Trends In Congregational Giving

Trends in congregational giving are constantly changing. What works in one decade may not be effective in the next. 

In our work with churches, one evolving trend we see at the Carpenter’s Plan is more churches relying on special contributions. Instead of just giving to the “church budget” for 52 weeks, leaders are encouraging specific times of giving for important works.

At my congregation, we have moved to a 50-week budget and allocate two Sundays a year for special contributions—one in the Spring and the second in the Fall. In 2017 these special contributions went to specific ministries supported in our budget for years. On these Sundays, all contributions went to that ministry. The ministry was motivated to “beat the bushes” for extra donations, and we hoped they would receive more funding than they would have from just being included in our budget.   

The results are in. Each ministry has received at least 25% more because of these special contributions. People like to give to specific things. 

This past week we had a special contribution for Global Missions. Our messaging was a bit awkward. We cut the budget to Global Missions by $100,000 and then told the church we needed $100,000 to complete our 2018 commitments. The teaser was everything given over $100,000 would go to five special projects, from a clinic in Honduras to a Bible College in the South Pacific. 

We produced video, sent out special emails and letters, and had Global Missions committee members email their friends at church with a specific request. In other words, we just didn’t make an announcement and hope. We worked it. 

$250,000 was given. To say we are pretty happy is an understatement.

This year at my church an extra $150,000 will go to Global Missions because we emphasized it. We made people aware of the need, clearly communicated how they could help, and we asked for a sacrificial gift.

Do you want to increase giving at your church? Pick a project, set aside a specific giving time, work hard at communicating the need, and ask.




Alleviate Your Board's Fear of Fundraising


Amy Eisenstein writes frequently on all matters connected to fundraising for non-profits. Her blog below is the first of three recent posts on fundraising and Boards. You can access all three blogs at the following link.

Fundraising can seem scary. It’s not something most board members have experience with.

Not only that, we live in a culture (in the US, anyway) where it’s impolite to talk about money. We don’t talk about out finances, how much we earn, or what we spend on vacations. So, the idea of asking people to give their money can be frightening.

The most important step in alleviating fear is providing education.

Your board’s mantra? Mission over money.

It’s important to remind board members that fundraising isn’t about money. Yes, you read that correctly. At its core, fundraising isn’t about money — it’s about changing the world.

So instead of talking about money, encourage your board members to talk about your mission. They should be talking about finding a cure, providing education, creating art, cleaning the environment, and educating children. Then, they can talk about how much those things cost.

Fundraising is so Much More Than the Ask

Fundraising is so much more than asking people for money. In fact, when I facilitate board retreats, I explain that asking is only about 5% of the fundraising process.

For example, let’s say you want to raise major gifts. What follows is a 4-step breakdown of the process and how your board can get involved in key steps.

Step 1: Identification

An important first step is identifying people who might make those gifts. This could take place over a series of meetings, including time for research and networking, over a few of months.

Board members can help here by introducing their friends, family members, colleagues, and networks to the organization. 

Step 2: Cultivation

The next step in the fundraising process is cultivation, in other words, building relationships. This involves educating your prospective donors about your organization, and getting to know them as donors and philanthropists.

This is a great place for your board members to help with fundraising, by leading tours, arranging meetings, and providing information. Cultivation also takes place over several months. 

Step 3: Solicitation

The primary reason people give to charity is because they are asked, so you can’t skip this critical step. However, it’s only one moment in time (usually a short, 30 minute meeting) in comparison to the longer effort put in for the other three steps. Asking is only 5% of 95% (in terms of time spent) of the fundraising process, but it’s what board members fear most.

Although we would love our board members to help with asking, it’s more important that they help where they are most comfortable and therefore likely to be most effective.

Step 4: Stewardship

This is the important follow-up that needs to be done after a gift is made. Stewardship is about saying “thank you” in ways so that the donors really feels thanked. It’s not enough to simply say “thank you” or send a note. It’s important to make an effort so that the donor understands how important their gift was, and knows that they made a difference.

This is a great place to get board members started with fundraising. They can make thank you calls, write thank you notes, and thank people in person.

Beyond Asking for Money

Once you break fundraising down into these four distinct steps, it becomes a lot less scary.

Ask board members to help where they feel most comfortable, and it will become easier and more enjoyable for them to get involved. As you can see, there is much more your board can do to help beyond simply asking for money.

