Are you a church leader who is frustrated by your congregation’s lack of financial commitment to your faith community?
Are you a nonprofit leader who hopes to secure financial support from local churches?
Let’s face it. Most faith communities are comprised of some of the most selfless, motivated, volunteer-oriented individuals you will ever meet. The problem is that church demographics and dynamics have shifted drastically over the past decade, and those changes directly impact participation and charitable giving.
Before we dive into strategies for inspiring consistent and increased giving within the faith community, it is important to consider a few key statistics.
Here in the “Bible Belt,” we joke that there is a church on every corner. It certainly feels that way.
According to The Christian Post, there were approximately 300,000 Christian churches and 228.1 million Christians (including non-actives) in the United States as of 2017.
This number does not include many other faith communities who also engage in missions and philanthropy.
Despite those staggering numbers, churches, and nonprofits who depend on those congregations to support vital ministries are still struggling to get members to open their wallets or increase their current level of giving.
The lack of consistent giving might have something to do with the fact that church attendance numbers continue to drop, and currently, only 37% of members attend their church on a regular basis. (Gallup Poll 2017)
Two decades ago “active membership” described individuals who attended an average of three services per week. Today a member is considered active if they attend weekly services which means they only have to walk into the church 3-4 times per month to be considered active.
Even if a church does manage to fill the pews on Sunday morning, only 10%-25% of individuals in the typical congregation tithe regularly and a staggering 37% of Evangelical churchgoers report that they do not contribute financially to their home church.
While we are not here to tell you how to increase church attendance today, we can share a few statistics and strategies that could jumpstart church or mission-focused giving.
On a positive note, 67% of church donations happen between Monday through Friday, not during the Sunday service.
“Another surprising giving statistic is over 30% of donations come in between 9 PM and 6 AM.”
1. Ensure that participants and members understand the vision and mission of your church
It isn’t enough to pass an offering plate every Sunday or encourage participants to give “unto the Lord.” Congregation members often feel that “tithing” can involve giving to their primary place of worship or to an organization or cause that aligns with their faith.
Does your church have a vision statement and a mission statement? The vision statement should INSPIRE your congregation by explaining where your church is going in the future. The mission statement should INFORM them about what the church is doing today to achieve the vision. If so, consider sharing those key messaging components in your written resources (Sunday worship bulletin, emails, etc.) and ensuring that you highlight how proposed activities/events tie into your faith community’s core values, the vision, and the mission. If you do not have a written vision and mission statement or feel yours might need to be reviewed and revised, feel free to refer to Funding For Good’s resource.
At the end of the day, PEOPLE GIVE TO PEOPLE… not projects and not plates! Appeals should not originate and end from the pulpit. Your missions committee, clergy or other leadership should be informed and actively sharing opportunities to contribute with the congregation members at an individual level.
2. Clarify Expectations
Churches “pass the offering plate” every week and pray it gets filled. Consider adopting a more intentional approach by building relationships with the members of your congregation and allowing them to share what projects/causes they are most passionate about. If your church has a process for educating and engaging new members, be sure to share why the church depends on financial support in the form of a tithe, special offerings, annual campaigns, etc. Specifically highlight how each of those ministry opportunities (line items) IMPACT the church community, local community, or national/international partner.
There is nothing wrong with explaining how funds are used and requesting that members of your faith community step up to accomplish shared goals. Your missions committee, youth group, men’s circle, or women’s circle can explore and share how they intend to support the church’s ministry on a quarterly basis through prayer, volunteerism, and financial support.
Pledge cards or commitments are very helpful for securing future one-time or ongoing support from individuals. Once an individual has expressed their willingness to contribute via a pledge, it makes the follow-up and follow-through process much more comfortable for leaders who are charged with securing contributions!
3. Make Giving Easy
The numbers are in, and flexible and quick giving opportunities increase revenue. If you are sending out appeals by mail, be sure to include a remittance envelope that captures the donor’s name, contribution amount, and intent. Consider adding a “DONATE” button in a visible place on your website and a giving link on your social media so members can jump online and contribute with ease. Keep contribution envelopes or online payment options visible and accessible during your church outreach events. Many families who attend activities might be happy to contribute, but they are not in the pews on Sunday morning and may be missing key announcements. You might consider crowdfunding options and establish one impact campaign per quarter, so congregation members have more time to engage in each particular “cause.”
Remember, there is a difference between being “pushy” and making giving easy!