By Summer Tilley and Dan Downing
It’s no secret that the majority of annual giving occurs during the last three months of the year. With more than one-third of all charitable giving happening at the end of the year, this is an important time for churches and ministries to double-check their stewardship practices. Ensuring you’re prepared to properly process, communicate and acknowledge gifts from your congregation can go a long way toward helping your members give with a joyful heart.
Allowing God to work through your church means both prayer and preparation are essential. Take a minute to review these tips and think about how your church can be proactive in stewardship and cultivation practices during the giving season.
- Be thankful. Start by thanking your members. A simple, thoughtful thank-you speaks volumes to their hearts. Churches are usually on top of sending year-end tax letters or receipts for gifts, but do you stop to acknowledge gifts in a personalized way? A simple thank-you card or letter is sufficient and effective in letting your members know you see and appreciate their charitable efforts. Don’t forget your volunteers that spend hours helping you in ministry. Often, these gifts are overlooked!
- Ask. Don’t assume your members know your needs. Use newsletters and emails to let them know specifically what your church’s goals are, and how they can participate. The more specific you are with your goals, the more likely your members will feel connected to your ministry, and those you serve. Reminding your attendees to “give” has far less impact than letting them know you need $700 to purchase warm coats and hats for needy families.
- Make it easy. Don’t require your members to jump through hoops to tithe or give. Make sure your website includes more than one clear and prominent location to “Donate Now.” Include links in the text of mission accounts or other fundraising campaigns, so your congregation can respond in the moment. Keep pews regularly stocked with giving envelopes, and list the ways to give in your bulletin. Make sure you share your donation link in email correspondence, ministry reports, newsletters and bulletins.
- Share. Letting your members know what their support has accomplished throughout the year is essential to good stewardship. Success stories — especially ones that can show the personal nature of those you serve — are a powerful way to keep your congregations heart connected to your mission.
Even small steps matter. If you don’t have tangible successes, like “We were able to deliver 150 lifesaving vaccines to children,” then share how one life was transformed by your ministry. When you share your outcomes, remember to acknowledge how the sacrifices of your members were instrumental.
- Inspire them. Share your goals and vision for the upcoming year with your members. Make them aware of all that you’re entrusting to the Lord. This will allow your congregation time to plan and pray for a cause, or area of your mission they feel called to.
- Where is the joy? God-pleasing giving comes from a joyful heart. Consider ways to connect your members to the joy of giving, such as inviting your congregation to a fun event that inspires joyful giving or asking a needy family that benefited from donations to write a thank-you to share. Be thoughtful and creative with ways to celebrate the generosity of your members, and help connect them with the true spirit of the season.
- Say it twice. Thank your members with no strings attached. They are the reason you can build a church, life-changing ministry, or a well. When your leadership takes their eyes off the goal, you stop practicing good stewardship. Plan acknowledgements and thank-yous ahead of time and deliver them expeditiously. Demonstrating appreciation always inspires a more joyful giving experience.
Summer Tilley and Dan Downing both work for Spokane, WA-based MinistryLINQ, whose focus is helping churches and ministries be more effective in their mission through payment consulting and a suite of donation and payment processing solutions.