What have you done to help reduce your board members’ fear of fundraising? Have you tried something different? Please share your experiences in the comments.


Thank You For Taking The Time

A client told me this story just today.

The head of a family foundation stopped by my client's non-profit to check things out. The foundation director was new, and she just wanted to see things for herself. The CEO showed her around, answered all her questions, and frankly enjoyed the visit. My CEO friend described the new foundation director as "delightful" and "so encouraging."

As she left, the director of the foundation said, "Thank you for taking the time to show me around and answer my questions. Not everyone does this."

Not everyone does this? Seriously? A non-profit accepts money from a foundation yet cannot take the time to offer a tour or answer questions? This is simply unfathomable. 

What about your interactions with donors?

  • Do you thank donors personally and promtly?
  • Do you keep key donors informed?
  • Do you even know your key supporters?
  • Do you listen to your donors?
  • Do you keep accurate records about interactions with your donors?
  • Do you like your donor partners?

Are you taking time for your supporters?




Retaining Donors

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.

                                                                                               Alexander Pope

That class in 18th Century British literature comes in handy every now and then. Alexander Pope—my man!

This famous quote from Pope comes to mind as I repeat a statistic I heard in a client meeting recently. This is where the little knowledge comes into play, because I did not check this out like I should have. But anyway, this is what I heard.

A recently retired CEO of a successful non-profit said that large corporations shoot for 90% retention of customers while non-profits only average keeping donors at a 45% clip.

At first glance, this just does not seem right. The non-profits I have worked with certainly have done better than this. Only 45%? Really?

But even if the number is dragged down by stats from mismanaged non-profits and mom and pop groups that crop up one year and disappear the next, that number is still alarming.

And now that I think about it, I did hear a telling statement last week in a Feasibility Study. The interviewee said, “Our organization does not do enough to thank donors. A single email thank-you is not enough.”

Goodness knows it is hard to find new donors. The competition for charity dollars is tremendous and donor fatigue is real. Most organizations, including the one I just mentioned, need to expand their donor base significantly.

Just remember. It is easier to keep an existing donor than it is to find a new one. Do not take your donors for granted.

What are you doing to keep your donors?


Thoughts on Preaching

I was speaking with a preacher friend recently, and he said something so simple and true, I wrote it down immediately.

“Every Sunday when I preach, I realize that I am being critiqued by 400 people. There are not many jobs like that. I have had to get comfortable with this fact.” My friend went on to say that despite improving in preaching, at least in his opinion, he now receives less compliments than in the past. “They just expect it,” he added.

Those 400 congregants critiquing my friend? They don’t all see it the same. The 20-year-old home from college wonders why the preacher does not have more of an edge, while the newcomer “just loves” the new preacher. The broken-hearted widow thinks the preacher lacks sympathy while another appreciates the no nonsense approach. The deacon wishes he used more humor like his favorite podcast preacher, and a long-time member thinks his preacher has gotten a little stale. And all the while my friend—he is just trying to be faithful to the text in front of him for that day.

This just in.

You can’t please everybody! Even your best homiletical efforts will fall short in some eyes. That home run sermon two months ago, the one you received ten complimentary emails about? More than one person left church that day griping about you raising your voice or only remembered your grammatical error. A host of your hearers could not tell you even one thing you said 24 hours later.

You can never please everyone. Never. So, don’t even try. Just keep your eyes on Jesus, strive to please him, bathe your efforts in prayer, do your best, and trust God.

If it weren’t so serious it would almost be funny. To stand in front of a crowd of people week after week and propose to speak on behalf of the Lord God Almighty. Who does this kind of thing?

So, to all my preacher friends, as you climb into the pulpit next Sunday, repeat these words.

“I cannot please everybody.”

And that is just fine.



Don’t Waste Your Time

“It’s too easy to spend time on needless tasks. . .It’s a secret of Adulthood: The biggest waste of time is to do well something that we need not do at all.”

These words from Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better Than Before, brought me pause. Haven’t we always been taught, if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well? And now, this author dares to declare such heresy?

I think Gretchen is right.

Most of us are busy, some insanely so. There is more to do than can possibly get done in a given day or week. Deadlines loom and meetings invade any unprotected space in our day. Technology makes turning off the work meter close to impossible. How do we manage this onslaught?

I make lists. The thrill of checking items off the list is intoxicating. By the way, we list makers believe others should thank us for making the trains run on time, picking the kids up from school, and promptly getting the minutes out from the last meeting. The slacker non-list makers have no idea the burden we bear for running the world.

