“I’m furious!” I wasn’t prepared for that answer from an SBC pastor when I asked him how he was doing. The pastor was one of the mildest, nicest guys I had ever worked with. We were meeting for lunch to discuss his upcoming capital campaign. Yet, I could tell by his face that something was wrong even before he answered my question.
Why was he so upset? He had just found out that one of the SBC mission agencies had garnered a seven-figure gift from a member of his church. The rub was that the member had never given more than a few thousand dollars to his local church. The pastor was upset that this member had attended one meeting and then given over a million dollars while ignoring the needs of his local church. My next question stopped the pastor in his tracks.
“Have you ever had a personal one-on-one meeting with this member?” He acted shocked and said, “No.” I looked at him and said, “You just found out you have someone else fishing in your pond. Yet, you never cast your lure in that pond, so why are you complaining that the mission agency caught that seven-figure gift instead of you?”
The thought of meeting with a member like that was something he had never thought of. It’s time pastors change that thinking, or your Baptist school, hospital, or SBC entity will get that large gift, not you. I’m all for those institutions, but why doesn’t the local church garner that support?
The number one reason is that we don’t even try. Thus, the absence of our lure in the fundraising pool makes us miss the big fish or any fish. Less than 10% of churches a year receive bequests. One reason why is that less than 10% of churches have a plan to garner bequests. Do you? If not, it’s time to call the Missouri Baptist Foundation: https://mbfn.org. As Baby Boomers, America’s largest donor group by dollars given, enter retirement, now is the time to start cultivating them to, as one fundraiser said, “align deeply with their values and how they see their role in bringing about good for something they strongly care for.”1.
It’s time we call upon Baby Boomer Christians to do two things. First, use their new free time to volunteer more at your church. What are they interested in? What are they good at? What would get them out of the recliner and volunteering at church? Stewarding their retirement time allows members to give back something to their church. Start helping your Boomers see their retirement years as an opportunity to give back and make a difference for their church and the Kingdom. If you don’t, they’ll give their volunteer time to something or someone else.
Secondly, we need to encourage every Boomer to view their estate based on their values and how they align with their church. What if we encourage every believer to tithe a portion of their estate to the work of their local church? What better way to bless the estate than dedicate the first fruit of that estate back to the church that served them and their heirs well?
You need to start doing this immediately. Why? Because someone is fishing in your pond! Your question is, how do you do this? Here is my advice on how to begin this.
It starts with building a relationship. We don’t build relationships with people for their money. We build relationships with people to help them steward the resources God has entrusted to them. Our ultimate goal isn’t their money but helping them be the stewards God calls them to be. You can’t do that from the pulpit alone. The pastor in my opening story had been at this church for many years. Yet, remarkedly, he had never sat down to talk with this member about what the member was excited about, committed to, or interested in. He also missed the opportunity to cast a vision of the importance of what their church was doing for the community and the Kingdom. The deeper your relationship, the more likely they will follow your lead when giving their time and resources to your church. This leads to the second point.
It develops over time. The longer your tenure at a church, the deeper the relationship you can develop with key donors. If you are bouncing from church to church every two to three years, then you will probably never see a large bequest or gift, and it takes time to build that kind of relationship. The only caveat is that the longer a person is a member of your church, the more likely they will be open to conversations about their estate and the impact they can have both now and when they are gone. In both instances, time is part of the secret sauce. Here is the final most important point.
It’s centered around vision and eternal transformation. Vision is the driver that sparks a donor’s desire to make that happen. The bigger the vision, the better. Boomers are looking for where they can make a difference in their retirement years.
I follow many non-profit fundraisers. One of those is Gail Perry. I’m on her email list, and I quoted her above. Let me give you the full quote from her email here.
Gail Perry says, “Donors want to give away their money. Their largest gifts align deeply with their values and how they see their role in bringing about good for something they strongly care for. In other words, donors’ largest gifts go where they feel they are making a transformational difference to some outcome. That could be an endowed school; a new program; an enhanced program; a research fund, and much more.”2.
Your church is doing God’s work. Your work lasts for eternity, and that’s far more compelling than giving to some museum.
10,000 Baby Boomers a day turn 65 and are entering into or near retirement. This segment of our churches typically gives the majority of the money. It’s time to challenge Boomers to spend their last days making an eternal difference.
- January 10, 2023, email from Gail Perry, “How to Raise More in 2023 Than Last Year.”