There are mixed reviews: For some churches, giving by the congregation in 2021 has still not recovered from pre-pandemic levels. Still, others had stabilized or even increased giving.
Regardless of whether the balance sheet is up or down at your church, the opportunity at the end of the year is still too good to pass up. And it is more than a money grab – this is the time of year to show gratitude to the congregation whether they give anything or not. People are thinking “year in review” in personal, professional and other ways – why not review what God has done through the church?
At the same time, most churches could use a nice financial boost about now, so here is why a year-end giving challenge is as appropriate as ever, even in the strangest year of most of our lives:
1. People tend to give way more in the last 45 days of the year.
There is something about the giving spirit that kicks in this time of year. And as sensitive as we should be to economic conditions, not everyone lost their job. For those who are hurting financially, the church has a prime opportunity to serve them well. People will give when asked – and most Christians are not primarily motivated by the tax deduction. They are thankful to God, thankful to their church, and are often willing to give a special gift at the end of the year. Many churches will receive 30% of their annual giving in the last month of the year. There are some people that will give in the last 48 hours of the year!
2. It is an opportunity to celebrate what God is doing.
Aside from the spirit of giving that is amped up at year-end, there is also a vision casting opportunity served on a silver platter. A year-end giving challenge should be preceded by a review of God’s work through the church in the past 11 or 12 months. There is often a lot to celebrate – even in the global pandemic year. Ask God to reveal to you ways that the church was able to serve the community and the world in spite of the extra challenges. Senior leadership can offer gratitude to people for being on the mission and being faithful to God’s call on the church. Those same leaders can ask the congregation to consider a special financial gift to the church at Christmas time.
3. Most organizations will ask – why not the church?
By the last few weeks of November, a group of envelopes will start to accumulate on our kitchen counter. They are the appeals from the civic organizations, alma maters, and other faith-based non-profits that are willing to receive our December generosity as well. There is nothing wrong with that and many of us will make a decision to donate something. At the same time, the church serves a significant role in our lives and in our community and should be “in the mix” of those year-end requests.
Here are some practices to consider:
- Create a mini-campaign for year-end giving complete with a write up of how the year went and how money is spent. Some churches will brand it (and design media) with a year-end giving type theme or logo. Then people know that the giving is distinct and “over and above” their normal pattern of giving.
- Initiate a snail mail initiative for people who still give checks (though this is declining). Business reply envelopes will more than pay for themselves.
- Send an email blast (or two) with a tasteful initial request that will allow for people to link straight to the giving page at your church. Don’t forget to also send follow-up emails!
- Design a social media strategy (to reinforce) for members of the congregation and their network. A year-end splash of communication about God’s work through the church can be a breath of fresh air.
- Share a gracious challenge from the pulpit with a verbal explanation and challenge from the senior pastor (as well as other people in leadership). The most effective version is when a lay person inspires by saying, “My family and I are giving a special year-end gift and I want to encourage you to consider joining us.”
A few other pointers:
- Start on Giving Tuesday (the day after Cyber Monday and Black Friday) – This seems like a natural place to launch something – emails, letters, notes from the pastor, etc.
- Create Media – Media used on screen in worship services, in email blasts, and in social media. Having a few eye-catching photos, infographics or videos to show will go a long way – people are visual and like to hear stories of lives that were touched.
- Do not be afraid to remind multiple times - Attendance and attention span are tricky things these days, so don’t think you are bugging people saying it more than once – they may have not even heard it yet.
- Make sure your digital giving experience is smooth – Whether on the church app or website, test it and audit the user experience.
- Connect people with a point of contact – People have questions, expired credit cards on file, and many other things that we want to help them with in a relational way. Have a person “on call” to answer questions – particularly in the last few days of the year.
For a few households in every church, the special IRS provisions on tax deductions for charitable giving may continue to make a big difference this year. For instance, deductions used to be limited to 60% of Adjusted Gross Income, but because of the CARES ACT extension in 2021, that remains at 100%. If you have any questions, connect with us here and one of our team will help you with any of the ideas or suggestions in this article.
Director of Generosity