Seven Ways to Instantly Increase Church Income
By: Denis Greene
Once upon a time, in a committee meeting far, far away, a treasurer announced, “We have enough money, the budget is secure.” This, of course, is so rare that it borders on fiction. The trouble is that we all want to do more with limited resources. Our altruistic appetites are larger than our budgets.
Here are seven effective methods to increase your church income starting today. I present them in sequential order from simple to complex. You can skip ahead until you find the techniques that you have not yet implemented.
1. Conduct an annual stewardship campaign.
Model #2: Each year, the church leadership composes a proposed church budget and then asks members to write on a pledge card the dollars per week or per month they plan to give. Then, they turn in the card during an annual church pledge campaign. This model of fundraising resulted in an average member pledge of 2.9 percent of their income or nearly twice the pledge of model #1.
Model #3: This model mirrors more of a stewardship model where members are invited to prayerfully consider how God has gifted them with their time, talents and treasures and to explore in prayer what they feel God is calling them to commit to the church. Members are then invited to write on a pledge card the amount of money they think God is asking of them to pledge. The church then would compose their annual budget based on the total amount of money represented on the pledge cards turned in. When applying a model that is similar to a stewardship model, members’ giving increases to 4.6 percent of their income to their church. In other words, national research indicates that people whose churches repeatedly ask the question, “What percentage of your income is God calling you to give?” raise three times as much as those churches who just take up offerings.
2. Retain an envelope service.
A variation on this theme is to set up automatic credit card monthly contributions. Again, look at it from the donor’s perspective: some people get travel miles or money back from their credit card companies.
4. Plan your next crisis well in advance.
In my church, we have a dire emergency about once per month, and most of the time it calls for funds. We tend to not ask for donations because we do not want to burn out the members on giving or look like we are unprepared.
However, the urgent need is what motivates some donors. Yankelovich, Skelly and White recently conducted a national survey on giving patterns and discovered that most donors would increase their giving significantly if asked.
There is one key factor that makes the emergency request different from the annual stewardship campaign. Nike borrowed the concept for its ad campaign “Just Do It.” Figured it out yet? It is the element of NOW. Right now, this moment, I need your help immediately. Get out your checkbook and make a donation this second. It cannot wait.
Here, churches can learn a lesson from secular nonprofits. They raised $168 billion, and 25% of their solicitations were based on the principle of the emergency. Look no further than the recent tsunami or Hurricane Katrina to get a good perspective.
5. Preach about stewardship quarterly.
So, pastors, help us.
One of the best ways to change your church culture is to use author Joseph Campbell’s insights into mythology as an organizational development tool. When preaching about stewardship, we need to hear about the heroes of our church’s past. The Catholic church formalized this process by calling them saints.
Campbell’s book, The Hero With 1,000 Faces, gives us insight into how each of us embody the essential elements of the hero: the journey through life, facing adversities, giving back to the community. When a pastor reminds me that I am sitting in a pew that someone before me paid for, in a building that was funded by people I may not have even met, I am humbled and reminded that I can have that kind of impact on those who will follow me.
6. Be a servant leader.
The central idea of ServantLeadership as I understand it is to facilitate the individual and community towards growth and change. As I consider the Great Commission, and my options on how to implement that; I have to think that facilitation is going to work a lot more effectively that proselytizing.
Specifically, how can this work? By opening the visioning process to all members. The greatest empowerment activity I have ever seen is to ask every member, “What is your vision for our church?” At first they are intimidated by such a huge question, but when they hear others responses, they get it. The person in the pew can open their minds to the big picture, and, when you combine that with a prayer for God’s direct guidance for me and this church, they have something intelligent to contribute. Try it; you will be surprised.
Warren Bennis, a modern-day management guru and author captured the essence ServantLeadership. In his best-selling book On Becoming A Leader, he identifies three critical leadership qualities:
1. Leaders are servants of the vision.
This year, before your annual stewardship campaign, find a way to ask every single person in your congregation, “What is your vision for our church?”
7. Remember the church in your will.
It seems simple, doesn’t it? However, 70% of the population dies without a will.
When you encourage someone to remember the church in their will, the reader is reminded that they should have a will or estate plan of some kind. If they take action, they will most likely take care of their heirs in a responsible manner.
The good news is that there is never a small gift through a will.
I am confident that these suggestions will work for you. Having served churches in a planning and fundraising capacity for the past 20 years, I have observed many successes.
In closing I will share the single most important element for success, which comes from Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Denis Greene is the executive director of The Church Development Foundation, www.tcdf.org. He is also the author of Successful Church Capital Campaigns.