

That new family probably feels a bit neglected.

This volunteer lacked the emotional intelligence to combine the hard skill of his job with the soft skill of making new people feel truly welcome.

Here are some ways that volunteer could have been trained better:

  • Practice making sustained eye contact
  • Rehearse 3-4 “Ice breaker” questions to ask new visitors
  • Discuss the values that shape your greeting team—what are you trying to accomplish as a team, and how can you keep your eye on the ball while performing this task?

Some of these tasks may be a bit awkward to practice, but successful businesses have no embarrassment about doing this.

When I was a college student, I took a summer door-to-door sales job for a roofing company. They hired about 50 college students every summer to sell roof remodeling packages all day every day. 

For the first month of the job, we didn’t knock on a single door. They gave us scripts to memorize and had all of us practice role playing among ourselves and with our supervisors.

When I knocked on my first door, instead of getting the door slammed in my face, I had a solid 3-minute conversation with the person. That was a huge victory! He ultimately declined my sale. But 180 seconds is a long time to have a conversation with someone at their front door. Some of the tactics we were taught were: 

  • Asking people about themselves
  • Distracting from awkward pauses with small jokes
  • Organically tying in their answers with the product

What’s the point? Practice makes perfect. Don’t shy away from asking your team: “What soft skills can we improve with practice?” It will add a level of quality to each of your volunteer teams that many other churches will find difficult to match.

5. Create a healthy volunteer culture

We’ve hinted at this a bit already, but a toxic culture can lead to death—not only of your volunteer teams, but of your church altogether.

A toxic culture is like rust at a church.

Some ways to create a healthy volunteer culture are:

  • Always opt for positive reinforcement over negative criticism
  • Celebrate every win
  • Invite as many people as possible to team
  • Communicate concerns with a light touch
  • Create a sense of camaraderie
  • Let people know that they personally are making a big difference
  • Give people shout-outs at big meetings

If you can create a healthy volunteer culture, your church will grow at a much faster pace than it otherwise might have. When you create a healthy culture, you create a community that people will be desperate to join.

6. Use a Church Management System (ChMS)

If you’re not using a church management system (ChMS)—a software specifically designed to manage your church members, leadership, events, giving, volunteers, etc.—that needs to change immediately.

Why?

Because if you’re not using a ChMS, that means you’re scurrying around Google Docs, Excel, iMessage, and Gmail to organize everything.

This is chaos.

You know this.

Get a ChMS so you can centralize all your management, communication, and strategy into a single sign-on interface.

In my experience, Tithe.ly ChMS is the very best in the game is Tithe.ly ChMS. They acquired Elvanto ChMS a while ago, and ever since, no other option has come close in terms of functionality, usability, design, and efficiency. 

7. Streamline your on-boarding system to scale

Hone your volunteer on-boarding system with your most important team.

Make adjustments.

Find what works best for your management style, team, and staff.

Then, when you have a system that works really well for your church, implement that same exact sign-up, onboarding, and training, protocol with every other volunteer team.

That way, teams can talk to one another in the same terms, you can train multiple teams at once, and you remove heaps of inefficiency and time waste from your volunteer management experience.

A great resource on this is General Stanley McChrystal’s book Teams of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World. I’ll add one more for leaders to personally self-develop the right mindset for personnel management: Jocko Willink’s book Extreme Ownership: How U. S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win.

Invest some time and resources into honing your process and removing inefficiency so that you have more time and resources to invest in and optimize your teams.

8. Offer advanced training 

Depending on the size of your teams, advanced training in leadership, theology, and productivity may be very helpful for your core group of verified volunteers.

This can serve not only as a way to improve your team, but as a way to measure levels of verification and as an incentive for new volunteers.

For example, as a church, you could purchase corporate access to a service such as Lynda, an online course hub that allows people to work through self-development video courses that range from 1 hour to 20+ hours. 

Teams will then have access to this training in order to track and achieve new levels of competence, training, and formally put, new levels of verification.

9. Use a visual system to demarcate verified volunteers

This piece is extremely important.

Imagine if Twitter had a verification system, but didn’t have a blue check mark.

Weird, right?

Same for your volunteer’s verification system.

Set up measurable achievements that unlock levels of verification for your volunteers, and find a way to signify who on your team is verified, and in what way.

The best way to do this is to provide a special colored name badge that clearly and formally signifies: “We endorse this person to do this job.”

One example of a reason to develop multiple tiers of verification is child care.

You may want one group of volunteers to go through “Greeting Training,” some of whom may also be verified in “Childcare Training,” which includes a more extensive background check and signifies: “We guarantee professional level child care with people who are wearing green badges.”

Develop a visual system that communicates to members and visitors alike that you take seriously the verification of your volunteers.

Videographers call this “color coding.” In a TV show, they will create different color palettes for various characters to help audiences distinguish between them and subliminally recognize their purpose or role.

Apply this to your volunteers with a color-dependent indication scheme for your volunteers. Even more effective than badges are different bright-colored shirts.

Over to you

Creating a team of verified volunteers will have an enormous payoff for your church culture.

Follow the protocol delineated here, take it slow with your team, practice patience (remember: a leadership skill), and take the necessary steps to communicate to your church that you take serious the trust they place in your volunteer team.

You won’t regret it.

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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Verified Volunteers at Church: How to Build, Lead, and Grow Your Official Team