Friday, June 24, 2011

10 Ways for a Church to Have More Money, Guaranteed (part 2 - getting money)

There are two different ways for a church (or any organization) to have more money: spend less and receive more. I want to give five ideas in each category that every church should implement so they can have more money to spend on their God-given mission.

5 Ways to Make Money

  • Tell stories of how money is being used
    • The offering time is the most worst used time in a worship service. I rarely use absolutes - but this one is true. Offerings are usually filled with a prayer and special music. Boring!
    • People in the pew are dying to know how their money is being used - they have no idea what is being done with it. They're not going to read a financial statement nor should they have to. Instead, it is your obligation to tell people how their offerings are being used.
    • Find 52 compelling stories and insert those in the offertory time. If you don't have 52 stories, then you have really big problems. Work with the worship leader to coordinate where in the worship the offering time will fall so that the offertory and its accompanying story add synergy to the service. Insert stories that relate to the sermon, to the liturgical calendar, to the school year, to seasons of the life of a church, etc. Make the story/offering time a key element of worship, not just a way to kill three minutes.
    • Give every ministry a chance to be on the platform telling one (and only ONE) story. Tell the story about real people, real events. Give your ministries the face time with the congregation that they've been wanting to announce about an upcoming youth event, a mission trip, Vacation Bible School, small groups, Christmas and Easter activities, etc. This time is a "thank you" time (not an announcement time). 
      • Thank you for your gifts which will enable us to send three kids to summer camp from our inner city ministry. Your money will let Sam, Sarah, and Julie spend a week in the mountains - they've never seen a mountain! Thank you so much for your gifts.
      • I'd like for you to see what our youth did on their summer mission trip to Boston. Because of your gifts, 23 of our kids spent a week that will change the next 60 years of their lives. Thanks! Roll it. (then comes slide show with cool music)
      • In two weeks, we're going to launch several new small groups. We want you to be in one of these groups. If you can't afford the book for the group, the church's offerings will buy you a book - we feel it is that important for you to get in a group that we're not putting up with any excuses. Heck, we'll even pay for babysitting so you can be there. And yes, thanks to everyone's contributions who are making this possible.
    • Is this different and will you get some flak, probably. But if you make each story compelling and have each presentation polished, you'll begin to see results very, very quickly. Soon, the offering time will be something that people look forward to, not dread.
  • Send out statements of contribution five times a year
    • I send out statements of contribution five times: the first week after each quarter ends plus an extra one the first week of December. 
      • Some churches send out statements only in January for tax purposes. Those churches see statements of contribution purely for purposes of helping members report their taxes.
      • Most churches send out statements four times a year after each quarter. Those churches are reminding people four times a year and this is a good approach.
      • A better way, without being accused of hammering the issue, is to add a fifth time the first week of December. People already feel the end of the year coming and they realize they should be more generous with their church. A first of December reminds people of how much they've given (or not given) to the church and provides a reminder to make a contribution. Yes, it will cost you a few hundred dollars to snail mail and email out the statements, but I guarantee you'll get thousands of dollars you weren't expecting.
    • As I explained in the previous post, email your statements of contribution each time so you don't spend any money you don't have to. 
    • One other idea: ask your offering envelope service to mail envelopes once a quarter. Here's the math: 5 statements of contribution plus 4 mailings of offering envelopes = 9 times a year that you're subtly reminding people to give to their church. It works - try it for a year.
  • Have special offerings for specific issues a few times a year
