Ways to Increase Donor Motivation

by | September 12, 2018

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That is how many times I have donated blood. My first donation was through a blood drive when I was in college. It was a relatively painless experience and home-made cookies were offered as motivation! I started donating after that, but for years I did so sporadically.  At some point, I learned my blood type was O negative, a classification fitting only 7% of the population. As a universal blood donor, anyone in a medical emergency could receive my blood. After a brief uptick in my donations, life interfered and my motivation to donate waned.

When I was making my 50th or so donation, I learned something else. In addition to being O negative, I am also CMV negative.  Blood with these two qualities is the only type that can be given to newborn babies. As a donor, I am referred to as a "baby quad" because one pint of my blood can be divided and given to four different babies! After I knew this, I began to make the effort to donate every six weeks. I did this for a time until life got busy again.

Eventually, donating felt more like a duty than a joy and my motivation dwindled.

 

Months would pass without a donation. Finally, after several reminder phone calls from the blood center, I scheduled a time to donate. On the morning before my donation, I spoke with someone on the phone and happened to mention I was giving blood later that day. When I revealed, I am a "baby quad," the voice on the other end got quiet. After a brief pause, through tears, she said, “Thank you.”   She explained that a few months earlier she had given birth and her baby daughter had required over a dozen blood transfusions. And then she said, “My daughter is alive today because people like you are willing to donate their blood."

 

That moment reminded me of the reason I donate: giving blood truly is the "gift of life."

 

Regardless of the type of donation, the primary motivation for giving is belief in the mission the gift supports. Knowing that my blood donation could help save the lives of newborn babies inspired me to donate again! It is up to church leaders to help donors connect the dots between their gift to the church and the church's ability to do life-changing ministry. Showing your donors how their gifts are making a difference in the world will motivate them to give again.

Here are some ways to increase donor motivation.

  • Keep your mission front and center as a reminder of the importance of giving. The mission of your church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Do not assume everyone understands this single purpose. A recent study by Barna found that 51% of churchgoers state they have never heard of the Great Commission.
  • Have a clear and compelling vision that lifts up the unique ways your church is living out its mission in your context.  Without a clear vision, the church can become inwardly focused and self-serving. A clear vision has the power to shape and connect everything that the church does, both uniting and energizing the congregation in its life and purpose.
  • Create a Vision Statement that is simple and easy to memorize. State it regularly in sermons, in the liturgy, on communication platforms, and on the website.  In 10 Prescriptions for a Healthy Church, author Bishop Bob Farr says “I have never seen a church grow by hanging a mission and vision statement on the wall. On the other hand, I have never seen a growing congregation that didn’t deeply understand their mission and vision."
  • Share stories of lives impacted and changed through your ministries. It is interesting to learn that 15 or 30 or 100 students went on a mission trip. But it is inspiring to hear one story of how a student’s faith was impacted by that experience. It is rousing to hear a story from someone whose life was changed forever by those students. Facts and data inform the mind but stories touch the heart. Donor motivation requires both.

Help donors stay motivated by connecting their generosity with your mission.

  • Preach on the theology of money and giving. While people will not contribute to the church because it needs money to pay its bills, they will be moved by a biblical message that shapes values and offers guidance on how they can faithfully use their resources.
  • Express gratitude. While receiving thanks may not be the only reason why people give, donors do want to feel their gifts are appreciated. A personal thank-you note is an opportunity to let your supporters know you value them and what they do. Gratitude is key to donor motivation.

 

It was just a simple, heartfelt "Thank you," but it reminded me of the importance of my donation and reconnected me to the joy of giving. Maybe those who support your church need a reminder as well.

 

Donation #173 is already on my calendar.

 

 

 

To access Horizons' free stewardship resources, click here to sign up for Giving365.

 

3 Comments

  1. This is a fantastic blog Dustin. You have nailed it. If leaders want their donors to give generously and with joyful enthusiasim they need to read this and follow your advice. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your response. Glad you found the blog to be helpful!

