While there are no shortcuts to building authentic major donor relationships, your church’s culture can fast-track or stifle it. So what how can your Church Cultures Grow Giving?
Many churches and ministries contact us to help develop major donors, only to be disappointed when we insist that an entire ministry culture must be established to achieve maximum success. Too often, they want a ‘program’ that they can ‘add’ to what they are doing. They want to be able to ‘contract for’ (that is, buy) major donors and major donations or somehow shortcut the work needed to build those partnerships. Such an approach will produce unsatisfying and, at best, short-term results.
In this series, we’ll explore ways your church culture can best support your stewardship and donor relations programs. We’ll take a look at organizational mistakes and toxic leadership styles to watch out for, and we’ll unpack ideas for shifting the culture among church staff to enhance the donor experience.
Let’s start with exploring if your church’s culture is feeding or stifling your giving program. Pastors, who in your church is accountable for stewardship? Who does your development and marketing work?
In a healthy church culture that grows church giving, your answer should be “everyone.” Everyone on staff does development, donor relations, and marketing. It’s not the work of just the staff in the communications or stewardship office.
A frontline ministry or program staff member, after all, comes in contact with hundreds of people over a year who might become more deeply involved with the church – if that staff member were only tuned in to their potential. Especially in a large or multi-campus church, the entire organization needs to understand, embrace, and commit to a pastoral and relational development philosophy. It cannot simply be something staff in another department does.
To create a culture conducive to relational major donor work, we have to get “over the hump” of thinking about this as a new kind of formula for success. It’s about loving the people who support the church, believing they’re happier and healthier when they’re giving, and inspiring them to step up to the fullness of their potential as supporters. Staff who “do programs” or other tasks in your church do not need to see a move toward relationships with members as donors as a departure from their purpose. It is an extension, a new facet, of their purpose.
Pastors, this takes work and commitment from the very top. Shifting the culture of an organization – where it permeates the thinking of every staff member – is challenging and takes time.
In the book The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, Ori Brafman uses the starfish and the spider as examples of organizations. If you cut off a spider’s head, it dies; if you cut off a starfish’s leg, it grows a new one, and the severed leg can grow into an entirely new starfish. Traditional top-down organizations are like spiders, but starfish organizations are changing the face of business and the world. You need shared development and organizational DNA to reshape a group of people. Hence, they become so dominated by a core idea that they function and grow even when tested by the absence of leadership.
Some churches don’t want to bother involving certain portions of their staff or adjusting certain systems. In many cases, the reasons are political. ‘Barbara’ has such a high sense of ownership of her area that nobody wants to challenge her. Or ‘Robert’ has been in his role so long that everybody assures everybody else that he can never change to avoid confrontation. But to allow philosophical inconsistencies within any organization, especially a large or multi-campus church congregation, is always deadly. Do the hard work of integrating your entire church staff into a new way of thinking — create a true culture — and you’ll take your ministries to a whole new level.
In the next weeks, we’ll cover staff, structure, and leadership issues that can hamper your church’s donor relationships.
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.