Sustained giving strategies

Tried-and-true advice for driving predictable cash flow at your church

For most churches, just how big a problem is sustained giving?

Paul K. Knickelbein
General Manager
ParishSOFT

Paul K. Knickelbein: For a nonprofit or church to succeed, it must have
sustained giving from its members. Donations are what keep the doors open and the mission alive.

As anyone who has managed a church or parish office can tell you, being able to anticipate a predictable cash flow is important. Most churches and parishes encounter cyclical giving, where donations increase at the end of the year (typically around the Christmas season) while also encountering a summer lull when many folks take vacations and, thus, don’t give.   

Wouldn’t it be great if you could have that Christmas bump year-round? Wouldn’t it be even better if you didn’t have to wait for that “Christmas miracle” to balance the budget at the end of the calendar year? I believe that’s where secure online giving solutions can help.

Among churches that are falling short of their sustained giving objectives, what are the most common mistakes?

Knickelbein: Not openly discussing giving practices from the pulpit — as well as in bulletins, on the church website, and among members themselves — is a common mistake. A church or parish needs donations to survive; people understand that concept and that giving back to your church is a biblical command.

Teaching members about ways to help a church succeed through sustained giving — and the methods that make both receiving and processing the gifts, then keeping them coming — can be refreshing for them to hear.

Unfortunately, a number of pastors and churches have abused both this teaching and donations. The stigma that the ‘church only wants my money’ can hold some leaders back — but it really shouldn’t. 

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What’s the best way to start the conversation about sustained giving?

Knickelbein: Start with biblical principles: I Corinthians 16:1-2, Hebrews 13:16 and Deuteronomy 15:11. But even talking about the blessings of giving, such as in Acts 20:35 and Psalm 112:5-6 or Proverbs 11:25, can also be good places to begin a conversation.   

How can technology come alongside a church to cultivate sustained givers?

Knickelbein: If one of the biggest challenges preventing folks from being sustained givers is failing to plan, then technology can allow people to be better prepared to honor their commitment to their churches or parishes.

When someone participates in an online giving program that includes recurring giving, that person will be required to sit down, set up an account, and then plan the amount that they’re comfortable giving on a weekly, semi-weekly or monthly basis. Once the giver’s recurring giving is established, he or she can conveniently give even when they’re on vacation and can’t attend service or mass. And the church or parish will then receive the financial boost from sustained giving!

Educate givers by posting blog articles on principles of giving. Provide ways to budget that include tithes and special gifts to the church or parish. Send them reminders about eGiving and the benefits of recurring giving to them and to the church.

“Not openly discussing giving practices from the pulpit — as well as in bulletins, on the church website, and among members themselves — is a common mistake. A church or parish needs donations to survive; people understand that concept and that giving back to your church is a biblical command.”

— Paul K. Knickelbein

Conversely, are there scenarios when technology should take a backseat in lieu of a more personal, face-to-face approach?

Knickelbein: Yes. It’s always incredibly useful to share this same message face-to-face in a meaningful and personal way.

Giving is a very personal decision. So, by implementing strategies that help church members or parishioners feel more comfortable about giving — and allow them the opportunity get answers to their questions — could prove to be invaluable.

Can technology be useful in collecting / receiving these gifts on a regular basis?

Knickelbein: Absolutely! Technology such as electronic giving (ParishSOFT Giving, for example) allows a parish or church to see what recurring gifts are scheduled. In addition, using good church management software (ChMS) — such as ParishSOFT Family Suite — these gifts can be conveniently and automatically transferred via an application programming interface, or API, directly from the parishioner’s or church member’s giving account. A contribution statement can be created and mailed with just a few easy steps.

Among churches that are successfully driving sustained giving, what are they doing right?

Knickelbein: There are three main components.

First, they don’t shy away from talking about giving, from a biblical perspective, from the pulpit.  Second, all financial matters (both income and expenses) are shared openly and honestly with all members of the church or parish. This builds and maintains trust and encourages more people to give, or perhaps even give more.

Finally, they offer an informational table after service or mass. This allows church members or parishioners to talk openly about eGiving, text giving, and how to set up recurring giving so that it’s automatic and just another part of their church life.

— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh

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