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Stabilizing and Encouraging your Donor Base

What you should do NOW!

The world faces unprecedented times right now. While some of us may remember the 2008 financial crisis, 9/11, the oil crisis of the 1970’s–no one has lived through a health and financial crisis like this in their lifetime. The book on how to respond and what to do has not been written.

Congregations are likely to face declining contributions starting immediately. Some people are being laid off and won’t have a paycheck to give from. Anyone who is in the stock market has lost nearly one third of their wealth. People are afraid and the natural reaction is to hoard (think toilet paper). Jesus tells us it is better to give than receive, but typically only mature Christians have learned that lifestyle. Weekly gifts likely will go down.  Special gifts may be put on hold. Year-end giving might be substantially reduced. 

So how should we respond?

The apostle Paul commands us in Philippians 4, “Do not be anxious about anything.” Easy to say. We know from scripture that even Paul was anxious at times. Yet Paul goes on to say “but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The formula for dealing with anxiety? Be thankful, pray and ask God for what you want. Then let Him do His work. 1 Peter also reminds us to “Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you”

At PLI, we help not-for-profits think about and develop biblical fund-raising plans. 

One portion of our Senior Leader Learning Community program helps you and your ministry to develop plans that will sustain your ministries funding in the short and long term. But you need help and you need it NOW. What can we do NOW to stabilize and maybe even enhance the support you receive? 

Here are eight things you should be doing NOW to stabilize and secure your future.

  1. Personally–is your giving to your local church in order? Are you testing the Lord in your tithing and giving (Malachi 3:10)? NOW is the time for Christians to be showing mercy and not to be neglecting the tithe (Matthew 23:23). If you are not giving 10% of your gross income to the local church, start today. You can’t lead a ministry in financial crisis if your house isn’t in order.
  2. Over the next five weeks, personally call your top 50 donors. This should be done by the senior leader in your ministry and/or the chief development person. Yep, that is a lot of work. If you make two phone calls a day, you will make it. If everyone answers and you talk 15 minutes, it is a half-hour a day. Is that important? YES! Check in with them, minister to them, thank them and pray with them. They will appreciate it and it will encourage them. Tell them you appreciate their financial support and that you hope they can hang with you during these tough times. Of course, people should be tithing and shouldn’t need a phone call from you. But people appreciate the thank you and it motivates them to continue. We should treat people different in the congregation based on their spiritual and personal needs–let’s encourage our donors! And yes, you should know who your top 100 donors are (we do a whole session on that at Senior Leader).  “Fundraising is as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick or feeding the hungry.” Henry Nouwen
    • Make sure all of your final authority board members are on the list. They must be the first to commit to continue their tithe (note I didn’t say giving level). If they can’t tithe or aren’t on your top 100 list to begin with, you may want to reconsider the make-up of your board.
    • And if you have additional time, call other members just to encourage them! One pastor friend of mine is making 15 to 20 calls a day.
  3. Write a segmented letter to your constituents informing them the actions you have taken and will take in the future. You should have at least four letters. Maybe one is to non-givers, one to nominal givers, one to regular givers and one to top donors. The message is similar but different. Non-givers need encouragement to stay in the Word and watch services on-line. Top donors need encouragement to continue to put their trust in God for the future, etc. 
    • Include in the letter stories of life change. This isn’t a financial appeal, but an encouragement that the ministry is changing lives and making a difference. They need to be reminded of the mission and that the mission is important! “There are three conversions a person needs to experience: The conversion of the head, the conversion of the heart, and the conversion of the pocketbook.” Martin Luther
  4. Begin using testimonies in your weekly worship services. Testimonies from real people on real life change are incredibly motivating. Because most of us are online right now, it is actually easier to do this. Have someone record a 60 to 90 second story that you can share–or have them come to your place during the live stream event. Practice and rehearse in advance–but remind people that the ministry you do is critical. Believe me, many not for profits are going to be ramping up their fundraising efforts and you need to remind your people why your ministry is worthy of their support.
  5. Begin producing video insider updates to your congregation at least weekly. Encourage them, share scripture, share a life change story, tell them what is going on. Shorter is better than longer (people are busy and being bombarded by stuff like this). Five minutes is best, but no more than 10 minutes. It is better to keep them interested and longing for more. Direct them to a website or give them a phone number if they want to know more. This isn’t a bible study (it is great to do that but do it separately if you pursue that direction). If you don’t have a YouTube channel, now is the time to start one. Don’t know how to handle the technology? Someone in your circle knows how to do it and they would love to help. Find them.
  6. Update your website.  Is your information up to date?  Do you have a special section on Coronavirus?  Is your online giving working seamlessly?  People are stuck at home and will be for a while.  People have been laid off and might be for a long time.  Some ministries have been behind the curve on adopting technology and they will dearly pay the price.  Now is the time to be totally caught up.  And this is great work someone can do it from home.
  7. Have a weekend message (or series) be focused on money. Almost everyone has some sort of financial anxiety right now. Virtually all people with financial means have lost a lot of money in the market. Not talking about it avoids talking about real life issues. Preach the whole council of God. 
  8. Take out a loan with the U.S. Government. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t encourage much church debt. But these loans are likely forgivable. The Government is giving out money (collected from your parishioners), so the church might as well get their share. HERE is a summary of the program. If you don’t have a staff financial position, delegate this task to your treasurer or board chair.

Pathfinder Church (LCMS) in the St. Louis area has done a fantastic job in some of these areas. 

  • HERE is one good three-minute testimony that they recently used on giving (they target was nominal givers).
  • HERE is a message they delivered on giving right in the middle of the Coronavirus scare.
  • HERE is an insider video that they recently used.
  • And a special thanks to my dear friend Pastor Dion Garret and the team at Pathfinder for their amazing ministry.

At PLI, we are here to help. We are in unprecedented times. The church must stick together! Please reach out with any comments or questions. And may God continue to lead and guide your ministry for HIS sake.

Todd J. Moritz
Director of Strategy and Donor Engagement
(714) 726-4510

Todd leads our ministry in helping think through our strategy internally and with many other partners. He engages supporters through prayer, planning, recruitment and financial support. Todd is a Commissioned Minister of Religion, an MBA and CPA. He has 18 years of Fortune 500 experience concluding at the Director level. Over the last 21 years, he has been in full time ministry as the Executive Director of one of the largest LCMS congregations plus the CEO of two different large high school Associations. He most recently led Orange Lutheran High School, a $30M annual ministry with nearly 400 employees and 1,400 students.

Interested in being a part of our Senior Leader Learning Community?  Our next program begins in the fall. Click HERE for more information.

4 Responses

  1. Excellent article, Todd! Very timely! We will post this! Thank you!

  2. Wonderful! It gives us workable steps to take.

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