What I do not think about enough is what goes on my list. Perhaps my day is overfull because I spend 90 minutes answering emails that could have been dispatched in 30. I straighten up my files in an effort to avoid the more important task of returning phone calls. I labor over the Power Point presentation that should have been delegated to a co-worker.

All of these things could be classified as doing tasks well.  But, the truth is, most of it was work I should not have done in the first place. I stayed busy, but I did not do what was most important.

Come to think of it, there is another old cliché. When a task is deemed insufficiently important enough to deserve hard labor, one declares to offer “a lick and a promise.”  

Some tasks, are only worth doing half-way.

Other tasks are not worth doing at all.


Online Giving

I claim no expertise in online giving. I do not know the best vendors or software programs. I know ACH transfers cost the organizations very little in fees, Reward Credit Cards the most. But that is about it.

Well, I also know online giving is up dramatically at our congregation. We have gone from 10%  given online to 40% in three years. 

And one other thing. I know your non-profit or congregation needs to get in the game. Making it easy to give online will increase donations. Find some 25 year old to investigate the options and get with it.

John Kiloran is CEO of @Pay, a company that assists non-profits with online giving. Below are two of his thoughts on trends in online giving. These thoughts are excerpted from his January 5, 2018 article, 7 Key Ways Online Giving Has Changed Over the Past Year.

1. Increase in mobile giving

Every year that passes brings more and more functionality to our mobile devices, and charitable giving is no different. Specialized software enables nonprofits to gather donations through mobile-optimized donation forms as well as text-to-give platforms.

Mobile giving isn’t just used as a substitute for paper donation forms. Especially using the latest software solutions that integrate your text-to-give campaigns with other aspects of your fundraising strategy, mobile giving can be used for:

  • Social media fundraising: Most social media activity occurs on smartphones, the same platform used for texting. The innovative text-to-give software integrates buttons and links on social media profiles with SMS messaging to deliver a seamless experience.
  • Fundraising events: Instead of remembering to fill out and return paper donation forms or bringing cash or checks to drop in a donation box, donors can text their donation amount to a specific phone number to give during events.
  • Data gathering: You can learn a lot about your donors’ communication preferences and other important information by analyzing the data transferred into your CRM by your mobile giving software.

If you want to take advantage of the mobile giving trend in the new year, check out helpful tips from the mobile giving experts at @Pay.

2. Advancement of online giving technology

The range of technology available to facilitate online giving has greatly expanded in the past year, especially when it comes to integrated software solutions.

Software that connects your fundraising records to other areas of your nonprofit is becoming more sophisticated and widely used. It’s easy to see why nonprofits love this technology when you think about the options an integrated solution makes possible:

  • Connect fundraising event planning to your CRM to see who shows up to your events.
  • Connect fundraising to communications to send automatic thank-yous to donors.
  • Connect special fundraising, like crowdfunding or peer-to-peer, to event planning to host popular events like charity walks, runs, and rides.

Because of these advancements in online giving technology, your nonprofit can do much more than just accept online donations. Instead, you can use sophisticated fundraising technology to connect your giving with other elements of your nonprofit operations.

That integration will make your operations smoother and more efficient in the new year!

How Will The New Tax Law Affect Giving?

(For years a wise voice in fundraising has been Eddie Thompson of Thompson and Associates. You will find his comments below timely and on target.)

Charities shouldn’t panic over the changes in our tax laws!  I have been asked many times in the last few days how the tax law changes will impact nonprofit organizations. There has been a great deal written on the subject. Too much has been written or said causing a great deal of fear, much of it with little factual basis and excessive hyperbole.  

Here are my thoughts on the subject.  

Giving reflects the direction of the economy and how people are feeling about their economic future more than it reflects the perceived tax benefits from making a gift. Recent studies tell us that folks are more optimistic about their financial future than they have been in almost a decade. We know that giving has been stagnant in general over the last few years, except fundraising for hurricanes, floods, and other man-made and natural disasters. For some time now, folks have simply not felt good about the question, “Do I have enough to live on for the rest of my life?”     

People rarely give simply to receive a charitable deduction. When their main objective is to receive a charitable deduction, donors are typically selling a large unrealized capital gain asset such as a business, a farm, or a long-term stock investment. It would have been better for most of these folks if they had addressed the question of giving prior to the sale of the asset. Since the new tax law did not change capital gains taxes, our challenge remains: discuss the benefits of a gift before the sale of the asset.  

