So the topic and opportunity for generosity will naturally occur in several different ways during the last few months of the year. (See Getting Year End Giving In Focus, Part 1.) Take the time to create a broader strategy that moves beyond a sequence of different giving moments to a full blown vision cast and discipleship strategy. Here is a list and brief explanation of different ideas you can engage in a strategy to grow a long term generous culture while increasing the year end ask.
- Celebrate your vision.
Church life is so busy for both the staff and active members. You can actually spend a whole year cranking out one weekend, one event, and one program after another without a breath in between. We can easily skip right past the opportunities to celebrate and reflect on God’s goodness through your investments. Such activity at a rapid pace can cause a once clearly articulated vision to become a foggy memory. While the fall is still a busy season for all. It is also a reflective season. It is so easy to not remember all that God has done to positively affect lives dating way back to January. Then, by November the pastor can actually be speaking to a number of families who are new to the church and could greatly benefit from the context of the vision investment of others. Be a visionary, show them all that God has done both in and thru them. Remind them of God’s eternal work through your church body. Throw a party like heaven does and celebrate!
- Express thankfulness.
The amount of times the church leadership asks its people to give, serve, and participate over the course of year are many. If you have completed a successful year of ministry impact it is because people have prayed, volunteered, attended, invited, served, and given generously. Be extremely thankful. Consistently thanking builds such a healthy culture. I would actually try to avoid asking when you feel pressure. For instance, when attendance is lower than expected, volunteers are lagging, or financial pressure is being felt. When we lead with a perceived church need you will get a certain response. However, it is often not the joy-filled, overflow generous spirit leaders desire. Be verbally thankful before, during, and after all year long. If you engaged every staff member to write personal thank you notes to at least 20 people, how many lives could you touch? How hard would it be to collect thank you notes from youth that have been sent to camp, adults on mission trips, and hurting families that have been blessed by the giving of others? Giving can be very private, but that doesn’t mean we need to not express thanks to those who make such a difference. Shower thanks over your people.
- Tell great stories.
Telling great stories is so important and they can come thru different vehicles. You might consider highlighting a few ministries that received a very specific or purposeful investment during the year. If you had a particular area of focus then make sure you share the result. This builds confidence in your people that when we focus together it produces something great. People normally resist focus because of the assumption that it limits. Focus actually expands. Speak to the overflow into lives and other ministries that resulted from such focus. Be personal. Nothing is as powerful as the story of a life that was changed. Also, take the time to tell a story about how wisely money is handled behind the scenes. People can naturally distrust how they perceive nonprofits and churches handle money. Help them have confidence in your high standards of accountability and practices. People remember stories better than figures. Brag on your people, leaders, and God.=
- Gather your leaders.
Leaders advance the vision further and faster than anyone else. They also enjoy knowing things first, getting insider information, and having their questions answered by senior leadership. You will never go wrong by strategically investing in your volunteers and leaders. Generosity studies show that those who attend church more often, give more frequently, and giver larger gifts. Those who attend church services more frequently than others are real stakeholders in the vision. Gather all your volunteers and leaders together. Show them the results and give them a glimpse of the future. Do not be afraid to express the different giving opportunities you have in the future. Giving people like to give. They like to give to vision, impact, and their local church. Growing a leader, grows a giver.
- Inspire visually.
Pick a theme to rally around that clearly communicates your vision for this season of generosity. Don’t just tell the story, but help people feel and connect to it. Most of your members are regularly engaged by nonprofits at work and in the community. The end of the year is a very intense giving season for many organizations. These organizations appeal with great stories, clearly articulated opportunities, and inspiring support materials. Transform your annual budget presentation into a visually inspiring experience. Annual Reports are great tools many churches are developing. Also consider unifying your different year end giving opportunities around a coordinated theme, look, and feel. After all someone once said, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Paint a picture that is both good for the giver and receiver.
- Communicate repeatedly.
