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: firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll talk. I guarantee you'll get results!