It is possible that taxpayers (and perhaps their favorite charities) in high income-tax states will feel the impact of the inability to deduct all of their state income and property taxes on their federal tax returns. Time will tell how big of an impact it might have. We really don’t know and feel it is premature to draw sweeping conclusions that quantify an impact on charitable giving.  

We have no control over how much donors can give, regardless of the tax environment. So, it seems logical to focus on what we can control and stick to the basic principles of successful philanthropy rather than worry about what is out of our control.  Here are my suggestions going forward:

1.     Build stronger relationships with your donors by having more frequent and deeper conversations.

2.     Remind your donors of the value of your organizational mission.

3.     Remember that generous people are still generous by their very nature.

4.     Know that most folks want to help people in need and be part of something noble and larger than themselves.

5.     Focus on gifts that still work well (and may even be enhanced) under the new tax law, such as the IRA Charitable Rollover.

6.     Use this as a chance to evaluate your own efforts, asking yourself things like:

o    Do I have a systematic approach to working with my donors?

o    Do I have a fundraising strategic plan? You must have a strategic plan if you want strategic results!

o    How will I measure my activities?  Measure what you can change! 

The sun comes up each morning—even if it’s cloudy. Many of us remember similar fear mongering and dire predictions in the 1980s when tax laws were changed significantly. General fears that giving would plunge simply did not occur. Let’s not let fear dampen our efforts now. Our missions and causes still impact lives and communities, and good people still want to accomplish good with their resources.

Eddie Thompson

Thompson and Associates



Tax Deductions and Giving

A line from a Wall Street Journal Op-ed piece in December 26, 2017 caught my eye. The article entitled, “The Uncharitable Charities,” lamented the lobbying efforts of certain philanthropic entities. These groups were complaining about the impact of the new $24,000 standard deduction for joint filers. The reasoning goes that since fewer middle class Americans will need to itemize, charitable giving will go down.

Here is the sentence from the article.

“Americans don’t need a tax break to give to charities, which should be able to sell themselves on their merits.”

As one who itemizes and in fact will be making some charitable donations with an eye toward my tax bill in the next few days, I fully understand the issues. (Well, fully is a bit of an over reach, isn’t it? But saying I “kind of” understand the issues just does not have the same umph.)

Tax deductions are important. Tax deductions allow donors, especially wealthy donors, to give more than they otherwise could or would. Since I personally moved into a new tax bracket about a decade ago, I pay more attention than ever to deductions.

But regardless of what side you are on, those in churches and non-profits should never forget the sentiment expressed by the WSJ editorial board.

“Charities … should be able to sell themselves on their own merits.”

You have to make your case. If you cannot give a compelling reason for donors to give to your congregation or non-profit, your organization will ultimately fail. And it deserves to.

Get out a napkin or a scratch piece of paper and answer two questions.

Do you believe in what your organization is doing?

Why should someone give to your non-profit or church?

You have to make your case. Laws will come and go, but people will always give to good works that have a compelling vision.



People Give to People

A friend in fundraising told me a story recently that highlights the importance of relationships and doing the right thing.

A development officer for a small Christian college had a dilemma. His boss wanted him to stop visiting a $500 a year donor and pursue larger gifts. But the officer liked the widow and enjoyed visiting with her. So he continued to see her once a year when he was in the area and simply did not tell his boss.

The woman died and six months later an attorney called the officer to inform him a gift from the estate was coming via certified mail the next day.

$2.9 million.

From a fundraising perspective, there are several problems with this amazing story. 

  • The woman had accumulated several plots of farmland.
  • She had been widowed for several years.
  • She had no children and no apparent heirs.
  • Yet, no one at the college thought to address estate planning with the donor.

In fact, the boss, in a short sighted attempt to chase larger gifts, wanted to quit visiting the donor. Despite these significant failures at the Fund Raising 101 level, the College still received a seven figure gift. 


The development officer liked the donor. She was his friend and she looked forward to his visits.

I still scratch my head and wonder why the officer never mentioned estate planning on any of his visits. My guess is he was not trained to do so. But fortunately the fundraiser intuitively knew something far more important than the differences between a Charitable Remainder Trust and a Gift Annuity. 

People give to people.

What Brings You Life?

