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Increase Generosity in Your Organization by Answering These 5 Questions

Studies show that giving increases when churches align their ministry budget with their congregants’ values, needs, giving habits, and histories. While strengthening the culture of generosity in your ministry can seem like a daunting task, answering the right questions can make all the difference. In this blog we’ll explain what those questions are and why they matter.

The Power of Generosity

Churches value generosity both as a purpose of their ministry, and out of necessity to remain operational. While church and ministry are not about money, they need it to function effectively. Maintaining and operating from a culture of generosity is one of the keys to successful ministry. However, it’s also one of the most common challenges the churches we work with tell us about.When we talk with Generis, well known consultants who’ve helped churches raise billions, they tell us problems usually stem from these common areas:

  • Ministry budgets don’t align with the interests, values, and needs of givers

  • It isn’t clear to givers how a spirit of generosity is valuable—not just for the church receiving the gift, but also for the person or family who makes that contribution

  • Churches aren’t able to understand the narrative of generosity in their organization

These obstacles make it difficult for churches to optimize their ministry and budget strategies.That’s why we’re providing these five key questions for your church to consider to optimize your budget strategy. When you’re done reading, you’ll walk away with actionable steps to accelerate generosity at your organization.Let's dive in!

The Questions

These questions might seem basic, but sometimes, it’s the simple things that make all the difference. For each question, we tell you:

  1. Why the question is important.

  2. What you can do with the answer.

  3. How to collect the info you need to answer each question.

1. What does stewardship mean to your organization?

In the end, generosity is not about raising money. It’s about utilizing the gifts from your people in ways that can make a positive impact for the giver, your people, community, and the world. This idea of stewardship—taking care of something and giving back in a better way than you received—must be at the heart of all generosity strategies. Yet, in the hustle of day-to-day operations, it’s easy to see how the idea can get foggy.

When you anchor in a posture of stewardship, you begin to act and make decisions that result in increased trust, engagement and generosity from your people.

Why is this important?

While churches generally agree on the importance of stewardship, the specifics of what it looks like to actively steward resources are often unique to each ministry. As it relates to generosity, the way you apply your ministry budget and report on results directly impacts engagement and future giving.

What to do with the answer

Start by structuring your budget and reporting around this idea of stewardship. The easiest ways to start are to:

  1. Settle on ministry categories that align with the needs of your community.

  2. Clearly communicate those categories and why they’re important areas of focus.

  3. Report on those categories and demonstrate the positive impact of giving.

It may seem basic, and churches have nothing but good intentions for budgets, but missing the mark in this category can have negative consequences. Churches that value stewardship see giving and generosity as a natural side effect of great ministry. 

How to answer the question

You want to gain buy-in from around the organization about what stewardship means for your church and settle on a common definition or set of guidelines. Host a meeting, breakout session, or even a leadership retreat dedicated to the topic. Make sure to leave that session with a documented definition to guide the organization.

2. What do givers need and what motivates them?

Aligning on stewardship, determining budget categories, and reporting on impact won’t help you accelerate generosity unless you know what your people need and care about—and act on it.

Why is this important?

A recent article by Pushpay states that 32% of all donations go to religious organizations. And yet, the New York Times recorded in 2016 that religious giving had decreased by about 50% since 1990. The reason, they say, is because the money being spent doesn’t align with the interests and values of the people. Aligning your budgeting strategy to your people depends on first identifying what they care about. These two examples may help paint a clearer picture:

1. You invest heavily in a facility update that incorporates a lot of high-tech additions, then find out your people don’t value technology. Do you think they’ll see this as a good use of funds? 

2. You make a well-intended investment of resources to reduce divorce—only to find out that a similar investment in teaching strong financial values, and providing programs to champion fiscal wellbeing would result in healthier families. 

What to do with the answer

Once you’re able to identify what givers need and what matters to them, you can make informed decisions of how to structure your ministry budget.

How to answer the question

This free Mind of the Giver guide from Generis will help you identify the different types of givers in your organization as well as how to engage them. Additionally, you may find it useful to create personas for your different givers using these free persona templates. Once you identify personas, you can begin to make decisions that align with them.

3. What are your ministry categories and how do you report on impact?

Trust is a foundational element in any ministry, and it’s important your ministry carries a clear understanding as to where the budget is applied and what impact that has. When you clearly communicate budget categories and impact you’re able to live up to the ideal of stewardship and create trust. Don’t expect to see an increase in generosity without answering this question. Establishing trust and transparency is a catalyst to growing the culture of generosity in your church.

Why is this important?

According to Health Research Funding, close to 20% of American families have reduced the amount they give to the local church. Why? Because the alignment and clarity of how generosity funds are being used isn’t as clear as it should be. As Pushpay writes, “[Givers] want to know where it’s going and how it’s being used.” You don’t have to have incredibly captivating goals, but you do need to let people know why their support is needed and how it will make an impact.

What to do with the answer

Once you decide on key objectives and ministry categories you can do two important things:

  1. Create an overview message to share with your people. In your message you should detail what you discovered by answering the question: what are your categories and why are they important.

  2. Determine a cadence and method for giving thanks and reporting on impact. Regular updates from the main stage and even direct phone calls go a long way.

Don’t be afraid to be specific and transparent. Even if the results of your ministry goals aren’t exactly where you want them to be, your transparency is valued and appreciated. It’s far worse to be a financial mystery to your people—remember, trust is a foundational element in any ministry. Not to mention, the more you communicate your vision and goals of your ministry, the more chances your congregation has to align with and support them.

