Content written by Rev. Micah James, CCA
One of the hardest things a church has to do, in its administrative care taking, is accurately projecting and communicating income (aka gifts) to the ministry. Being in the volatile world of non-profit income, most church’s major form of income is in the form of donations and gifts. While some communities shy away from a deep analytical look at giving trends, it can be widely beneficial when being transparent and open with your community about the financial needs of the church.
So where do you start?
- Do some digging – I would urge you to get as many years of giving data as you can. When analyzing giving trends for the first time, I encourage you to have 5 years of data. More would be a great, but can be overwhelming at the start. So try to dig up five years of information on the following: number of giving units, total dollars given by week or month, total expenditures by category by week or month, and special events/programs in that time period that would influence giving (Easter, Anniversary Sunday, etc.)
- Chart it Out – Start simple and do a week-to-week comparison of the data. This might take you a while to chart, so use a template to make it easy. (Get our template here) Be sure you are comparing apples to apples, such as in the church-world be sure you are comparing Sunday 1a to Sunday 1b, same Sunday different years.
- Look for Outliers – In every group there is going to be one that is way different from the others. Highlight it and go research the events surrounding that event. Did a new minister come or a tenured minister retire? Was there a weather event? Was there a special call to give or a special project doing fundraising? Sometimes history can tell you more about the data than the data can.
- Trendy or not? – Now look for trends, simple trends. Sure you can do more in-depth analysis if you like, but do the big picture work first. Are there seasons where giving is always up? Are there seasons where giving is always down? What might you do or communicate differently during these times to be a better steward of the resources you have? If these trends happen regularly and consistently, how can you plan for them so that your ministry will be well sustained through these periods?
Analyzing giving trends is fruitful, when you do it consistently and with the eye of steward. Good luck and happy data crunching.