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The ministry of giving

By Joel Mikell & Bill McMillan

5 steps to fund your ministry vision through high-capacity givers

Church giving from the middle tier of donors is no longer as stable as it once was. This new reality has opened the door for an increased dependence on financial leaders to fund ministry. To develop a ministry of giving to fund ministry through financial leaders, heed these five steps.

Step 1: Understand the mind of a financial leader. Almost all have a similar set of questions they ask themselves, their business partners, and the people and organizations they choose to invest in:

What’s your vision? They want to know more than what’s possible. They need to have confidence you know how to get there.
Why this vision? Why comes before what and how, every time.

What difference will achieving this vision make? Financial leaders completely buy into Stephen Covey’s principle that we should always “begin with the end in mind.”

Why now? Just because your vision sounds good, doesn’t mean the timing is right. Be prepared to discuss its immediacy and urgency.

Step 2: Assemble a ministry of giving team. Don’t go it alone; it will feel impossible, and your failure rate will be high.

Your ministry of giving team will need at least three types of people: the senior pastor, a volunteer or dedicated staff member, and a few financial leaders willing to be early adopters. If you don’t have all three, wait until you do to move forward.

Step 3: Identify financial leaders in your church. Your church contribution list is a great place to start. As you look through the list, pay attention to a few key indicators:

Total annual giving. Generally, start looking for annual amounts equal to or greater than $10,000 to $12,000.

Frequency of giving. If gifts are coming in similar amounts and follow a consistent pattern, the giver is likely giving out of earned income, not liquid assets.

Length of giving. If someone donates $20,000 to international missions during a one-time special offering, he or she would fit the giving habits of a financial leader.

First-time gifts. When a large gift is made from someone the church has no record for, you might have discovered a financial leader.

Special gifts. These are event-driven or time-sensitive giving opportunities. If a large gift is made during these times, it’s consistent with the giving habits of large-gifta financial leader.

Step 4: Schedule the first meeting. Meeting with financial leaders is a great opportunity for both sides. This is a time to share about your vision for the church, ministry plans, and what you’re most excited about. And, you’ll get to know financial leaders on a personal level.

These should be in-person meetings. Technology doesn’t replace human interaction.

Get an appointment. Don’t just show up at their house or place of business. Make initial contact by phone or email and ask for an appointment.

Decide on a meeting place. Suggest a public place near their office or home. It could be for breakfast, coffee, lunch or dinner.

Set the tone. If you’re at ease, they’ll likely be at ease. The goal is not to ask for money, but to create a common ground and give them reason to connect again in the future.

Follow up. Sending thank-you notes might seem outdated, but nothing trumps a handwritten note. You’ll be surprised how much you stand out.
In general, churches almost never receive a large gift where relationships didn’t begin as a social conversation and develop over time.

Step 5: Develop a plan to sustain your ministry of giving. Here are the parts of a sustainable plan to minister to financial leaders:

Never stop looking for new financial leaders.

Stay in touch with the top 25 givers in your church. Maintain the relationships that you worked so hard to cultivate.

Ask for referrals. There’s power that comes when another financial leader is introduced to you by a peer.

Continue to anticipate different  moments when you’ll need to make
an ask as a result of an event-driven or project-driven opportunity. There will be special giving opportunities throughout your ministry. Financial leaders want to participate in the big moments and the small ones.

Are you ready?
God is on your side, as are the financial leaders in your church. They believe in God’s ability to change lives as much as you do, and they recognize they have unique resources to do that.

Joel Mikell is president of RSI Stewardship in Dallas and author of Church Giving Matters, a book with practical tools for church leaders to give strategy and hope regarding stewardship. He also wrote the recent eBook, Crafting a Theology of Stewardship.

Bill McMillan brings 30 years of ministry experience to the RSI team as its executive vice president. As an RSI consultant, he has served many of America’s great churches, including Granger Community Church, Eagle Brook Church, Mariners Church, Bayside Church and Gateway Church in Austin, TX.

Mikell and McMillan co-wrote The Ministry of Giving, the only book of its kind that focuses on ministering to financial leaders in the church outside of a campaign.

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