Increase Giving: Begin with Powerful Storytelling

by | November 19, 2018

Whether in a capital campaign, annual giving, or planned giving program, generous giving happens when people believe your organization is changing people’s lives. Sadly, most churches try to grow giving by presenting data, finance reports, and line item budgets. This approach doesn’t work! Rather than share facts and figures, tell stories of how you are making an impact.

 

How does storytelling help grow giving?

 

The pastor called as I was getting off the plane. She said, “Scott, I’m being moved.” After a moment of stunned silence I asked, “When?” Her response shocked, surprised and even angered me. This popular pastor was being moved in the middle of the public phase of a capital campaign for debt. The debt we were funding was the result of building a multi-million dollar youth and community center.

Later that day I met with the capital campaign leadership team. They were grieving and I had little hope of a productive meeting. As I stood there pondering what I might say, the youth pastor came up to me and said, “Remember you asked for some video testimony from our youth? Well, I have a video if you’d like to show it.”

The youth pastor hit “play” and a handsome young man, about 14 or 15 years old, appeared on screen and told his story. He had been physically and sexually abused as a child. At the age of 12 he began drinking and then attempted suicide.

He said, “Life was not worth living and then someone invited me to youth group. It was the first time I knew I someone cared.” Then, looking into the camera, he said, “Thank you. Life is worth living. You saved my life.” With his permission, this video became the centerpiece of the campaign.

In the midst of grieving their pastor’s transfer, the young man reminded us of the importance of their ministry. The church’s generosity was having a life-changing impact. As a result, despite the pastor preparing to leave, the church raised more money in the second campaign than in the first.

The reason for such generous giving was powerful storytelling.

 

To inspire generous giving, donors need to hear stories of transformation. Financial reports fall on deaf ears and do nothing to inspire giving. In making the case for debt reduction, we might have said,

“We spent X dollars and we now have X dollars in debt with an interest rate of 6%. If we eliminate the debt we will save X dollars.” Then we would probably add, “Since building our youth and community center, we’ve grown our youth group from X to Y.” Yes, the facts are important.

Facts don’t inspire generosity. Stories of impact grow giving.

 

For example, after V.B.S., instead of reporting you had 25 kids and 15 volunteers, tell their stories. Ask parents to talk about the impact V.B.S. had on them and their children.  Better yet, invite a child to talk about what V.B.S. meant to him or her.  Ask volunteers to talk about the joy of serving and how they saw God at work.

How can you begin inspiring generosity with powerful storytelling? Here are some ideas:

 

  1. Identify stories at staff meetings, leadership meetings, and program meetings. Be prepared for silence and blank stares. However, if you persist, sharing stories will eventually become the best part of your meetings.
  2. Regularly ask people to tell stories in worship—send out video links, always with permission.
  3. Solicit stories after significant events like V.B.S, mission trips, Bible Studies, youth retreats, etc.
  4. Any communication, newsletter or email blast should include at least one story.
  5. Personal giving statements, and other communication about finances, should include stories of how the generosity of the church members is transforming lives. Connect money with the church’s ability to do ministry. Tell people how their generosity is impacting people every day.
  6. When you present the budget, resist reporting data only. Through powerful storytelling, you will transform your budget into a compelling tale of God’s work.

 

When you begin asking people to tell their stories, some people will argue they don’t have a story. However, each of us has a story to tell. You can help people get in touch with their stories.

Ask simple, yet thought-provoking questions such as…

 

What difference has the church made in my life?

Because of my relationship to God, how is my life different?

How is my life different because I…

  • went on a mission trip?
  • teach Sunday School?
  • attend youth group?
  • participated in a weekend retreat?
  • became more generous?
  • started to tithe?
  • attended a Bible study?

Do you want to inspire generosity and increase giving?

Instead of reporting facts and figures — tell stories. When the focus is on powerful storytelling, meetings become more enjoyable and newsletters, email blasts and financial statements come alive. In addition, you and your people will know that all the time, energy and yes, all the money, is in fact making a difference. And that makes it all worthwhile.

For more insights on powerful storytelling go here and here.

 

Scott McKenzie is a Partner and Senior Vice President with Horizons. Scott is a pastor, fund raising consultant, generosity coach and story teller.

