A Christian banker friend of mine once told me, “Money’s not the mission. But where there’s no money, there’s no mission.” Money — especially a lack of — can consume a church or non-profit, distracting it from the mission Jesus calls you to.
Perhaps you’ve been there. You want your ministry to grow. You realize money facilitates growth. And while you might have an earned income stream like we teach in our StartNew training, what you certainly need are generous donors and more of them.
My friend Phil Ling — founder of the Giving Church, executive vice president of Enjoy Stewardship and vice president of Billy Graham Association — is the guy I call for all things donor related. He coached me through leading my former congregation through a six-week campaign where people gave $450,000 on the last Sunday and we, in turn, gave away $50,000 to community non-profits.
When you get Phil going, it’s hard to stop him. Plus, he spouts golden nuggets every few seconds.
Below you’ll find some of the nuggets from this webinar. You will definitely want to listen to the whole thing on your own. With pen and paper. Or laptop. Just have something ready to take notes.
In the meantime, here are some key takeaways if you’re wanting to grow your ministry through generous donors.
In the average church (applies also to non-profits), 45 percent of people who gave at least $1 gave less than $200/year, which means no matter what, you always need to broaden the base of your donor participation. Key question: How do I increase the number of donors?
The average churn rate (donors who gave last year but are no longer present to give) is about 20 percent. If you replace them, you’re likely replacing them with someone newer to the organization, which means they’ll probably give less. Chances are as you replace people, your overall giving rate will go down.
In suburban settings, people consume programs and offerings from multiple congregations at once. COVID-19 and nonprofits’ reliance on digital channels only made services more accessible, which means you are “competing” with other ministries. You need to be intentional in creating generous stewards in a huge consumer culture.
Phil’s strategy involves 3 key-words: winning, lifting, keeping.
How am I winning for the first time? How am I growing first-time donors? These gifts are usually small and entry-level. $25-$50.
How am I lifting (encouraging current donors to increase their giving)? How am I communicating with them, so they see the value, grow in trust, and want to give more?
How am I keeping my current donors? How am I communicating with people who have given us money so that they trust we are a good investment of their dollars?
Phil always thinks in terms of 3 rooms when communicating with donors.
The Big room. This is the worship service in churches if meeting in person. This is social media if you’re a non-geographical non-profit. Wherever you’re talking to the largest group of people at once. The goal here is to talk about participation, about joining the mission by giving a gift. The primary message to this group is to encourage first-time gifts.
The Medium-size room. These are targeted or segmented audiences. For example, young families, who are wondering what the church can provide for them. Empty nesters, who are looking more for relationships and chances to give back. Could also be geographic or demographic. An alumni group who lives in Seattle, for instance. These groups view life through a “station in life” lens. The goal here is to talk in terms of the questions they are asking.
The Small room. These are the 1-on-1 conversations. The largest gifts flow from the conversations coming from the smallest rooms. Focus here especially on high-capacity leaders (positional, financial, and tribal). 65 percent of the funds you will raise will come from this group. They give money on trust, investing in you and your ability to accomplish what you say you’re going to accomplish. They are buying into your leadership. They need the opportunity to ask their questions in private. They also want to be considered as a partner, not just a donor. Invite them into the conversation early and often. They have wisdom to share. Think through the questions you would have for someone asking a gift if you had a lot of dollars or influence to give.