The COVID-19 pandemic has affected churches in many ways. While switching to virtual programming has increased attendance & giving at some churches, other churches have not had as great results. Income is down for many. Often way down. But even in this time of crisis, there are some things church leaders can do to start seeing the funds flow in once again.
Of vital importance is adjusting to the reality that people who give to churches are donors. Therefore, a strategic donor relations plan to reach out and engage with church members will help. While some will be hesitant to adopt the idea of thinking of church givers as donors, churches are dependent on the generosity of their members. Building a relationship with them is never a bad thing.
Here are the “Five 3s of Church Donors” that will lead churches to greater giving during both crisis and non-crisis times.
3 Categories of Donors: Consistent, Generous, Lapsed
Every church has three kinds of givers (donors) to approach differently. Thank consistent givers for their faithful weekly, monthly, or quarterly giving. Thank generous givers for meeting urgent needs and for giving above and beyond the norm. Reach out to lapsed givers and see how they are doing. Recognize their previous giving, and discover ways to help them if they are facing tough times.
3 Kinds of Connection: Phone Call, Email, Thank You Card
Reaching out is easy. Just try phoning or dropping a note. A phone call from the church offers a chance to connect and open a dialogue. An email is less personal but may be easier than a phone conversation and therefore less ominous. A handwritten thank you card can be meaningful to people. In all cases, a clear message of thanks can be combined with a short update or impact story to connect their giving to real results, giving a sense of value and purpose to their gifts.
3 Purposes of Communication: Thank you, How Are You, Update Report
There are some great reasons to reach out to your givers! Write to say thank you for their giving and participation. Reach out to see how they are doing, not asking for anything, simply expressing your care and concern. Contact people with a report or update on the activities, ministries, and programming results of the church. In these days of a global pandemic, people may assume since the church is not meeting corporately, that no ministry is going on. Bringing them up to speed on what is still happening can help keep them engaged.
3 Types of People who can Reach Out: Senior Pastor, Elders, Trusted Leaders
Don’t put the pressure of donor relations all on one person! Build a team of people to get the job done. The senior pastor, executive pastor, or stewardship director are always great places to start. Elders or deacons, as the senior leadership of the church, should also get involved. Plus, there may be trusted leaders (lay leaders or staff members) who can help. Find out who is best suited to make a genuine connection to those who have given financially to the church. The larger the church, the larger the team needs to be.
3 Challenges to Overcome: Accurate Information, Confidentiality, Resistance
In this effort, there will definitely be some challenges to overcome. The quality and availability of accurate giving information may be the first hurdle. You’ll need information on giving data plus historical patterns. Get a financial management system that will produce the results you need. Another issue is confidentiality. Financial giving records must be handled properly by authorized personnel. Find a way to involve people in your donor relations activities without breaching church members’ privacy. And finally, there may be resistance to the idea of church givers as donors. Overcome this bias through education, involvement, and training. Getting everyone on board will be essential.
Donors like to be thanked for their online giving. They appreciate a sincere expression of gratitude and affirmation that their giving is making a difference. Connecting with your church’s donors is a chance to deepen a relationship and build a meaningful and lasting relationship.