What Now? The Budget.
As it does every year about this time, my phone starts to ring from worried pastors. Easter has passed and all of the focus of Holy Week now shifts to the balance of the year. Pastors and laity both shift their eyes to the business end of the church: the budget. In many cases, they realize that if the trends hold, they will not have enough money for all the ministries, missions, debt, staff or _______________________.
The Summer Slump is Coming.
Clif, I think we may need to look at a capital campaign.
Clif, what are you recommending as a winning annual campaign that might also get us some money this year?
Clif, do you have a really good letter that I might send out to get more dollars?
Clif, I want to move to Alaska and have someone drop me on an iceberg in the middle of the Arctic Ocean!!
Clif, what do I do now?
You hear the panic in their voice. They are worried because they only have May to get things done before the dreaded summer slump hits.
Let me offer some thoughts.
- Realize that 90% of all churches are behind budget after Easter. The key is where you have been as a church historically at this time of the year. See if the treasurer can get you some historical perspective. You may be on track and do not know it.
- Have you looked over the individual donor list to see who is giving and who is not? Are you behind because one major donor has not given yet or do you see a downward trend in many gifts? Where are your top 10 givers? You do not want to make a big deal about the whole church being behind if the issue is one or two people.
- What other trends are you seeing? Are Worship and Sunday School participation off? Why? Is there a crisis going on that is causing discontent? Are those involved in the crisis giving? Is there national or denominational news that has your people upset or concerned? Remember that giving is usually a reflection about how persons are feeling about the future of your church and its ministries.
- If you are going to communicate about your concerns, be sure and target that communication appropriately. One letter to all is usually a bad idea. You may need to just visit with one or two people. You may need to talk just to a staff member. You may need to address shortcomings in worship. You may need to send a letter to the congregation, but make sure that it is donor specific saying different messages to tithers, committed consistent donors, occasional givers and never givers.
- Finally, you may be having issues so problematic and systemic that you need to bring in outside counsel to do a thorough examination of all your financial stewardship procedures and practices in annual, capital, and planned giving. Experts can frequently discover what you could not find or perhaps just could not say.
The Bottom Line
Here is the bottom line: One size does not fit all! The common knee jerk reaction this time of year is to send out a “we are dying here!” letter. Do not do that. Do your homework and then specifically address the problem – if you even have one.