It’s not too late! While it’s true that most ministries and churches plan their year-end online church contribution campaigns over the summer or early fall, if you find yourself without a plan and the end of year quickly approaching, don’t panic.
In this blog series, we’ll talk about creative giving tools for churches. Over the next three weeks, we’ll unpack what churches need to know about cryptocurrency, planned (estate) giving, and how you can support donors who want to give of their assets (what we often call noncash gifts such as stock or property).
But today, we’ll start with things you can still do as a church if you haven’t had the bandwidth to develop a plan to encourage gifts at the end of the calendar year. While the last two months of the year are where most nonprofits and ministries see the bulk of their financial giving, it’s equally important for churches. Our members are motivated not merely by the tax implications of making their philanthropic contributions prior to Dec. 31, they are also celebrating this Holy season by showing generosity.
If you feel behind or have not implemented a specific year-end appeal or goal, here are a few steps you can take that will make the most of the time you have and position your stewardship program well for the coming year.
1. Gather stories about your church’s impact now and year-round.
Pastors, too often our churches don’t do a good job telling the story of our ministry’s impact.
Before you can write your next great fundraising appeal, you need a great story. Great stories come from a lot of hard work, preparation, and research. Chances are, you’ll need to connect with others in your organization to gather the stories of those whose lives have been touched by your mission and your donors.
Make the time to ask for these stories regularly from your frontline church staff or volunteers who can help you illustrate the difference you’re making. Find a place to house those stories, quotes and photos.
How is our youth group making a difference? Are we impacting families in our children’s ministry? How is our worship band helping bring people into the church?
Consider inviting your ministry volunteers and general members to share their stories about how the church has made an impact on them, on their families, in your community. Gather stories and photos from your outreach and mission efforts. Gather testimonies year-round and get in the habit of asking for them.
2. Tell those stories in any year-end messaging (email, web, social) and in your January tax receipts.
Donors are inspired when they know their giving has a direct impact and is making a difference. Look for ways to include the testimonies you gather in any congregational messages, website and social media to remind people of how important their gifts and tithes are to furthering your church’s Kingdom work. Share the specifics of a story and the faces of those impacted by your ministry.
Pastors, one common mistake that churches make is not leveraging their year-end tax receipt communication to members. We have to view that mailing not as an IRS requirement but as an opportunity to tell our givers what they helped us accomplish. Include bullets of your ministry outcomes, stories or testimonies of how your church through your donors advanced the Kingdom of God this past year. Be clear with donors that they are indeed transforming the lives of real life individuals.
3. Thank early and often.
Include several touchpoints for thanking your donors in the last months of the year. It could be a thank you or Thanksgiving card, a thank you calling campaign, or handwritten thank yous from staff or beneficiaries. It might mean a special thank you just for first-time donors or something unique for your recurring monthly partners. If those ideas are not something you and your staff can pull off this year, focus on your January receipt as a donor thank you.
In the next blogs in this series, we’ll do a deep dive into what pastors need to know about creative giving tools including cryptocurrency, planned gifts and gifts of assets. For other blogs in the Creative Giving Tools for Churches series please visit our Church Growth blog.
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.