How to answer the question

Just like deciding what stewardship means in your organization, this question can only be answered through communication and documentation. Gather your leaders to make a list of your organization’s areas of spending, then, reflect on if they still align with your ministry’s definition of stewardship and the best interests of your givers. If necessary, adjust and re-prioritize. Finally, decide on reporting cadence and style. These two guiding questions can help:

  1. Do my people want weekly, quarterly or biannual updates?

  2. Do my people need to see spreadsheets and graphs, or do they respond to stories of success better?

4. Can you identify giving bands, and new, lapsed, and retained givers?

Identifying who belongs to these groups is an important step to uncovering the narrative of giving in your organization. This narrative can reveal the motivations behind giving, identify hidden opportunities to champion your people, and even shape your strategy for spiritual development.

Why is this important?

Deciding how to budget the money your church raises, and understanding where it comes from, are deeply entwined. For example, donors belong to one of three groups: new, lapsed, and retained givers—and the amount they donate varies across the board. Tithe.ly states that 30–40% of church attendees give $0, 30–40% of attendees give $1—500 annually, and 80% of attendees give less than $10 per week. In addition, Christianity Today found that only 10–25% of families pay a tithe, but they often provide 50–80% of a church’s funding.

What to do with the answer

When giving habits change there’s a story behind the scenes driving behavior. It’s important for you to understand that story.

Jim Sheppard, CEO of Generis, the organization behind Church Analytics shares, “Generally when people’s giving habits change, that means there is one or a combination of three things happening: (1) their spirituality has changed, (2) the giver’s feelings about the church have changed, or (3) something happened at home.”

When you notice a shift in behavior, whether it’s someone giving for the first time, dramatically increasing their gift, or a reduction in giving, you’ll want to uncover the hidden story. Engage with those givers and simply inquire. Your conversation might sound something like this:

“Hi [donor], I’m calling to thank you for your gift. Your generosity goes a long way to supporting our mission, but, ’m not calling to ask for more money. I just noticed that your gift is less than previously and I want to know if there is something we should know about. Usually when we see that it means people are struggling in their relationship with God, have a disagreement with their church, or something at home is demanding extra attention . . .”

This conversation reveals critical information you need. As a result, you’ll be able to hear about their current personal journey, determine if there are any strategic changes your church needs to make, or create a customized ministry strategy for this individual.

How to answer the question

Conduct an audit to see an overview of different givers, percentages, and giving trends. To do this, you’ll want to analyze giving records over the previous three to five years. Most churches have this information in their church management system or giving management tools. However, analyzing that information and reporting on it in ways that are easy to visualize and take action on can take a lot of work. If you need support, we’ve got software designed to do exactly that.

IDENTIFY GIVING BANDS WITH THIS SOFTWARE

5. How does what you know align with your people?

What you know now will inform your definitions and decisions around stewardship, fundraising needs, and other ministry strategies that align to the people and the community you serve. This introspective question requires you to set aside your personal agenda for just a moment and really evaluate. Remember, real stewardship is done not for the benefit of the church, but for the benefit of the giver.

Why is this important?

Think about it. Do you give your money to organizations that use your gift in ways you don’t support? Do you spend money on things you don’t care about?

Imagine a generous congregation that values environmental stewardship and local volunteering. If you spend their generosity on new TVs and fog machines, do you think they’ll give again? The opposite can also be true. A congregation with high-tech interests might value these investments and see them as a means to increase engagement and attract new members.

What to do with the answer

Gather leaders in your organization to strategize around your initiatives for the year. Decide what you should add, what needs to go, and what can be changed. Of course, there will be times when your vision guides you to spend money in ways where the alignment isn’t obvious—and that’s okay. Be ready to communicate that and explain why your budget and ministry categories are important for the church and givers.

How to answer the question

This is another question that requires you to sit down and evaluate in order to make important decisions. If you’ve been thoughtful and taken the time to answer each previous question, you’ll have the information you need to do what’s known as a gap analysis. A gap analysis is a comparison of actual performance and potential, or desired performance. This can reveal how aligned or off-course your organization is to your intended goals, and the needs and motivations of your congregation.

Don't go it alone. Software can help!

Many churches already have church management and giving systems that store information about their members. While this provides high-level info like demographics and giving amounts, it can be a challenge to extract a narrative from the data.

Today, tools exist that can analyze your existing data to surface trends, propensities, and motivations behind giving. Additionally, such software typically comes with detailed, interactive visualizations that help you take actionable steps on the information you receive.

More and more churches are discovering the value data analytics can bring to their ministry. To learn more about this type of software and talk with an expert about uncovering the story of generosity at your organization request a demo about Church Analytics.

Generosity: A side effect of stewardship and great ministry

In conclusion, it’s important to remember that fundraising is not the main goal of increasing generosity. Of course there will be times when you need to dial-for-dollars and ask people to give. However, the most successful path to a healthy budget is great ministry. When your people see and feel your impact in their lives and the lives of their neighbors and community, they will be more moved to demonstrate their trust through increased engagement and a genuine desire to give.

In this blog, we shared five key questions for your church to consider to help align your spending strategy to the needs of your people. Use them as a guideline to assess the current health of your ministry’s generosity and how it can be strengthened.

Because it can be difficult to find the answers to these questions, a great option is to use software to help you analyze the data you already have to uncover important insights and identify actionable next steps. That’s why we’ve created Church Analytics—to offer advanced giving analytics to Champion organizations on a mission to change lives.

If you want to take the next step in seeing how we can help you know your givers better and accelerate generosity you can sign up for a free demo of our software here.

If you’d like to learn more about data analytics, feel free to check out our blog, familiarize yourself with some key data terms, or sign up for a free demo of our giving analytics software.