Yes, You Can Make Up Lost Giving

Yes, You Can Make Up Lost Giving

When it comes to giving, can you make up lost ground? Yes. Every summer, I encourage what I call a come-from-behind giving strategy. My goal is to help you close whatever giving gap you are currently experiencing.

Desperate appeals versus decisive appeals. First, let me explain why you should consider closing any giving gap you currently have. There are three classic reasons people give to any organization. First, they believe in the vision of that organization. Next, they have faith in the leadership of the organization. Finally, they trust the organization’s handling of money. Consistently missing your budget creates unease and a lack of confidence in your donor base.

The problem is that most churches resort to desperate pleas for help when they fall behind. Those pleas might work in the short term, but they do more harm long term than good. For many churches, it is the same thing every summer, year after year. If you continually struggle to make a budget, after a while, I’ll lose confidence in your fiscal ability to manage money. Why would I give you more? Staying close to or ahead of budget builds confidence in your donor base.

Here is another reason why you should work on closing a giving gap. The longer you wait, the further you will fall behind until, ultimately, it is impossible to make up the gap you are experiencing.

My hobby is running. I compete in local road races. While I have never won an overall race, I am competitive in my age group. I learned that if the leader in my age group got too far in front of me, I would never catch him. Any hope of catching him at the end depended on how close I was in the middle of the race. The further behind I was, the less chance I had of winning a trophy. The same is true for falling behind budget. The longer you wait to act, the harder it becomes to close the gap. Also, the more prone you are to desperate appeals. Let’s be decisive instead!

Here is a real-life Desperate Appeal: “With the summer months bringing vacations and other Sunday activities, we, the members of the Finance Committee, want to remind you that our monthly expenses continue for things like lighting, air conditioning, maintenance of grounds and buildings, personnel costs, missions outreach, etc. This is typically the time that giving slows down and doesn’t rebound until October, causing a cash flow crunch which makes it difficult for the church to meet its monthly obligations.” That was an appeal from a church we once attended. Would you give more to that?

Here is a Decisive Appeal: “I am sensing that now is the time to position ourselves, our church, and our ministries to be ready to bounce back. I really want us poised to take advantage of a new and healthier season when it arrives. If we are to continue to keep the RPMs of ministry and outreach running, then your continued generosity is mission-critical.” This pastor led by listing the life-changing work of the church and then ended with that challenge. I’d give to that!

Here are a few thoughts about crafting decisive rather than desperate appeals.

Decisive Appeals are not panic-driven. Donors hesitate to give to organizations that might sink right after their gift clears the bank. So, my advice for any come-from-behind strategy is that you:

Be positive. How do you accomplish that when you are behind in giving and worried about paying the staff? Go back to why your church exists. Instead of saying, “Help, we are behind in giving,” focus on what you have been doing. Tell the story of life change, and people will give to support that. Here is another important point:

Be realistic. Too often, we have overly expectant optimism about what can be raised. When I develop a come-from-behind giving strategy for any church, I set a goal the equivalent of one week’s offering. If you raise more, great, but a realistic goal gives you the “win” you need. Most important of all…

Get a plan and work your plan! You can’t wake up at 7 AM on Sunday and think that you can hold a come-from-behind strategy that day. The lack of plans is a major reason churches get behind and why they seldom, if ever, catch up. If what you were doing was working, you would not be behind. A good plan accomplishes that for you.

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