The key to sustainable ministry funding lies right at the heart of the mission of the church: helping persons become fully devoted followers of Christ. When people take seriously their discipleship journey certain behaviors begin to change such as frequency in worship, serving on ministry teams, daily prayer, and giving of their financial resources. Giving and generosity are clear and measurable indicators of discipleship. It is no surprise that churches with an effective discipleship path tend to have substantially higher levels of ministry funding.
For years, churches have collected the data needed to measure the effectiveness of their discipleship paths. But getting that data into an actionable format from their Church Management Software (ChMS) is often a nightmare.
A couple of years ago, a tool was created to address this problem. MortarStone developed a web-based tool that works with ChMS systems to organize the mountains of data that churches have stored in their databases. MortarStone’s tools enable leaders of discipleship programs, missions teams, stewardship committees, and pastoral care to easily and directly access the information they need while still protecting sensitive donor information.
With a growing emphasis on measuring impact, churches are realizing it’s not enough to simply count activities and participants as the primary measures of a successful discipleship program. Individual generosity is, of course, a vital indicator of spiritual growth and a key element on the discipleship path.
With MortarStone, churches can measure growth in individual generosity and connect it to the ministry activity that precipitated that change. When churches understand what is working and what is not, they can reallocate resources to programs and ministries that are driving life change.
Here is a common example of using data to connect specific ministries with positive changes in key discipleship indicators. An Executive Pastor compared the giving patterns of people who participated in small groups versus nonparticipants. The Executive Pastor discovered small group participants gave, on average, $2,133 more per year. Based on the apparent impact of the small group ministry on the discipleship path, the church chose to invest $75,000 in new staffing to support small group ministries. Assuming a similar result for future small group participants, the church reasoned only 35 additional households were needed to cover the investment in staffing.
Church data can be used to track the impact of ministries such as Financial Peace University, serving ministries, and others. Want to know the impact of a recent mission trip? Curious about the effectiveness of your new member class or stewardship series? Want to know the differences in giving between your campus locations or worship services? With MortarStone giving data analysis, churches can effectively organize information and measure impact to make data-driven decisions regarding future ministry investments.
This technology exists to take the guesswork out of measuring the effectiveness of your discipleship path. By using increases in household giving as evidence of the transformative work of the Holy Spirit, churches can now make better decisions regarding programming and resource allocation.
As people deepen their walk with Christ through worship, spiritual growth, and service, the harvest of your generosity plan grows exponentially because you are cultivating in richer spiritual soil.
Joe Park is Horizons’ Managing Partner. Horizons is a national leader in guiding churches to increased funding, mission fulfillment, and transformation.
Stewardship Discovery is our comprehensive diagnostic process used to assess giving practices in the development and implementation of plans to increase personal giving in churches. If you would like to learn more about developing a generosity plan for your church or using data to improve discipleship, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit horizons.net.
This article originally appeared in Church Executive Best Practices Forum on Fundraising and Generosity.
The Law of Inertia states an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted on by an external force. The same tends to be true about church donors. Church members who do not contribute are challenging to inspire. When someone donates for the first-time, it is cause for celebration! However, knowing how and when to respond to a first-time gift will ensure a repeat donation. Repeat donors will provide significant resources that enable your church to fulfill its vision. Here’s what to do.
Some of your church members will finally take the plunge and make a first-time gift to the church. (For insights on why 50% of church members don’t contribute, click here.) Sometimes, it is the only gift they ever make and you might never know why. After significant study, non-profit researchers learned the number one reason first-time donors never make a second contribution. Can you guess what it is?
It’s not because they were ignored. Sending a personal thank you is recommended, however, it is not the most important factor in receiving a repeat gift.
It is not because they felt their gift was wasted or unnecessary. At the beginning stages of giving, people aren’t typically concerned about the stewardship of their gifts.
It’s not even because they lost interest in the organization. Their interest in the community doesn’t disappear overnight. Their interest in your ministry may continue, but they chose not to give again.
The number one reason first-time donors don’t make a second gift — they were asked for a second gift BEFORE being thanked for the first one.
Likely we have all had this experience of being asked for another gift too soon after making a first-time donation. Charities seize the opportunity to ask for a gift because they think, based on your gift, you are sympathetic to their cause. As soon as your check lands on the Executive Director’s desk, another solicitation arrives in your mailbox. It feels impersonal and greedy.
Has this happened in your church? It shouldn’t.
We are the Church! We are all about love, and grace, and gratitude (among other things.) Expressing gratitude lets donors know you care about them, not just their finances.
Your plan for acknowledging first-time donations should consider the following:
1) First-time givers should receive a thank you note within a week of making the donation.
2) Your thank you note should include information about how donations are making an impact through your church. Connect their donation with the church’s ability to achieve its God-given vision.
3) Do not make a second ask in the letter — the letter is 100% gratitude.
Here is a sample thank you letter to first-time donors to get you started.
This blog was adapted from the original published 11/2/2017.
“I have some good news and bad news. The good news is the church has enough money to pay its bills. The bad news is that money is still in people’s pockets.” This preacher joke isn’t new, and neither is its message. Not many people in your church are giving. If people would just give, then the church really would have enough money, right?
In a typical church, about 50% of the households do not contribute financially…including many who are actively engaged in the church community. Why do active church families choose not to give?
In May 2017, people had more debt than they did at the start of the recession. Student loan debt has doubled and both car loans and credit card debt have grown significantly. Debt reduces people’s capacity to be generous to the church. For more on the impact of personal debt on church giving, click here.
What to do: Offer classes such as Financial Peace University to help people take positive steps to get their financial lives in order and eliminate their debt. The first step in increasing capacity for giving is to enable members to take control of their debt and become debt-free.
It is easy to buy into the message that stuff will bring more joy, more security, and more happiness. We buy bigger houses, newer cars, nicer toys (especially if technology is involved) and take bigger vacations. Yet the joy is fleeting, the security short-lived, and the happiness elusive. To learn more about the struggle between allegiance to God versus money, read more here.
What to do: Invite people to participate in hands-on mission work. This type of involvement often adds a much-needed balance to a consumer attitude and enables people to turn their focus toward gratitude, joy, security, and happiness.
Fear is a long-lasting consequence of the recession that continues to shape people’s attitudes. Many still feel anxious about the future and how it will impact them financially. A common response to fear is to cling tightly to what you have. There is a reason why a clenched fist is not an image associated with generosity.
What to do: Preach the message of hope that is found in one’s faith in Jesus Christ and provides a stronger foundation for life.
Non-givers often have the impression that any sermon or conversation about giving is about the church’s need to pay its bills. In addition, personal finances are just that—personal and not the church’s business. They complain about the ‘annual money sermon’ or even ‘beg-a-thon’ and protest if the pastor knows what people give. Though flawed, their perception is their reality. These misconceptions can lead to serious consequences.
What to do: Change the focus of your conversations around money and giving. Talk about people’s need to give rather than the church’s need to get. Share the message of transformation through generous giving and make giving about God.
If your church hopes to cultivate generosity and help people grow in their giving, address these real-life issues. By taking these positive steps, the day will come when that joke is no longer true!
The blog was updated from the original published 8/15/2017.