6 Minutes to help you fund ministry…
Ministry takes money.
Which means raising money (AKA inspiring generosity) is part of the job.
For many in ministry leadership, fundraising is a constant pressure. Fundraising can be frustrating. It’s easy to feel discouraged by this aspect of the job, but I’d like to suggest an alternative to that negative emotion.
First, some unofficial terms for our conversation.
People “give” in a variety of ways:
- Tipping: Giving to a specific need or on sporadic occasions.
- Giving: Somewhat regular contributions.
- Investing: Mission givers with a plan.
- Generosity: A lifestyle of stewardship.
Ultimately, the goal of financial discipleship is to move people from tippers to stewardship of God’s resources. Teaching and preaching are a part of this process, but only part. Sermons alone can’t bridge the financial chasm from tipping to generous living. Strategically, we need to understand the financial behavior of each group and what best inspires the next step on their generosity journey.
From Emotional Tippers to Generational Stewards – How to move people to the next step of generosity:
1. Emotional Tippers
Let’s start with the emotional tippers. Tippers don’t have a plan to give. They are emotional givers who connect contributions to specified needs. Tippers want to know why they should give (i.e., tangible need) and what difference it will make (emotional purpose).
If we hope to move people from not giving to adopting a lifestyle of generosity, we need a place for people to tip. I know this might sound crazy, but people progress incrementally; therefore, we need incremental steps for people to proceed.
There are many ways to create strategic tipping opportunities:
- Capital Campaigns: The most obvious is a capital campaign designed explicitly for something new and tangible. Debt repayment doesn’t work because it’s not new or concrete. Building a student building is new and tangible. Better, if the people we are pastoring have students, now we’ve included emotion. Giving people an opportunity to meet a specific need encourages people to give for the first time.
- Outreach & Community Partnerships: An annual community-focused giving initiative is a perfect entry point for tippers. Giving to community organizations is specific and tangible. Better, it removes the excuse “the church just wants my money.”
- Student Retreat and Camp Scholarships: If your church offers retreats and camps for children or students, asking people to consider funding the experience for others is a perfect tipping opportunity.
Successful tipping opportunities require a low bar and high emotion. Make sure you provide ample updates and celebrate milestones for all involved. A tipper moves toward being a giver as they experience the difference their contributions make.
2. Thoughtful Givers
Most thoughtful givers began as tippers. Thoughtful givers contribute more regularly to needs and the ongoing mission. They have a plan to support their local church as they now understand giving beyond emotion (even if barely). Thoughtful givers can connect their contributions to the ongoing needs of the ministry. They may not financially prioritize giving ahead of their own spending, but they do understand ministry takes money, and they are most likely benefiting from the church. This is a key for moving people from tipping to thoughtful giving. We need to connect the tangible dots between contributions and ongoing ministry while encouraging a plan.
To say it another way, sacrificial investors move from intervention giving to prevention giving. Intervention giving supports current needs. Prevention giving keeps needs from happening. Of course, ministry lives in both spaces. Moving people from intervention giving to prevention giving is an essential step in their spiritual and financial journey.
Here are two specific strategies to move tippers to givers:
- Public “Thank You’s”: My favorite way to encourage thoughtful giving as a next step is to thank people publicly for helping make ministry possible. When we have a baptism, a story to share, or a successful event, I love to thank people for financially making things like this possible. Whenever we gather together (in-person or online), I’ll regularly say, “It’s amazing to see all that God is doing in and through our church. And, for those of you who give to this mission, you’re a part of every story. Thank you.” It’s not much, but it’s critical to creating givers. People want to know that their contributions are making a difference. And that emotion is what leads people to consider having a plan to support their church financially.
- Field Trips: Moving people from thoughtful giving to sacrificially investing is an important step. Investors understand the bigger picture of generosity. It’s one thing to say, “It’s amazing to see what God is doing in our church.” It’s better to show them what God is doing in our church by literally bringing them to student events, camps, retreats, and baptism services.
- Promote Automation: I regularly pull my phone out and say, “If you don’t have a plan to support your local church, I’d love for you to consider automating your giving. Automating what’s important ensures we do what’s important.” Automated giving has made planned contributions much, much easier, turning thoughtful givers into planned investors.
Our temptation is to show highlight videos in Sunday services or online. That’s fine, but it’s not enough to inspire a significant step of generosity. Seeing ministry up close reinforces the benefit of planned, missional giving. So don’t only take your largest givers to see ministry happen; take along some people who need to take the next step.
3. Sacrificial Investors
Thoughtful givers contribute to the mission through a plan, but sacrificial investors prioritize a percentage plan to support their local church.
Picking a percentage of income and prioritizing giving first is the mark of a sacrificial investor. These givers understand the concept of giving first, saving second, and living on the rest.
Connecting planned giving to the heart, not just the mission, is the secret to creating investors. This is why sermons and discipleship environments can be helpful in this step. People need to understand that contributing to ministry is investing in others. I love using ROI language when encouraging people to develop a percentage, priority plan. The return on ministry investing is invaluable because lives are invaluable.
While sacrificially investing is a significant financial step for most, the journey isn’t quite complete.
The best way to move people from investing in the mission to generosity as a lifestyle is to challenge them to consider what they are giving over where they are giving. Investors contribute “their money.” Generational stewards manage God’s resources. This needs to be taught in:
- Sermon Series: A sermon series is beneficial in this step. Take a week or four to help people understand who owns what.
- Small Group or Sunday School Curriculum: Like a sermon series, allowing healthy discussion and challenge through community is a powerful mechanism to move people toward generous stewardship.
- Mentoring: Our discipleship pathway needs to address stewardship and resource ownership to grow generosity in the church. Mentoring is a healthy tool to support this last step, as these conversations are often more challenging, open, and honest.
4. Generational Stewards
Generosity as a lifestyle is an act of worship and stewardship. Generational stewards fully believe their heart follows their finances. Also, these givers recognize they aren’t giving away their money but stewarding God’s resources. Therefore, generous givers think in percentage, priority, and progression. They understand, as stewards, that as God provides more resources, the percentage of generosity can increase.
Like sacrificial investors, generational stewards are created over time through discipleship and spiritual equipping efforts. We can help keep people living as stewards by challenging them to listen to God’s whispers, pointing to the generational impact their generosity will have, and personally thanking them for their ongoing support.
Fundraising can be frustrating, but as a pastor, we should see it as a pathway to discipleship. After all, the goal isn’t money but hearts. I’m grateful that we need to raise funds because it creates one of the best mechanisms to challenge our church to grow in discipleship.
How can I help?
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