Should You Know How Much People Give?

With the title of this blog it is immediately obvious that I am talking about churches and not non-profits. Non-profits absolutely know what individuals give, and they have the spreadsheets to prove it. The lifeblood of a non-profit is charitable giving. Cultivating, pursuing, tracking and thanking donors is an absolute must.

Churches are another matter.

On more than one occasion when we have begun work with a church on a capital campaign, we learn that only one or two individuals know what people give: the financial secretary and a key volunteer who has counted the money on Sundays for 25 years. The elders do not know what people give, the preacher does not know, the deacons, nobody. In fact, they announce with pride, “We do not know what people give.”

This is simply misguided.

Let me give you eight reasons why you need to know what people give.

  1. Giving is a spiritual matter. If you truly believe God cares about people and how they steward their finances, then spiritual leaders should be interested in what their people give.

  2. Sorry if this one sounds mean spirited, but here goes. It helps to know who to listen to. When a generous person expresses an opinion, you listen. You don’t listen because you are swayed by money but because you know this person cares about your church. They care enough to be generous. On the other hand when you realize Mr. “Thorn in your Side” gave a grand total of $217 last year, it is easier to shake off criticisms and complaints.

  3. Do you really want someone in a significant leadership position at church who does not give? I don’t. Placing someone on your board of elders or the executive council who does not give—there is no way to say this delicately—to do this is foolish. It is more than foolish. It is dumb.

  4. You need to know at campaign time. The leaders think a six figure gift will come from a family, not knowing they quit giving five years ago when they got mad about something. Previous generosity at church is the number one predictor of generosity in a campaign. Not knowing, especially at campaign time, is flying blind.

  5. Knowing giving patterns alerts you to potential problems. A consistent $10,000 a year giver suddenly stops giving. Is their business in trouble, their child in rehab, what? You won’t know to ask if you don’t have a cursory knowledge of their giving.

  6. You know who to thank. If you can thank someone for volunteering to host a lock-in for the teenagers, you certainly ought to be thanking people for giving. That special contribution for tornado victims—you received $10,000 more than you usually do—you ought to thank the member who wrote that big check. “We could not have done it without you. Thank you.”

  7. You know who to thank. I am not just talking about those who can write a big check. The widow who gives 15% of her merger fixed income—if she does not deserve a thank you and a hug, then who does?

  8. You know who to ask. A need arises for something special. You need $5,000 in four days. Do you know which five members to call and ask for $1,000? Remember the size of their home and the car they drive tells you nothing about how committed they are to your church.

Leaders need to know what church members give.