    • Here's a way for special offerings not to affect your undesignated gifts. During the offering time, tell the church that "On Sunday, May 16, there will be a special offering for the purpose of funding Vacation Bible School. While there is money in the budget for VBS, we need additional monies to pay for additional supplies and events that are planned. Let people know that the first $32,000 that is given will go to the regular budget but that all monies given over $32,000 will go for VBS. Thank you for your generosity for our little ones."
    • The $32,000 needs to be whatever the treasurer feels is a regular Sunday offering - the amount that would normally come in that Sunday for basic operations. Anything above that would be gravy as far as the treasurer is concerned.
    • Then, promote that special offering for about four Sundays before the date by using the offering time to show slides of last year's event, interviewing kids about their experience last year, etc. Take up the offering (while having kids promote this year's VBS).
    • Any money that you get over your threshold amount will help lower your budget. If you don't spend all you received, then you can set it aside for next year's VBS and take up a special offering for something else. 
    • Caution: you can only do one or at most two special offerings a year before you hit donor fatigue. Alternate what you do each year so there is variety and so these offerings don't get old. Some key emotional draws are children and mission trips - these are always powerful.
  • List of capital needs - items that the budget cannot afford
    • Make a list of items that the church needs for its ministries. This should be a list that encompasses all ministry areas and which ranges from small amounts to very, very large amounts. Update that list every year by adding to it, subtracting from it, or changing items. Make the list dynamic and, very importantly, make sure this list supports the vision of the church so that no item on the list detracts from the focus on accomplishing the church's goals.
    • Publish this list and make it available to everyone. Let people know what you would do with the proverbial "lottery jackpot" should you ever receive it. People will talk about the list in the halls and every so often, someone will approach a minister to ask for more details about an item on the list. Then, there is a good chance that this person will write a check.
    • Sometimes people will surprise you by writing a check for something that you don't see (because you see it so often, you're blind to how bad it is) or that is lower in your priority list. That happened to me a few months ago - an anonymous donor gave $20,000 for a specific need that we didn't see. Fortunately, the donor also gave us the freedom to use it for something else - but we went with the donor's original intention. I expect that later this year, when this donor gets his/her bonus, we'll get another sizable gift because we followed the original instructions last year.
    • Another way to find money for this list is to use any left over funds at the end of a fiscal year. Sometimes churches have more money that is given than is spent. I use those funds, with the permission of the Finance Committee, to address some of the needs on the capital needs list. Since we don't know how much money we'll have, we select the items on the capital list after we have a figure. We tell the church how we're going to invest their money back into God's building and needs. 
    • Some items on the list are so expensive and/or extensive, that funding these is done over several years, in phases. The trick here is to continue to do them and not quit halfway.
    • Remember: itemize, monetize, prioritize, publicize, and thank you-ize!  
  • Develop a relationship with wealthy individuals
    • I addressed this in a prior post, "Robbing the Rich." I'm not going to re-hash it here but please read it.
    • I cannot overemphasize that every church has wealthy attenders and members. The wealthy don't have a problem talking about money - the problem in having a conversation about money lies with us, not them.
    • I encourage every pastor to develop a list of the top 25 (pick a number) of donors to the church and once or twice a year, have coffee or a meal with them. Do NOT ask for money - just be their friend.
    • I can guarantee that if you befriend them, they will see and hear your heart just as you will know theirs. At some point, they will ask you about giving money long before you are ready to ask them for it!
    • Read the post for more details.
Now, go implement 2, 3, 4 or even 5 of these ideas. If you want more details about them, email me: and we'll talk. I guarantee you'll get results!

Lead On!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

10 Ways for a Church to Have More Money, Guaranteed (part 1 - saving money)

There are two different ways for a church (or any organization) to have more money: spend less and receive more. I want to give five ideas in each category that every church should implement so they can have more money to spend on their God-given mission.

5 Ways to Save Money

  • Install Motion Detectors Everywhere!
    • Humans are quite imperfect especially when it comes to turning things off (or on). That's where motion sensors come in. I use motion sensors for everything: dispensers for paper towels and soap in bathrooms; for urinal flush valves on toilets and urinals; for lights in halls, bathrooms, classrooms, and offices; and soon for thermostats in classrooms and offices.
    • Motion sensors save money by ensuring that lights and thermostats are on only when a human is present; that toilets get flushed; that only a certain amount of paper towel and soap is dispensed; and that lights are on only when people are moving around. Yes, it costs money to install these, but they pay for themselves in both dollars and in public relations.
    • Motion sensors for lights have cut the electric bills in the church I work by 20% per year. Members think it is cool that their church is so progressive - they like to "show off" their church and talk about how "green" we are. It's a way cool thing!
    • Full disclosure - you'll need to buy batteries for the sensors but in the long run, you will save money with the sensors.
  • Invest in Energy efficient lighting and less inventory
    • Most of the building I administer has 4 foot fluorescent lamps. In the past two years I've been a multi-year process of changing all my T-12 lamps to T-8s (and in a few years, once the price has come down, to T-5s). I've removed my 2x2 fluorescent fixtures and replaced them with 2x4 fixtures and put in T-8s.
    • T-8s are 30% brighter and are 30% more energy efficient than T-12s. I'm saving money, I'm helping the environment, I'm reducing the different types of lamps I have around here so I can buy just 4 foot T-8 lamps. I love the KISS principle - keep it simple, stupid. That's what I'm doing!
    • Here's how I found the money to make this happen: at the end of one fiscal year, I explained to my electrician what I wanted to do and asked him to come the first couple of weeks of my fiscal year. I gave him a budget of what I could spend on the project. When he had spend the total amount allocated for that year, he stopped installing T-8s. When I got his bill, I paid half of it out of the maintenance budget and the other half out of the utilities budget. My rationale is that the efficient fixtures are going to save money that would have otherwise been spent on electricity. I'm repeating this as many years as I have to and my electrician loves getting the money that would have gone to to the utility company!
  • Pay bills by ACH and online
    • Use technology to pay your bills without paper. I calculate that every paper check costs about $1 between the check stock, ink, envelope, and postage. Every ACH costs less than 30 cents. After writing several hundred checks a year, you'll save hundreds of dollars.
    • Paying bills online also means you keep the money in your bank account longer. Keeping money in your account means more interest income during the year, too (well, that would be IF the banks were paying more interest than they are now at half a percent per year).
    • Paying bills online also means that you can track your payments and be assured that the money actually reached the vendor and didn't "get lost in the mail."
    • Work with your bank to make this happen. They'll be glad to help.
  • Use Email and Voicemail Heavily
    • Communication with members must evolve from beyond the Ben Franklin post office system. That's been around for 200 years, move on to something more efficient, effective and a whole lot cheaper!
    • I email statements of contribution to every person who gives money. Emailing statements of contribution saves me about $750 every time. I still snail mail 450 statements of contribution every time at a cost of $450 ($1 each for postage, envelope, paper, and ink). Believe it or not, I've not had any resistance to this method of getting statements of contribution - the business world has helped people become accustomed to email in all its forms.
    • Various ministries email or voicemail different groups (small groups, teachers, choir members, etc.) about upcoming meetings or opportunities. The ministers have learned which method is better to use with which group. Some age categories prefer a voicemail and we have PhoneTree to send out messages that way - it is slower than email but effective. Other ages like emails. Oh, I'm not (yet?) to tweeting or mass texting but I'm sure that will come along.
    • My administrative assistant also emails the weekly bulletin every Thursday or Friday to everyone in our database with an email (and give them the opportunity to "opt out") and she also emails the monthly news-magazine. We use Constant Contact for some of our communications, too.
    • Find ways of using mass communication methods that don't involve postage or paper. You can save some serious money by getting away from paper. It will save lots of paper and younger mindsets will appreciate the church helping the planet!
  • Bid out contracts regularly
    • Every 3 to 5 years put all of your regular contracts out to bid. This includes EVERYTHING from your food supplier, elevator contract, dumpster, commercial property insurance, copiers, postage meter, financial audit, custodian supplies, etc. I can't stress this enough. 
    • In times like this, some companies are so hungry they'll really cut their prices just so they can get business to keep their employees (so they don't have to lay off anyone). They know they won't make a profit but they will also retain good talent.
    • Some companies gave you price when times were good and with a weak economy, they are willing to do anything just to keep you as a customer, even in the middle of a contract. They want you to stay with them and they're willing to void a current contract, reduce their fees, and renew you for several years at a cheaper rate. 
    • Recently I cut our commercial property insurance by 42% saving the church $18,000 per year. I got a smaller postage meter because we don't have the same volume of letters as we did five years before. I upgraded to a color copier for less than what I was paying for a black & white copier. We talked with our bank and got a good rate on our fees. AND, I made sure that none of these savings affected the service we are getting. 

Lead On!

Next post: 5 Ways to Make Money

Monday, June 20, 2011

Safety and Security

Last weekend I handled a credible death threat to one of our ministers - this was a first for me. The good news is that everything that I had put in place several years ago worked. The minister and family were well protected and all are safe. The minister and I will see if we need to continue the the protection and the alert or if the threat has dissipated enough. Some threats may never go away - they just diminish in intensity.

There are two factors to church safety and security: passive and active.