In a recent staff retreat, the question was asked, "What brings you life and what drains you?" We went around the circle, listing the good and the bad. I mulled over that thought and sent the following note to our staff the next day.

In accepting responsibility for selfcare, we need to remember to have fun. I know that this does not sound very spiritual, so how about this? 

Increase the number of things you do that are life giving.

We listed the things in our jobs/ministries that are life giving. My recommendation is simply to do more of those in your ministry and in life overall. Sure, we have to do things we don’t like at work and at home. That is a part of being an adult. But why do we limit the things that bring us joy? Sometimes all we can do is put one foot in front of another and some days or weeks, we just have to hang on. But there are tons of other times where we can choose what we do.

Make a list of 20 things that bring you joy or life. Then get out your calendar and get with it. 

I will give you two simple examples. I love the Brentwood Library located right in my neighborhood. I realized a while back that walking through the doors just kind of makes me feel good. I almost always think as I am going in, “I love this place.” So somewhere in my list of 20 things is, “Go by the library weekly.” Another one I have started recently is call old friends in ministry. I talked to a preacher pal in Memphis last week. When I hung up the phone I thought, “That was fun. What a great guy.”

Make your list. Feed your spirit.


End of Year Giving

My friends in the non-profit world are currently in crunch time. During November and December as much as 40% of total donations for the year will be received. That is a big number. Appeal letters and emails will be written, key donors visited, and the mailbox will be carefully watched.

Many of my friends at churches will . . .well, they will not do anything out of the ordinary. No, I take that back. They will do angel trees for a children’s home, the same special contribution they have "lamely" collected for 20 years.

Many churches make no special effort to promote giving at the end of the year, other than encouraging members to “help us meet the budget.” This is a big mistake. This year do something.

·      Interview a visiting missionary and “pass the hat” unannounced.

·      Send out letters to your older adults reminding them of the IRA Rollover to charities.

·      Preach on giving.

·      Have someone give a testimony about the power of giving.

·      Have a special goal, something with more spice than “meet the budget.”

Just do something!

Several years ago, we started an “Overflow” contribution at my church. Everything given over and above the budget goes to a special account and the deacons distribute these funds to as many as 15 different good works. Some years we worry that we will not meet the budget, and there will be nothing extra. And yet every year, Overflow is funded.

Over a decade our members have been trained to give something extra to church in December. A key is they know the additional contributions are not going to pay the light bill or staff salaries. Everything over and above goes to good works.

So, get with it. Make a plan, establish the need, promote the cause, and make the ask.

Do something.



People Who Attend Church Regularly Are More Likely to Donate to Charities

I suppose this headline falls into the category of "No surprise here." But a recent study confirms what we already knew. Regular church goers give more than non-church goers.  Other interesting facts from this study include.

  • African Americans give the highest percentage of their donations to religious causes (74%), followed by Hispanics (66%), and then Caucasians (56%). 
  • Protestants give more to religious causes than Jews and Catholics.
  • Giving to Religious institutions is double that of donations to Educational enterprises. 

One finding that was particularly interesting, was the giving of millennials to religious causes is roughly equivalent to previous generations at the same age.

For the rest of the article click on the link.

The Right Person at the Right Time

There are so many factors that go into a successful solicitation that it would be wrong to say this or that is the most important. Multiple factors, including good luck, are a part of the solicitation process. But included on any list would be:

  • A Compelling Vision
  • Preparation
  • Clear and Articulate Ask 
  • Listening
  • Relationship

Recently I was reminded of another crucial component.

The right person needs to ask the right person at the right time.

A client was making preparations to solicit a Foundation for a large grant. One week before the ask, the Board Chair learned that a friend of his was on the Foundation Board. The Board Chair made a phone call and explained the need. The next week the Foundation granted the entire request.

The CEO of this Non-profit maintains a close relationship with the Director of the Foundation. The Non-profit has a compelling vision and a clear need. The grant was well prepared and the interview went well. And in this case, perhaps most importantly, the right person called the right person at the right time.

When time comes to make a solicitation, always ask two questions. "Who is the right person to make this request?" To ignore existing friendships and relationships is simply silly and shortsighted. Remember people not only give to a vision, they give to people--people they know and trust.

Second ask, "Is this the right time?" The donor may not be ready to give. A business set-back, a family illness, swamped at work, or maybe even they don't truly understand the need. Is it the right time to make this ask?

