Local churches can do ministry because of the tithes and offerings from people who care. Without these donors, your church probably wouldn’t exist.
Because generosity is commanded and expected, it’s easy to overlook the donors in your church. But that would be a big mistake. No matter how many programs and initiatives you have going on at your church, don’t ignore or under-appreciate these people.
A lot of churches spend a ton of time, energy, and money trying to attract NEW donors when what they should do is invest more in our existing donor base. It might seem like the way to increase giving is to reach new donors, but that’s not the case. Developing your existing donor base is a better strategy.
Roger Carver recently said this: You have less than a 2% chance of a gift from a brand-new donor who doesn’t know you. But you’ve got a 20-40% chance of a gift from lapsed donor, and a 60-70% chance of a gift from an active donor.
In other words, the people who are already giving or have given in the past are far more likely to give again. That means the time you invest in donor retention will have a greater payoff than time you spend on donor acquisition.
It’s not just about raising money or good stewardship. It’s about prayerful and thankful appreciation of those who support the church.
Here are three things every donor in your church needs from you.
#1 – A heartfelt and personal thank you.
One study found 53% of donors who stop supporting an organization do so because of a lack of communication. Some in that group reported never getting thanked at all.
There’s simply no excuse for this.
I know it sounds simple, but like so many other things, simple is often effective. Your donors need to hear you say thanks.
Social media updates, stage announcements, and group emails are not enough. Your donors need a personal thank you. You must take the time to thank people individually for their contributions to the church. One at a time, not in bulk.
Old school, hand-written notes are still the best way to do this. Anytime someone gives to your church for the first time or makes an unusual contribution, someone should send a hand-written, hand-addressed, hand-stamped thank you note.
Have some designed with your church logo. Keep a stack nearby and whenever you process donations, take a few minutes to use them.
#2 – To know what their donation is doing.
The second thing your donors need is to know their donation is making a difference.
They don’t just want contribution statements and newsletters. They want to know that their donation is making an impact. They need you to connect the dots.
Aimee Minnich tells the story of visiting a Christian business leader who was supporting missionaries who kept asking for money, but never seemed to get traction. These missionaries had a great heart and a good mission, but they never reached the point of sustainability.
Eventually, the business donor, who felt like his contributions were a waste, declared, “I’m done with this ‘losing money for Jesus’ idea.” (Here’s the link to the full article)
I wonder how many ministries are asking their donors to “lose money for Jesus.”
Passion for your cause isn’t enough.
Donors, like Minnich talks about, want to put their money into causes that work, not just causes that matter.
The people giving money to your church need to hear stories of success. Whether it’s a restored marriage or a student deciding to follow Jesus, people need to know their dollars are contributing to the bottom line. Not just general feelings of goodwill, but specific stories of life-change.
These stories need to be front and center in your worship services, email newsletters, donor update emails, and announcements.
#3 – Inside information about the church.
The third thing your donors need from you is information. They need to know what’s going on and they should hear it before everyone else.
Information is a form of appreciation.
Think back to a time when you knew something that wasn’t common knowledge. It made you feel like an insider. It made you feel special.
Simply telling your donors what’s coming before others in the church hear it is a simple but powerful way to say thanks.
When I was pastoring a church outside of Atlanta, one of my favorite events was called the Leadership Summit. I’ve never been terribly creative at naming things.
The Leadership Summit was a quarterly gathering of all our donors and leaders. We personally invited everyone, but we threw out an open invitation for people to self-select into the group as well.
We provided childcare, catered in some food, and asked the band to lead some of the church favorites. Sometimes we had a guest speaker. Sometimes we divided up into teams and did training. Sometimes we spent most of the time worshipping.
But in every leadership summit, we gave out inside information. We told our people what was coming, because we wanted them to know first. This is where we announced our next location, our next church plant, and our next set of goals. The people most connected to our church deserved to know first.
You don’t have to do a big event to share inside information with your donors and leaders. You can send a monthly email to all your donors. You could mail a letter a few times a year. Or you could shoot a quick thank you video.
Here’s a great donor update from Vince Antonucci, the pastor of Verve Church in Las Vegas.
Sharing information is a great way to show your donors they are important. It’s a way to say thanks.
Saying thanks, sharing success stories, and communication are three ways you can value your existing donors. They need this from you. If you don’t provide it, it’s likely they will take their donations to a place where they do feel valued.
So go and find a way to get these things on your calendar. Create a simple system to ensure you do these things on a regular basis.
So What's Next?
Feel like your church should be growing, but it's not? From someone who used to be a pastor and church planter, I know it can be frustrating.
Ultimately, church growth is up to God. But are we doing everything we can to ensure our church is healthy? How do we overcome the barriers we feel are in front of us?
We know you care deeply about leading a healthy growing church because it means leading more people to Jesus. As a result we created a free guide to breaking barriers that will bring clarity and help begin to alleviate your frustrations.
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