It’s time to play your trump card to recession-proof your offerings. And no, I don’t mean Donald Trump. Those who have played Spades understand what a trump card is and how it can be a game changer. The Free Dictionary defines a trump card as:
- A designated card in some card games that ranks above all others.
- A resource used to gain an advantage over others, often by being held and then used at an opportune time.1.
I want to spend time breaking down the second definition. I’ve been writing on the impact of the economy on giving and your future budget. I continue that in this edition of the Stewardship Coach entitled How Good Vision Trumps Bad Economy.
In the fall of 2008, I started writing my first book, Recession Proof Your Offerings. One of the chapters of that book was entitled, “Vision: The Reason People Give.” If you remember, this was during what became known as The Great Recession. Scores of churches ceased to exist due to the financial pressure the economy created upon giving. I contend they did not have a giving problem. They had a vision problem. Here is what I wrote in 2008:
“Vision, when it comes to stewardship, is the main driver of why people give. Vision is what keeps me giving even when the economy is down. Never will vision be more important than in stressful economic times. Several years ago, I coined this truth: Good Vision Trumps Bad Economy!”
While the experts debate whether we are in a recession or not, the truth is the economy is bad in your donor’s minds.
This is why it is “an opportune time” to play your trump card! Two reasons come to mind. First, as I write this at the beginning of August, churches are struggling through the summer slump in giving that inevitably impacts all of us. Then, the economic news is not positive whether we are in a recession or not. The economy does impact giving which is why you need to utilize your vision as a resource to trump this bad economy. I call this the Connecting Power of Vision.
Your vision, properly communicated, will connect with your people, causing them to willingly give more to support that vision. This is true in good times and in bad times like what we are currently living through.
A present-day example of this is how many churches experienced only a slight decline in giving. “Our giving hasn’t been affected by Covid.” “Our giving has rebounded, and we are ahead.” I hear comments like that almost daily. One of the surprises to all we giving experts is how well the Church as a whole did through Covid. While some struggled to the point of closing, most weathered the storm. Yet, amazingly, few if any asked the question, where did that money come from? Our team knows because we do data on giving.
The rebound in giving that helped churches survive Covid came from top-tiered existing donors. Our research shows that your giving leaders dug deeper to keep their church alive and functioning. Why would they do that? In part, because they believe in the vision of that church. They not only believe in the vision they have personally benefited from that vision. While this is great news for churches today, it shows what our future could be like if those donors do not stay with us. And, no matter what you do, you will lose yearly many of those top-tiered donors due to retirement and death. Replacing these faithful donors with the next generation of consistent sacrificial donors is crucial for your church’s survival. With 10,000 Boomers turning 65 every day, now is “an opportune time,” to use the connecting power of vision to increase giving and givers. Your vision is your trump card to any potential decline during these bad economic times.
How do you use the connecting power of vision to garner new and additional giving during economically challenging times? One simple way is to tell your story of how giving is impacting life change. Does this work? Let me share what one of my clients wrote me a few years back after implementing some of my thoughts. I had emailed him to ask, “How is giving going?” Here is his reply:
Thanks for checking in! The short answer to our giving can be summed up with one word: phenomenal! Giving is up 30%+ this year. We connect the dots every week, often using your ‘talks’ from the Stewardship Coach (like this week, when we are adapting your World Cup analogy, which is awesome by the way!). This has been life-changing for our church as we no longer scrape around for money every week. I keep waiting for the bottom to drop out and to have giving return to the old levels, but it just stays strong week after week.
Connecting the dots every week makes all the difference. Every single week, we say, “When you give, this is what you make happen here…” and we point to some kind of tangible difference being made at PCC. You did that for us. Plus, we quit apologizing.
Then, you coached us to emphasize and beef up our online giving. So, that has gone from 3% to 8% (you told me, “make your goal to double your online giving this year, then double it again next year”).
THEN, you coached us to send a letter in the very first few days of the summer season highlighting the FUTURE of what is about to happen instead of saying, “this is what just happened” and encourage them to give, even while they are away, because they can still be a part of making all that future stuff happen if they do, and you said, ‘put an envelope in the envelope’. So, we did, and I got letters from folks, with checks for their entire summer giving enclosed so that ‘we can be a part of PCC even while we’re away. So, you asked for an update. How’s that?
I’m so thankful for you and your investment in the Kingdom. You have breathed new life into our church.
Your indebted student,
All of the above paved the way for this church to weather the Covid storm better than most. The focus was on vision, and they worked to use that vision to make generosity a core value of their church. You can do the same! In my Bonus Section, I will show you practical ways to achieve this goal.
No one likes to scrape around each week for money to do ministry. No matter what the economic climate, let’s position you for giving success by communicating your vision. Because nothing trumps a bad economy like a good vision.
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach