If budget season is your least favorite time at your church, you’re in good company. We want to be good stewards of God’s provision and no matter the size of our church, we have to make difficult decisions to allocate those resources toward our mission. I haven’t yet met a church leader or pastor who hasn’t struggled with the stress of their budgeting process.
As part of our series of 25 fundraising ideas for churches, we’re focusing today on the concept that your budget can be a great fundraising tool. The root of this concept is transparency, and creating new ways for members to help support the needs of your ministry!
Our tithers and givers should have a clear understanding of the budget and the church’s financial needs and obligations. Educating our congregants about these realities helps donors understand the impact of their tithes and gifts. But this will take intentional effort – it’s not something most of us on church boards and staff members are comfortable with, so we have to get used to the notion of sharing appropriate information with context more broadly. Always commit to honesty about the status of your ministries, programs and changes in the church.
There are proven ways to make your budget work as a fundraising tool. First, build a narrative version of your church’s budget. This is a high-level look at your budget areas with key graphics or narrative text. It should describe the investment in each area along with planned and actual revenue/expenses. Aim to make it easy to understand and easy on the eyes – less spreadsheet and more dashboard. Many organizations then update this narrative dashboard each quarter to share the updated financial position with their donors.
Take time to break down some aspects of your budget into actual dollar “handles” for your donors – this allows them to literally “grab” onto how a gift at each donor level impacts various needs. For example, how many donors giving $150 a month does it take to fund your utilities? Your IT budget? Your youth director salary? Tangible examples in the narrative budget educates your donors on how they make a difference.
This can be an important exercise for you, your staff and your board – breaking down budget lines into monetized, tangible levels for donors to grasp. This helps the $25 a week donor feel less like their funds are going into an “operational black hole” and more empowered to know how a gift at their level helps the church in various ways.The more you can educate your members about your actual costs and ministry needs, the more excited they will get in helping to fund and meet those goals. Don’t dread budget season next time around: turn it into a great stewardship opportunity!