Content is written by Rev. Micah James, CCA
Every year, there is a plethora of information that comes out about the statics and trends surrounding church giving and stewardship.
Changes in fundraising”…are opportunities for nonprofit leaders to think creatively about revenue generation in the years to come…”(1) Through the years, churches have had to consider changes in mode, cash to check to digital, and in methods, personal requests to letters to pledges to projections.
BIG IDEA #1 – BE HONEST: Talk about your financial situation.
One of the main takeaways from many of the recent research is that “today’s donors want more control over their giving and to understand the impact they are making philanthropically. “(1) In addition to control, the other thing we know about donors is that “in general, as income and wealth increase, so do the amounts that households give to charity.” (1)
BIG IDEA #2 – PEOPLE ARE GENEROUS: Talk about giving all year round.
One of the things that I have learned over many years of leading stewardship efforts is the need to open many doors to give. Congregations that only mention giving during a once a year “campaign” (and then maybe subtly at an offertory moment during worship) are not as successful as congregations who have an ongoing, intentional conversation about giving all year. In addition to the conversation, you also have to have the necessary tools to equip your community to give.
BIG IDEA #3 – HAVING ONLINE GIVING ISN’T ENOUGH: Develop a giving plan.
Many churches are realizing that online giving is necessary, but “a “donate now” button simply is no longer sufficient in capturing online donations. Invest in upgrading your organization’s website and online giving environment, ensuring that the website is modern and mobile friendly.” (1)
“In 2016, 17% of online transactions were made using a mobile device. This was a 21% year-over-year increase and represents a continuing shift by donors to consumer-oriented engagement channels.” (3) Moving past simply having a giving button to having a suggested donation might be a good first step for many. “Research has shown that suggesting giving amounts leads to improved donation form performance by increasing average online gift size.” (4)
Don’t worry about the scale of your plan. Make plans to grow your efforts with time. Research shows that “as charities grow, they are better able to invest in fundraising programs that are proven to drive household giving at the same time that households are in a better financial position to give. ” (1)
BIG IDEA #4 – UNDERSTAND YOUR GIVER: Get to know why they give.
One of the biggest things that churches miss is diving into the giving stories of their givers. We assume that the “why” stories of all of our givers are the same. The giving power of our communities is incredible. “In 2017 and 2018, giving by individuals/households and estates will comprise 79% of total giving.” (1)
We need to get to know our community in a new way – a way that allows our givers to share their stories. “Understanding what drives today’s donor can help nonprofit organizations of all types ensure a strong relationship with current and prospective donors and proactively plan for the years ahead.” (1)
BIG IDEA #5 – ECONOMICS OVER POLITICS: While politics has influence, economics is the contributing factor.
In 2016, many communities experienced some stress in giving. Some communities wondered if the election played a part in the change. “While the political climate may play a role in some donors’ decisions to give to charity, research conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and other philanthropy researchers has long demonstrated that aggregate giving trends are influenced by large-scale economic factors. These factors ultimately affect the economic and financial circumstances of all types of donors and, therefore, their ability to give.” (2)”
BIG IDEA #6 – ENGAGE A TEAM TO HELP: Considering strategy is contextual.
The research can only guide us so far and then we must engage the information as it applies to our context. The best strategy, I have found, is to find an engaged group of committed people to help you discern which strategies are best for your community. No leader should be managing this important task alone.
In summary, here are some great strategies suggested from npENGAGE (4) –
- Go Mobile
- Grab’s People Attention
- Make Sure It’s Branded
- Use Compelling Imagery
- Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
- Reduce, Reduce, Reduce
- Use Giving Levels
- Encourage People to Give Monthly
- Give People a Way to Stay in Touch
- Add Social Proof
- Put Security First
- Be Transparent
- Give Donors Something Nice
- Take Advantage of the Moment
- Don’t Forget New Donors
(1) – http://philanthropyoutlook.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Philanthropy_Outlook_2017_2018.pdf
(2) – https://givingusa.org/giving-usa-2017-total-charitable-donations-rise-to-new-high-of-390-05-billion/
(3) – https://institute.blackbaud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2016-Charitable-Giving-Report.pdf
(4) – https://npengage.com/nonprofit-fundraising/boost-donor-acquisition-online-fundraising/#