Passive measures are related to technology

  • Cameras: 
    • I installed over 30 cameras throughout our facilities. All exit doors and hallways have a camera. The camera is facing toward the inside the building so as to capture the image of everyone leaving the building. The important thing is not who comes into our buildings but who leaves and what or with whom they are leaving, especially if it is a struggling child. 
    • Recently our state police gave us a security check-up (free, by the way - ask for one from your police department). They made several good recommendations but when they saw the quality of image from our cameras, they were impressed. They commented that our images are better than Wal-Mart or Bass Pro Shops - that pleased me.
    • The cameras work. About every two years I catch early teens on camera doing something they shouldn't. Just last November, I caught two 13 year old who pulled a fire alarm. The kids left the church immediately but through the camera images, we identified the kids. Within 40 minutes the youth pastor called their homes asking them to "man up." Word got around the youth that the church has cameras everywhere. 
  • Kid ID
    • Every church should use some check-in system for children so that to retrieve a child, you have to have a matching card. This is a very simple system and inexpensive to implement. It is not foolproof but it is an effort to ensure that a child leaves only with someone who has the correct documentation.
    • More advanced systems use technology. When a family arrives at church, the parents check-in and a document is printed for both the parents and another document is printed in the classroom where the children are going. Some check-in systems use biometrics (such as a fingerprint - because you can't forget and leave your fingers at home) to generate the documents for each child. These are very good systems - so long as the staff and volunteers are trained in using them and actually follow them. Training is the key!
    • Another technology is that of buzzer like in a restaurant. This is done in addition to the above systems. When a non-verbal child is checked in, the parents are given the option of receiving a buzzer. If the childcare workers need to get in touch with the parents for whatever reason, they can buzz the parents. The parents can be summoned quietly (without bothering anyone else) and they can be reached anywhere in the building (within a quarter mile). Buzzers are better than displays because it can reach a parent who is in a bathroom, a hallway, or anywhere.
Active systems involve personnel and there are several layers to the personnel.

  • Hall monitors
    • In children's areas, there should always be a hall monitor who knows the teachers and staff. This person's job description is to ensure that unauthorized people are not wandering the children's hall(s). This person can also be greeter or an additional set of hands to fetch things from the resource room but his or her primary job is to keep out unnecessary people.
  • Paid Uniformed Officer
    • Many churches have a Sunday morning cop to direct traffic. But this officer has another, unseen, and far more important role - being a deterrent. If someone bent on evil sees a police officer directing traffic, this person may decide to go to the next church instead of wreaking havoc on your church (sorry for the next church!).
    • The officer is directing traffic only about 30-45 minutes on a Sunday morning even though we pay for three hours (the minimum allowed by the police department). So, the rest of the time, I ask the officer to come inside the building to get coffee, get to know the greeters, let the greeters get to know him, and be seen by members of the church so they'll feel comfortable knowing they are in a safe place.
  • Safety Officer Team
    • This team consists of only current or former police. Military are excluded because their training is to shoot and then ask questions; police are trained to use words first and bullets only as a last resort. 
    • My sole request for the team members is that when they come to church, they continue to be police officers and not let down their guard. None of them come armed except when I ask them to. Team members are in all of our services, both traditional and contemporary.
    • The team meets once a year when I invite them to lunch as a way of saying thanks - it is also a time for me to remind them of the seriousness of their volunteer jobs. An important function at the lunch is for the members to get to know each other so they all know who are the other good guys. At the first lunch, a state trooper of 40+ years met a city policeman of 36+ years for the first time even though they sit only five rows from each other.
So, what did I do this past weekend
  • I asked two members of my safety officer team to come armed to church.
  • I hired a plainclothes police officer whose job was to watch over the minister in all services
  • I alerted the local police department
  • I keep the minister and other key staff informed of what I was doing
  • I met with the paid officer and volunteer on Sunday morning to ensure everyone knew what to do
  • One of my safety officers tracked down the person who made the threat and got a photo of the guy so that he could identified (he was a marginal attender)
  • I authorized the police to forcibly remove him as a trespasser if he came to our church
All is well, for now, and that is a very, very good thing!

If you think I'm overreacting by implementing all that I've done, let me give you one statistic: from 1999 to 2007, 41 people died in churches (not including church-related facilities like camps) from gunshots alone (not including blades, poisoning, or other means). Gun violence in church is real. A church is no longer a safe sanctuary from the real world. Do a safety and security check on your church; consider implementing the systems listed above; and do not rely only on "God's protection" to take care of you.

Lead On!