From Managing Your Church:
Many churches look forward to a year-end giving bump to help make up for a budget shortfall. In the annual State of the Plate survey we co-sponsor, we know churches consistently count on December to boost total giving figures for the year, and in uncertain economic times, this can present challenges. For instance, among 1,500 churches who responded to the 2011 State of the Plate, nearly a third said year-end giving in 2010 missed expectations.
An end-of-year giving project can help maximize a bump up. It also can encourage long-term giving to avoid an overdependence on future Decembers.
“When it comes to generosity, we tend to leave story behind and rely on other motivations such as tradition, ‘ought to,’ and unhealthy manipulation,” says Brad Leeper, author of the eBook, So Much More, and principal of “generosity development” firm Generis. By sharing stories of God’s mission and personal narratives of giving, church staffs can encourage their congregations to consider the place of regular generosity in their own stories.
Here are four things to keep in mind as you plot the story of your end-of-year giving project:
1) Communicate your project
The end of the year is a strategic time to encourage your congregation to give. Many in your congregation may receive a year-end bonus. Because of this, and for tax reasons, people often make charitable donations near the end of the year. But these donors must choose from an ever-increasing number of charitable organizations and mission opportunities asking for money.
2) Strategically announce and advertise your project
When you first announce the project, ensure that your congregation understands what it is giving toward and why it fits with the mission and vision of the church’s ministry. People want to see their community’s values realized. Again, sharing stories as a part of your communication is important.
3) Celebrate your project
To show your gratitude, send a short, personal note to each giver. A hand-written note means much more than a typed letter or e-mail, especially for first-time givers. McBroom says, “People will open a hand-written letter before an official-printed envelope every time. Five compelling, hand-written sentences are sure to be read.” Although it may be time-intensive, the pastor should write this note, not a staff member. Use first names, and send it as soon as possible after receiving a gift. If your church policy states that you should not know about a person’s giving, include the line, “While I am not aware of the amount, your gift is very generous.”
4) Cultivate the long-term benefits of your project
Your project can increase long-term giving by creating a culture of generosity. One goal of your project should be to create first-time givers. The year-end project provides an excellent on-ramp for these first gifts because it celebrates the church’s communal impact. During the rest of the year, a new member may be reluctant to give in solitude because the effect may not be clear. But the project allows them to join their Christian community in a common goal. A second gift comes easier after the first is made.
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