The larger the gift, the more important it is to ask these two questions.




Invest in Yourself

My younger co-workers had been after me for years to go with them to their favorite conference, Catalyst. I always had a good excuse, including being on vacation last year and significant commitments at other times. But I think they knew the real reason.

I didn't want to go.

Let me count the reasons:

  • The time away just puts me behind, like I am right now on this Friday night. Sunday is coming and this preacher is not ready.
  • The conference will not encourage me. It will simply remind me where I and my church are falling short.
  • I am not a conference guy. I am a read a book guy.
  • I am already gone from home more than I care to be.
  • All conferences are the same. All hype and no substance.

I am glad my co-workers wore me down. The conference was great! My wife went with me, and we were blessed indeed. Man it was good. I have not come home on fire, ready to change the world. The terrible traffic on the drive home beat the "walking on a cloud" feeling out of me. (BTW, the older you get, the more you gripe about traffic.)

But I did come home more determined to be a better minister and man.

Are you investing in yourself? What have you done to sharpen your skills in the past three months. One day retreat, online course, challenging read, special certification, conference, class at a community college, intentional learning from key lay leaders--the opportunities are endless.

If you do not invest in yourself, no one else will.

I am glad I went.



 What Have You Learned About Solicitation?

Recently I started a client meeting with this question. Honestly, I was mostly thinking warm-up before we got down to business. It turns out this was the best part of the meeting.

Those who answered were key volunteers, members of the development team, the CEO and other key employees who had accepted solicitation responsibilities for the upcoming capital campaign. These responses could be the subtitles in a chapter entitled, Fundraising 101.

·      You must connect people with the story

         I loved this one. Facts, figures, stats—they are all important. But at the heart of every      solicitation is a story. How does your donor connect to the story?

·      Don’t get in the way

        Make your case, make the ask, and stop talking. This respondent had learned that you can say too much.

·      The fear of anticipation is greater than the actual solicitation

         This response came from a key volunteer who was just getting his feet wet. He had run companies all his life and now he was asking people for major donations. He rose to the challenge.

·      You can see confidence grow the more you do it

         Nothing beats practice. Role play is helpful and should be utilized in training, but you aren’t going to grow until you actually venture out.

·      Setting up appointments is difficult

         This one was a surprise but should not have been. People are busy and not always inclined to accept a solicitation meeting. It takes persistence and hard work.

·      We assume Board members know what is going on

         It is impossible to over communicate. This particular Board had been told multiple times about upcoming solicitations, and yet some were still surprised.

·      It is hard to know how much to ask for

         Yes, it is. Sometimes you blow it and shoot too high and there is that awkward moment. You will survive it though

·      You can ask for too little

         What would you rather have—the awkward moment mentioned above or leaving money on the table because the ask was too timid?




The Best Thing We Have Done to Enhance Giving

Several months ago I polled church leaders about their giving at church. The question asked was,  “The best thing we have done to enhance giving at our place is.

Communicate clearly what the needs are (6)*

·      How giving impacts the community

·      Inform of short falls

·      Tell better stories

·      Present budget and needs

Utilize special contributions (5)

·      Budget based on 50 weeks, two Sundays of specials (2)

·      Special contributions (2)

·      Three or four special contributions a year

Preach early in the year on giving (3)

Use online giving opportunities (2)

Capital Campaign (2)

Kregg Hood material (2)

Spend money on compelling projects

Leadership is a key component

Clear vision with a defined need

No secrets. Complete transparency

Encourage people to grow one step each year toward a tithe

Financial Peace classes

A giving app

One take away for me from the survey is the importance of doing something. Your congregation and the individual families that comprise it will not automatically grow in generosity. You must lead. 

I know how it is as a church leader. Multiple needs come at you from every direction. Often you simply are striving to keep your head above water. Planning ahead to enact two or three of these action steps seems like more work.

Which of course it is--more work. But you cannot afford, literally, you cannot afford inaction. Do something.

* The numbers represent how many of the 20 or so respondents gave that particular answer.


More Thoughts on Online Giving

Online giving currently accounts for only 7-8% of all giving to non-profits, which begs the question, “Why bother?” The initial start-up costs are a pain, and the fees are sometimes exorbitant. So why start or encourage online giving, especially at church?

Your members increasingly want to give online. They don’t write checks for anything else, and they will wonder why they have to write checks to church. We have promoted our online giving option over the last year, and now one of every three dollars given at church is online. This is up from only 10% two years ago. Our members have found out how easy it is. They like it.