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Great Idea! Have to give it a try

    Reply
    • Kristine Miller

      Fr. Jim, Good luck with your storytelling. Please feel free to let us know how it goes!

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    Thank you for this great resources, and I do believe that when we change people lives, it will impact on the church giving. People in the church need to see change, and I love working with Youth and listen to what their life change slowly with one step at the time. Storytelling is a compelling reason, and life transformation will impact the giving, and I agree

    Reply
    • Kristine Miller

      Thank you for your comments, Poese! Transformation is the business of the church. Thank you for telling your story.

      Reply
  3. Avatar

    The editorial was thought provoking and has inspired me to use more of this story telling approach to giving at my fellowship and association

    Reply
  4. Tom Holloway

    Seeing anyone come to Christ is the greatest pleasure I have known. If there is anything that will connect my heart to my wallet more than that it would be a story, perhaps showing children the age of my grand children coming to Christ, and relating how our offerings make the expansion of this ministry possible.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Everything you need to inspire generosity.

RECENT Posts

4 Disturbing Trends Behind the National Decline in Church Giving

Church Giving Realities

Charitable giving has consistently risen from less than $150 billion to more than $400 billion in the US over the last 40 years. Yet, last year individual giving fell by 3.4%, charitable giving fell by 1.7% (inflation adjusted), and sadly, inflation adjusted giving to churches fell almost 4%.

 

What do these giving realities mean for churches?

If this trend continues for just five years, churches in the United States will have 20% less ministry funding.

 

What should church leaders do next?

In this video, Joe Park explains the trends behind this decline in church giving. He also offers some very practical advice to church leaders to address these giving realities. Some of what Joe discusses is likely brand-new territory for many church leaders. Churches who have made these practices part of their funding model are enjoying increased ministry funding.

 

 

If you want to watch the rest of the Giving Intelligence series and access a variety of practical tools to help you cultivate a culture of generosity in your church, visit our Giving365 resource center.

 

Click here to request a free 20 minute consultation by a Horizons Ministry Strategist about how your church can increase ministry funding and improve discipleship through a process we call Next Level Generosity.

How to Talk About Money and Ministry in Church

Talking about Money and Ministry

Giving to religion fell 3.7% (inflation adjusted) in 2018* as people continue the trend of shifting giving away from the church to other non-profit organizations.  How we talk about money and ministry in the church is one of the reasons.

 

It’s Easier than You Think

Changing the conversation about money is easier than you might think.  You can begin with one simple vocabulary change. When you make this change, you’ll watch how quickly awkward money conversations can become opportunities to celebrate ministry impact and life change.

Listen as Joe Park, Managing Partner of Horizons Stewardship, explains how this simple change can resolve the tension you might be experiencing as you talk about ministry and money in your church.

 

 

If you want to watch the rest of the series and access a variety of practical tools and ideas to help you cultivate a culture of generosity in your church, visit our Giving365 resource center.

*Data provided by the 2019 GivingUSA report.

Why Shifting Your Fiscal Year is a Next Level Generosity Best Practice

Shifting Your Fiscal Year

By shifting their fiscal year away from the traditional calendar, an estimated 40% of vital churches have become better equipped to manage ministry funding. In most churches, up to a third of yearly income is received in December.  In the next offering from Horizons’ Giving Intelligence Series, Managing Partner, Joe Park describes why moving to a non-traditional fiscal calendar should be one of your church’s best practices.

 

 

To find out more about Joe Park, click here.

 

Horizons’ Next Level Generosity (NLG) is a framework that enables church leaders to align people and resources to do more ministry. We’re not talking about a capital campaign, but a shift in culture that multiplies a church’s capacity to change lives and make a lasting impact on its community.  Churches that use NLG are reporting double-digit increases in year-over-year giving. To arrange a free 20-minute consultation to explore if NLG is right for you church visit nextlevelgenerosity.com or contact us at info@horizons.net

 

Did you miss the first installments in Horizons’ Giving Intelligence Series? Find them in our free Giving365 vault by clicking on the Giving365 logo below.

Giving365 - Blog - Horizons - church stewardship resource

 

 

OUR NETWORK

Follow Us

PO Box 627
Cabot, Arkansas 72023

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This