It’s hard to avoid the fact that we live in difficult economic times. Your church may be feeling the pinch as well, even if it’s only because some of your faithful givers have had to decrease their contributions in response to their own financial situations. But when you have big plans for your ministry, you need the funds to support that vision.
Thinking about this topic, we’ve pulled together a few ideas that you might consider as you look at ways to strengthen your church’s bottom line.
1. Talk the Talk, 24/7
How do you talk about money in your church community? Do you only mention it when you suddenly realize that your annual operating budget is short for the next fiscal year? Or when a big storm makes the need for a capital campaign too strong to ignore? If you only talk about money in your times of need, you are missing a prime opportunity to share with your members the results of their giving.
Try this instead: Throughout the year, look for opportunities to highlight your ministries in your bulletin, church newsletter, or other venues. Do you have a bustling soup kitchen? Run some photos of meals being served in your newsletter and remind people that their contributions helped feed those in need. Are you known for your vibrant music programs? Let people know that their contributions pay for sheet music and the organist’s salary. Don’t wait for a big stewardship campaign to do this – focus on it throughout the year. Include the message everywhere you communicate with your congregation, from social media to membership classes to the pulpit.
2. Giving in the 21st Century
Consider how people manage their money today, and be sure they can give just as easily. Utilize and maximize online giving. It’s fast, easy and safe – and it can help even out your giving year-round. No more summer slump while families leave on vacation, because they can easily set up automatic giving.
There are a number of options, including our own online giving option via Access ACS.
3. Keep Everyone in the Loop
Consider running weekly or monthly giving totals in your bulletin. This way, if you are consistently falling short in your weekly goals, no one will be surprised. Your members want to feel engaged in their church – they want to know that you’re not doing church business behind closed doors. Financial transparency is a hot topic in church leadership groups these days, and the more you can encourage transparency by sharing financial data with your members, the easier it will be to ask for money during your stewardship campaign each year.
4. Stay on the Same Page
Be sure your pastors and staff are all on the same page when it comes to talking about money. Remember your soup kitchen? Make sure your senior pastor knows the details about those 24,000 meals you served last year, and that he or she isn’t afraid to share this information with members. Think about hiring a fundraising professional to come in to give a workshop to your pastors about the right and wrong ways to ask for money. Assess how comfortable your pastors are in asking for money from the pulpit, and then set up some ground rules about how this should be done. A consistent message across all staff lines is what you’re looking for.
5. It’s Okay to Sing Your Praises
Are you doing good work in the greater community? If so, then it would be wise of you to spend an afternoon making some calls to your local media. Reporters are looking for interesting stories to cover – it’s not hard to get on their radar. Just make sure you pitch the story to the right reporter. You’ll have better luck if you find a unique angle – a compelling story that makes your work stand out from the crowd.
If you get coverage, share it with your flock. You may also find donations from non-members increasing, especially if you have an online giving option. There may be prominent people in your community who care about the plight of the homeless – when they find out the amazing work of your soup kitchen, a generous donation could follow.
6. Revitalizing by Evangelizing
Don’t forget evangelizing. Yes, this is a long-term goal, but it’s a vital one. New members equal an increased revenue stream. Sometimes, it’s easy for overworked pastors to find themselves unable to get out in the community to share the good news of your church with the world. Sit down with your leadership team and discuss this. Maybe it’s time to reserve some funding for advertising in the local papers, or maybe a lay committee could be appointed to help with evangelizing. Consider working with a mailhouse to buy a list of the names and addresses of new homeowners; why not send them an invitation to join you for worship? Be creative! There are people out there looking for a church. Welcome them to yours.
As you consider all the ways to increase donations to your church, don’t become discouraged. With these challenges come opportunities – just one or two small changes might have a large impact on your financial spreadsheet. Your biggest mistake will be to assume that you have no choice but to continue to do business as usual. In our ever-changing world, your creativity, your hard work, and your openness to new ideas might just turn your giving profile completely around.
Tell us in comments: What’s one thing your church is considering to increase contributions?