A unified theme can create a simple language to focus a variety of giving opportunities. Strive to simplify your language and repeat, repeat, repeat. Avoid limiting your generosity opportunity to a pre-service announcement slide or a brief mention in the worship guide. Know that people rarely remember what is discussed in church after hearing it for the first time. Then when you consider most people attend a service once every 3-4 weeks, the challenge of communicating becomes nearly impossible. Align your communication vehicles to repeat, repeat, repeat. Each staff member should share the vision in email, printed pieces, and various leadership settings. The website, e-news, blog, and social media are a must. If you have established a theme and visual brand it will help people identify and remember the message better.
- Ask specifically.
We give for a lot of different motivational reasons. Here are just a few. People give because the vision is clear and they have confidence that the money will be used exactly as the leader says. They can distrust a general sense of vision with a bunch of hype. People give to passion. Not everyone is passionate about the same thing. Churches always need to have multiple giving opportunities available to givers. People give to specific and obvious hurts. Not every hurt results in a response from everyone, but we all understand the giving opportunity when a crisis occurs. People give to opportunity. If the opportunity is never presented people will move on to where their funds are being requested. People give to success. We do not easily give to people or organizations that have a low success rate or in whom we struggle to trust. Finally, people give to relationship, especially large donors. We like to have a personal connection that goes beyond our money.
These are just some of the reasons we give. You may know of several others. Because we come at generosity from different vantage points it is really important to be specific. Be reminded that people are repeatedly asked outside the local church to be generous. Your request will be measured right alongside of others. If you do not ask, you do not receive. Be specific and clear. Speak the language of the giver and don’t forget the kids. Children love to be generous. Make sure they have an opportunity as well. This will encourage their parents.
- Pray boldly.
Probably the most powerful spiritual discipline to generosity is prayer. In prayer our hearts are surrendered and we receive direction. Tipping nonprofits is pretty easy these days. The opportunity to give is everywhere and your gift will be appreciated. However, the believer needs to be challenged beyond the tip and past the tithe to a life of extravagant generosity. The generous life requires sensitivity, readiness, and availability. These three elements come in part from the discipline of prayer. Establish a season of prayer that calls people to be transformed from the inside out. Your ultimate goal is not a big offering at the end of the year, but a long term generous disciple all year.
- Teach about the rewards.
Too often giving is seen as a hard habit to create or a discipline to be endured. What if giving is actually the path to a preferred life? Think about it for a minute. What characteristics do you normally associate with a generous person? For me, they tend to be trusting, faithful, positive, sensitive, encouraging, supportive, available, responsive, altruistic, and just really good people. Doesn’t this list provide a strong beginning to a great disposition? There are so many rewards to giving. It is helpful for those who receive, but even better for those who give. God promises to provide for and protect the generous. He even promises to multiply their results. Living a big life that is crazy rewarding is definitely possible, but only thru the lifestyle of generosity.
- Go digital.
I wonder how many people sitting in your worship service have a checkbook with them. Many barely carry cash. If you do not have a plan that supports digital giving you will be limited to receive whatever cash someone feels safe giving in an offering plate on a particular day. It is odd to say, but even kiosk giving is more a vehicle of the past and online giving is not far behind. People give more when it is convenient. This means you need to go mobile. Then you need to broaden the giving opportunity to noncash items of value. Generosity by Lifeway has all the giver focused, modern, and convenient giving channels available to you from a mobile device. Your people can give via a credit card, debit card, Paypal account, or bank draft. They can set up recurring gifts. Givers can even donate an item of value like sports memorabilia, a vehicle, securities, or real estate. We will liquidate for your church and pass on the cash. People need to know how easy it is to give from their smartphones and they will respond.
Now, you may not have the time and space to integrate all these ideas. However, you should be able to do at least half of them. Bring your staff together for a collaborative experience. Use this time to appreciate them, reward them, and allow them to dream. By engaging them in the process you will be growing a more generosity savvy team. Chasing money is fun for no one, but chasing disciples together can be fun for all.
For more year end giving training resources click here.