      Reply

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How to Increase Your Church’s Giving in Spite of the New Tax Law

The headlines suggest impending doom for churches:

“Charitable Donations Are Tough to Get Under the New Tax Law”
“Charities Brace for Giving Plunge in Wake of New Tax Law”
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This is not the first time that changes in tax laws have resulted in such dire predictions. In 1981, the New York Times published this headline: “New Tax Law is Said to Endanger Billions of Gifts to Private Groups.” Fortunately for the nonprofit sector, that predication was wrong: gifts to charity over the next three years actually increased!

What impact will the new tax law have on charitable giving?

The long-term impact on philanthropy of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) remains unclear.  However, a strategic giving summit, led by Robert Sharpe of the Sharpe Group, highlighted new opportunities for donors made possible by the new law. Also, Sharpe suggested several strategies to grow giving to compensate for changes in the law. Here is an overview of Sharpe’s perspective on the law and the most effective ways to give going forward.

First, the reality. The new law was the most comprehensive revision in the tax code in over 30 years. The changes included a doubling of the standard deduction and a reduction in the mortgage interest and state/local tax deductions. Also, the cap on cash gifts was raised from 50% of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) to 60%. Limits on deductions for high income donors were suspended until 2026 and home equity interest deductions were eliminated. As a result, it is expected that half of the people who itemized their deductions in 2017 will not itemize in 2018. However, high income donors who will continue to itemize may find expanded opportunities and incentives for larger charitable gifts.

So, how can churches guide donors? What can be done to salvage the tax benefits for those who no longer itemize and promote new opportunities for those who do?

Sharpe suggested three strategies: bunching, boosting and bypassing.

Bunching refers to donors making charitable contributions every other year. The every-other-year strategy enables donors to bunch two years of giving into one allowing them to itemize in the year their gifts were given. As an alternative, donors can contribute to a donor-advised fund (DAF) every other year and give ½ to the church each year. This strategy helps the church’s cash flow but can skew income if the church is not aware of the donor’s intentions. Some of your donors may have done this last December. You should review your 2017/2018 giving, especially among your larger donors, to see if they may be using a bunching strategy already.

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Bypassing is the third way to take advantage of the changes in the tax law. Donors can enjoy a “deduction equivalent” by making gifts that bypass their income stream. The most common form of bypassing is the IRA rollover provision in the tax code. People age 70 ½ and older who have IRAs are required to take a yearly minimum distribution (RMD) that is taxable as ordinary income. These people are now able to make a yearly gift of up to $100,000 directly from their IRAs to churches and charities. This gift counts as their RMD, avoids the taxes, and reduces their AGI on which many other deductions are based. Although the IRA rollover provision predates the new tax law, its importance has been amplified by recent changes and by the increasing number of Boomers becoming eligible.

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  1. Promote the benefits of gifts of appreciated securities and other non-cash assets, such as IRA rollovers. Because about 8,000 Baby Boomers turn 70 ½ every day, appreciated asset gifts will be increasingly important in funding your ministry. Remember the IRA rollover provision allows eligible donors to enjoy the tax benefits of their gifts regardless of whether they itemize. However, your church will not receive asset gifts unless you make a conscious effort to educate members about these opportunities. Remember to tell donors how these gifts make a substantial difference to your mission and ministry. Colleges and nonprofits are making the case for why they should receive these gifts. Be sure you are doing the same.

 

  1. Inform your donors that the federal estate and gift tax has, for all practicable purposes, been eliminated. Many donors created estate plans based on the old tax laws. Those plans usually included insurance or assets in trusts to pay the necessary taxes. Any bequests to family and charities were made from the remaining assets. The higher estate tax exemption means donors can leave more to charity and increase the amount distributed to family members! Position your church to be the recipient of these “extra savings.” Once again, take advantage of the resources available through denominational and community foundations.

The new tax law does not mean your giving will be negatively impacted. But growing giving requires being informed about the best ways to give.

Too many church leaders are operating under the assumption that the TCJA will have a negative impact on giving. Robert Sharpe reminded us that the “sky has never fallen” except during major economic downturns. It is clear the opportunities made possible by the new law outweigh the threats created by it. Churches need to tell that good news in order to enhance their ability to proclaim THE Good News!

Tom Norwood, D.Min, CFRE is a Senior Vice President with Horizons. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister who holds degrees from Davidson College, Columbia Theological Seminary, and Yale University. Tom is a regular speaker at regional and national fundraising and stewardship conferences.

