How to Reach More First Time Givers This Year

You may have heard that 80% of the church budget is funded by 20% of the givers.  Or maybe you’ve heard that only 20% of people in your church financially contribute to the budget.
You can check your numbers, but Pareto’s Principle will likely hold true in your church. 
Some other fun applications of this principle are:

  • 80% of your time talking on the phone is used on 20% of your contacts.
  • 80% of your music listening is spent listen to 20% of your songs.
  • You wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time.

But we’re talking about generosity and the church, so let’s get back to the subject.
The majority of people connected to your church still have the opportunity to give for the first time. Reaching new donors could also result in additional ministry opportunities. After all, more money leads to more ministry.
What would the impact to the budget be if 10 people started giving?  What could 50 new tithers mean for your impact?
These are questions worth asking and I want to share some specific ways you can reach new givers this year. But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with a few important principles.

#1 – Giving is a spiritual issue, not just a financial one.

Jesus talked about money a lot – more than heaven and hell.  Matthew records one of his most famous statements: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Jesus put finances in the context of spiritual things, not just financial things.  That means when someone decides to give for the first time, they are taking a spiritual step, not just a financial one.

#2 – People can’t become regular givers until they become first time givers.

That’s deeper than it sounds.
If your goal is to help people break the cycle of greed in their lives, that’s got to have a starting point.  If someone is going to become a tither or radically generous, they will probably start with a one-time donation.
As you focus on helping people take their first steps toward generosity, you’re helping set a direction for their life that can have generational impact.

#3 – Generosity is a trigger for spiritual action.  

People who give start to care about the church at an entirely different level. 
They start wondering about their investment and start getting involved.  They get in small groups.  They start giving their time.  They go on mission trips.  It’s an amazing thing.
It’s as if generosity with money is the starting block for generosity in life.


If you’re convinced this should be a point of emphasis in your church in this next season, I want to give you a step-by-step plan for how to reach new givers.  Think of this as a 90-day plan. 


Step 1: Set a goal and create a visible way to track it.

This won't happen by accident in your church any more than a farmer is going to accidentally harvest a crop of pumpkins. 
If you want to reach some new givers, you’ve got to make decisions.   So head to the whiteboard or open up a new document and write something like this:
By ___________, we will receive contribution from _________ new givers.
You’ve got to own this goal.  Which means some things may need to come off your calendar or disappear from your plate for a while.  You can come back to them later, but for now, you’ve got to focus on this.


Step 2: Introduce a new way to give.

When you introduce a brand new way to give, you tend to reach new givers. 
We worked with a church to help them launch a giving kiosk on an iPad.  When they did this, they had a bunch of first time donations because people wanted to try it out.  There’s a powerful principle here…new attracts new.
Maybe the new way could be mobile giving.
Or maybe it’s crypto.  You may not be interested, but there might be someone in your church who is.
Maybe it’s planned giving or asset-based giving.  CharityVest is a very cool solution here.
Or maybe you’ve got all the technology covered and need old school envelopes.
Think of a new way that people can financially support your church, add it to the mix, and let everyone know.


Step 3: Give people the opportunity to give to a short-term cause.

Another great way to reach new givers is to highlight a cause. 
This works because people who might be loosely connected to your church, but haven’t built trust yet can see the importance of a cause, especially if it’s local.
Is there a community project you can support? 
Is there a specific need with a specific expense that you can encourage people to meet? 
Is there something you could pull OUT of the budget and lift up as a specific cause, particularly with the goal of engaging those who don’t normally give?
Whenever you have a short-term time frame, you encourage people to take action now.  Deadlines drive decisions.  
Every year, my church in Atlanta holds a generosity campaign called “Be Rich.”  It’s inspired by Paul’s challenge to Timothy to be rich in generosity towards other people. 
My pastor asks everyone to give $39.95 to the cause.  And 100% of the money goes to local, national, and worldwide causes.  The church is simply the “pass through” for all of the funds.  It’s short-term.  It’s specific.  It engages tons of first-time donors who want to be a part of something good.
This happens every year, and it’s one of the churches favorite things.  Yes, a generosity campaign is at the top of people’s list.


Step 4: Speak directly to those who haven’t donated anything.

Remember, the biggest group of people in your church haven’t donated anything, so we’ve found it helpful just to talk to this group directly.
Not with guilt or anger, but just honestly.
Focusing one of your giving talks on this is a great way to do it.  You might talk about the specific cause and say something like, “Now if you’ve never given to Cross Church, this is a great time to test the waters.   All of the money you give will go to this cause.”
You could also send an email to everyone who hasn’t donated in the last 12 months.  This is called “segmentation” and it’s a great way to communicate.  Just like you should communicate directly to your donors, you can communicate in a different way to those who aren’t yet donors.
Again, don’t use guilt.  Your goal isn’t to make them feel bad.  But done correctly, asking people to take their first step can be very effective.
By the way, this is also the approach we recommend when you preach to your church about money.  Money messages should be more than giving messages.  And giving messages don’t just need to be aimed at super-Christians.
If you’re looking for a free money message series that will help you walk this line, check out Make Space. It’s free.


Step 5: Engage your entire church. 

Reaching new givers is a win for the whole church, not just the finance team.  It means more people taking steps of faith.
And many of these people will be children and teenagers.
So make sure all of your communication and all of your initiative in this area extends to all the programs and ministries in your church.
Make it a church-wide effort.
If you do a giving challenge, do it in your student ministry service as well.  If you create a cause, think of a way you can have your children’s ministry participate.  You might even challenge adults with how children and students are participating and encourage adults to do the same. 

Putting it in Practice

You can do all of this in a 30, 60, or 90-day window in your church. 
You could involve staff, volunteers, and finance team leaders, getting everyone more aligned in the process. 
You could engage new first time givers, helping them take important first steps toward generosity and following Jesus.
In short, a little bit of focus could lead to great strides in your church.
If you want to read more about stewardship, generosity, and money in the church, visit this page.  It’s got a collection of our best articles and a free, on-demand training that will help you take more steps.


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