Building healthy church cultures starts with building healthy leaders — staff who know their purpose, are at peace with who they are, and can inspire others. But beyond leadership and inspiring others, we must build a healthy culture within our church staff community. The absence of these key elements will create a type of “grind culture” where people show up to do great work for a great cause but have to grind all day every day to overcome the culture or environment in which they’re working.
In this series, we’re talking about ways your church culture can best support your stewardship and donor relations programs. There’s nothing more powerful than a ministry or church culture where all the staff – regardless of their role – have truly embraced a relational development approach. When all your staff regardless of their role embody the relational aspects of ministry, giving is a natural outgrowth.
Pastors, there’s a massive advantage to cross-training staff members so they can help build effective relationships with givers at all levels. In some cases, the best relational ‘fit’ even with a major donor may be a frontline ministry staffer.
Eric was a dynamic youth worker who had made a tremendous impact on the children of a wealthy family in the community. A ministry wanted to give this family an opportunity to consider financially supporting a project, but they had no entré. Eric served on the ministry staff, but certainly not in fundraising — yet he had the ability to pick up the phone and make a date with the head of that family.
Because Eric had been trained in aspects of major donor ministry, and because he embraced the relational development culture and the idea that giving to the ministry was a good thing, he was able to make that contact. ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ the conversation began. From there it led to ‘Hey, can I come by and talk to you about a new project that our ministry is doing, and see if you’d like to be involved?’ It was natural, it was casual — and it was hugely valuable to the ministry.
This was not a question of who was the most persuasive fundraiser in the ministry; it was a question of who is the best person for the relationship. But you can’t convince an associate pastor or staff member to represent the financial needs of the church to a donor if he or she hasn’t been trained and inspired to be part of a culture that is thoroughly committed to donor relationships. Eric saw the ministry dynamic of fundraising and rose to the challenge. He understood that it would be more than good for the organization if that family became donors; it would be good for that family as well.
In a large or multi-campus church, the intentional cross-training of staff also comes with the burden of coordination. Without a sense of connection and synergy across the church, we tend to silo. It’s more a matter of good communication flow and process than about lines of authority. (Though it can be about that, too! We’ll talk about that in the next blog in this series.)
We’ve all had that awkward situation where two parts of your ministry communicate conflicting messages to someone external. It’s embarrassing. It sends a message to stakeholders that you’re disorganized, that you’re not communicating effectively inside the organization, that you have a problem in how one part of the ministry relates to another. A vendor reached out to me with a plan to build a key partnership with us. He was “the one to do the deal,” he told me. But when word got out about our interest in this partnership, three other people from inside his group suddenly contacted me, all claiming that they, in essence, had the secret sauce and could make the partnership click. I quickly called their CEO with two observations: (1) you’re creating confusion in our group, and (2) there’s a serious lack of communication in your ecosystem!
Yes, involving all of your staff in building a giving culture will take commitment and communication. But the greater danger of not cross-training all of your staff to do development and donor engagement work is NOT doing it.
In the next two weeks, we’ll talk about red flags to avoid in building a church-wide development culture that grows church online giving.
Tim Smith has over 30 years of experience in Church, Non-Profit Administration, Management, and Fund Development. Serving as an Executive Pastor and Chief Development Officer in growing Churches and Non-Profit Organizations has provided a wide range of expertise and resources. Tim serves as Founder and CEO for Non-Profit DNA, a boutique firm committed to helping nonprofits and churches build their capacity through fundraising, leadership, team building, staff recruiting, and coaching.