Is your Generosity Approach Helping or Hurting your Church?

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The One. The Few. The Many.

 

Join two of the most knowledgeable leaders in church stewardship, Joel Mikell (Horizons Stewardship) and Doug Turner (Culture of Ready) for a free webinar entitled, The One. The Few. The Many. On Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 11AM ET/8AM PT, these industry experts will discuss how a one-size-fits-all approach to generosity may be negatively impacting your church. The webinar will address how to develop distinct approaches for three important groups within every church.

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The Many: the largest group in any church that contributes very little financial income. You will learn how to engage this group and help them engage in the generosity journey.

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How Canceling Services Actually Increased Church Giving

It is a source of angst for many pastors: a forecast of inclement weather scheduled to hit on a Saturday night or Sunday morning. Whether heavy snow, ice, hurricanes, major storms or brutal cold temperatures, pastors have to make the decision of whether to cancel church services entirely or hold worship for the faithful few who will brave the elements regardless of the forecast. The angst is not just about what canceling services will do to the annual attendance figures or preaching a sermon (that took 15 hours to prepare) to a much smaller crowd. Rather, the angst typically centers on church giving, or the lack thereof.

 

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When weather negatively impacts attendance, the church may face a financial crunch without that week’s regular offering. The impact on the budget may be felt for months as the church tries to “catch up.”  And if bad weather hits on more than one weekend, the effect is multiplied.

Pastor Aaron had not canceled worship services for over twenty years. There was no snow deep enough or temperature too low to keep him away from church on Sundays. As lead pastor at St. Paul’s UMC in Joplin, Missouri, a multi-campus church with 1,000 average Sunday attendance, he was willing to preach to 10 people if they were willing to come out. But last winter he faced a forecast that even he could not overcome.  Inches of ice falling from Saturday evening into Sunday afternoon were predicted. A mandatory order was issued for people to stay off the roads. Church was canceled. Like many pastors who faced the same wintry weather, Pastor Aaron was concerned about the impact of canceling services on church giving.

 

On a day when the doors of the church were iced over, imagine his joy when he learned the offering was $4,000 higher than the same Sunday a year before when good weather prevailed, and worship services actually happened!

 

What made this possible?

It all started a year earlier when the church went through Horizons’ “Stewardship Discovery” program. We reviewed data, met with staff and ministry leaders, and had conversations with financial supporters. Through the Stewardship Discovery process, the church gained valuable insights into their unique culture and how it impacted church giving. The recommendations were accepted, and the church engaged a Horizons coach to assist with implementation.

 

The church leadership initiated the following Horizons recommendations:

  • In the church bulletin, remove the weekly offering “received-to-date” data. The amount “received-to-date” provided an inaccurate and incomplete depiction of annual church giving.
  • Communicate more effectively through enhanced giving statements, regular mailings, emails, and meetings. This strategy provided a more comprehensive view of overall church giving.
  • Share life-change stories in worship of how money given to the annual budget was used to impact people’s lives. Giving to the church was being used to deepen ministries and grow disciples not just pay the bills.
  • Encourage electronic church giving through the website and text-to-give. Provide instructions and testimonies in worship from people contributing electronically.
  • Write thank-you notes to those who gave, whether financially or by teaching/leading a Sunday School class or small group, volunteering in a ministry, or helping at a church work-day.

 

These strategies cultivated a deeper understanding of church giving as a spiritual discipline.

When Pastor Aaron sent an email announcing church services were canceled, he reminded and encouraged members to make their offerings electronically. Because the church had developed effective electronic giving practices, people knew how to respond. Not only did the ice eventually melt, so did the stress about needing to ‘catch up’ or cut expenses.

 

Most importantly, the mission of the church continued without disruption.

It may be another twenty years before Pastor Aaron is forced to cancel worship again. But if inclement weather should strike, he won’t need to be anxious about church giving. Now, about that well-prepared sermon…that’s another story.

Rev. Aaron Brown is Lead Pastor of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Joplin, Missouri. 

Rev. Dustin Cooper is a Senior Vice President and Partner with Horizons Stewardship. Having served the local church for over 25 years, Dustin enjoys working with pastors and church leaders to achieve their visions and create disciples for Jesus Christ. Email Dustin at dcooper@horizons.net.

 

 

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