Online giving increases total giving. Last year, I started giving online exclusively. When December 1 rolled around I saw that I had given more to church by that date than any other year. I had less to “catch up” on than ever before. I make up my “deficit” every December. But not every person does that. A family at church bragged to me about how easy online giving was. They had previously been sporadic givers at best. Since we have promoted online giving, the total number of giving units has gone up quite significantly.

Think about the future. My mother has not made or will ever make a single online donation. Her older than he wants to admit son has started giving online almost exclusively. My college age son and philanthropy? He already makes a monthly online donation to Compassion International and doesn’t even have a checkbook. If we expect millennials to give, we really need to provide online options, including text giving.

People give more regularly. They set up the automatic withdrawal and forget about it. I am convinced the more people you have giving online, the fewer ups and downs you will have during the giving year. The summer slump will not be as dramatic. If someone gives you $12,000 in a given year, you will most likely receive it in 24 equal installments, not $9,000 through November and $3,000 in December. (Those who receive bonuses will still make additional gifts in December, however.)

In the next blog, I will offer a few tips about starting online giving at church.

Online Giving

For the first ten years of my working career, I was paid weekly—every Thursday. The bookkeeper at church hand wrote the paychecks, and we knew we could pick them up after 12:00 pm. (We were a bit afraid of the woman who wrote the checks. She once told the youth minister, “I believe I would back in here to get this check considering how little work you did this week.”)

I drove down the street to deposit the check, usually leaving out a little cash. Then on Sundays I wrote my contribution check for church. Some years we even had contribution envelopes so we could keep up with our giving. If you still had the July 21st envelope in the box, you knew you missed a week. In a year I probably wrote at least 50 checks just to church.

Last year I wrote less than 80 checks total during the entire year, down from 167 checks in 2013. This year it will be even less. My twice-monthly paychecks go directly into my account without me touching them, and I deposit miscellaneous checks into my checking account via my phone. The only time I get cash is when I go on vacation. I, like most of you, pay almost all of my monthly bills through automatic withdrawals from my checking account or on my Rewards Credit Card.

I even quit balancing my checkbook. I feel a little wild and crazy to admit this. But when you can see it all online seconds after the purchase, what’s the point? Oh, the bank made that mistake back in 1993. I will take those odds.

All of these changes are why your non-profit and church must enter the world of online donations. Your donors expect the ease and convenience that comes with digital transactions.

Last year I started giving online to our church. We have had the capability for 3-4 years, but I only used it occasionally. But now my contributions are drafted every other week. In three simple words—“I love it.” Honestly, I don’t know why I did not start sooner.

Online giving for churches and non-profits? It used to be a luxury—something you did for early adapters. But not anymore.

It is expected.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice makes perfect. This cliché applies to so many parts of our lives. Changing a diaper, preparing a financial report, hitting a baseball, cooking an omelet, playing the piano. We become proficient and skilled in certain tasks, not necessarily because we have talent, but because we work at it.

I have always enjoyed speaking in public. Reciting a poem in the school assembly in the eighth grade was a fun challenge, as was preaching my first sermon as a teenager. But when did I really learn how to preach? The answer—the first year I served as a preaching minister. I went from speaking 25 times a year to 100 times. It was Monday morning, and two new sermons for next Sunday were staring me in the face. It was sink or swim time.

Prepare and deliver 100 new sermons in a year, and you have to get better. Or you move into another line of work. Ha!

I had not thought of this practice applying to generosity, but that is exactly what Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson propose in their new book, The Paradox of Generosity.

“One of the best ways of starting to become a truly generous person, if one really wants to, is simply to first start behaving like a generous person. Like many things in life, we usually learn best by doing; we perfect activities and attitudes by practicing them.”

Behaving like a generous person. What does that look like?

·      Giving money to the guy selling newspapers on the corner

·      Talking about practicing generosity in front of my children

·      Committing to give away all “surprise” money I receive this year

·      Volunteering at a soup kitchen and taking a friend with me

·      Buying lemonade from the kids down the street

·      Making anonymous gifts

·      Setting up an automatic payment to a favorite charity

·      Offering child-care to a young mother

·      Changing my default answer to yes, instead of no

We want to be generous, open-handed people—people who make a difference in the lives of others.

So, work at it. Practice makes perfect.