What you *don’t* know about giving can kill your ministry potential

3 key moves every church leader should make

By Joel Mikell & Derek Hazelet

INTELLIGENT CHUCH GIVEvery church leader recognizes that there are times when we must adapt the way we do ministry.

While the message stays the same, the methods change. New challenges have led us to identify new approaches, such as contemporary services, small groups, multisite churches and online campuses.

Unfortunately, when it comes to giving, we’re not always so quick to adapt or adjust our ways of thinking.

If you’re like most church leaders, you want to lead your ministry to a place it has never been before. To lead with clarity and confidence, you need to be willing to take another look at the framework you’re using to make decisions, and the support systems needed to grow your church in the grace of giving.

3 key giving moves every church leader should make

Here are three key moves you can’t afford not to make based on insights we’ve gathered from working with churches.

#1: Tell a better story about giving.

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Insight: Overall charitable giving increased by 4.6% in 2014, but church giving declined by 1.6%. This is according to an annual research report by the Giving USA Foundation and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

It’s easy to assume attitudes around generosity have led to a decrease giving. But the truth is that today’s church members are just as generous as in years past.

The difference is this: there are more organizations competing for the attention and resources of your church members than ever before.
Research also tells us that people are beginning to split their charitable giving.

How do we overcome this challenge? We must give people a compelling reason to support our ministry. We must find a way to communicate the connection between the budget and ministry impact. This takes work, but it also gives us the opportunity to identify the things that inspire people to give and ultimately generate more momentum for our ministry.

#2: Validate and challenge your current baseline assumptions about giving.

Insight: There is a significant opportunity to increase generosity when considering demographic data compared to total annual gifts.

Believing that people are giving everything they can give is a false assumption a lot of church leaders make. The fact is, charitable giving has represented about 2 percent of an individual’s income for decades. One of the things we’ve helped church leaders discover is that there is significant discretionary income in their pews, which could lead to 50- to 75-percent budget growth in some cases.

As a church leader, it’s important to challenge the assumptions we have about the people in our pews. There are ways for you to leverage data to identify how much capacity is sitting in your congregation. These insights become incredibly valuable for informing your strategy and leading your church towards greater levels of commitment and generosity.

#3: Develop a strategy to drive engagement with new givers AND faithful givers.

Insight: It takes, on average, eight new givers to replace one key multi-year giver.

When you only look at top-line metrics, it’s common to think that you’re growing if the number of new givers is greater than the number of people slipping out the back door. However, our research confirms that it can take eight new givers (if not more) to replace the impact of a single person who has given over multiple years. While possible, it is extremely difficult to do.

The key, then, is to develop a strategy for driving engagement on both ends of the spectrum: from non-givers to key multi-year givers. Help them see how their faithful giving has made a difference over the years. Provide specific content that is important to them.

Knowledge + insight = wisdom

Knowing this information is one thing — but it requires action.

We can’t afford to sit on the sidelines related to emerging trends and insights that directly affect our future ministry potential.

Instead, we must use this information in a way that leads to “actionable insights” that validate or challenge our assumptions and help us develop a clear strategy for moving forward.

Learn how you can begin to apply the insights to your ministry efforts by downloading our free discussion guide at RSIstewardship.com/GivingGuide.


Joel Mikell is president at RSI StewardshipFollow him on Twitter [@joelmikell] or find him on Facebook

Derek Hazelet is senior vice president at RSI Stewardship. Find him on Twitter [@dhazelet] or LinkedIn


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