My job is to keep you focused and out of the ditch. I write each Stewardship Coach column with that in mind. I do for you what no one else does; think, how will that impact giving? I’ve been at this for, well, a long time. So, I’ve learned a few things. I have learned that summer is one of the most challenging times when it comes to giving. So, this Coach, and the next few that follow, will be your warning sign in the road that there are some curves we must navigate up ahead. I lead off the series with this Coach entitled It’s Time to Start Thinking Summer Giving.
Why should you start thinking about a summer giving plan? Let me give you a few reasons. If any apply to you, then keep reading. I recommend summer giving plans for the following reasons:
- Past history – A look at your past summers will show you how challenging it is to make your budget in July. Only dumb people don’t fix what happens every year. You are not dumb.
- Increased competition, lake, beach, sports, etc., leading to declining engagement and participation – Out of sight and out of mind. Less attendance/engagement means less dollars coming in. Don’t let Mickey get God’s dollar!
- Already behind in giving – If you are more than two to three weeks behind in giving, I strongly recommend you do something to head off the summer slump. Summer won’t magically close the gap; it will only get worse.
- You don’t have a strong fourth quarter. Some churches can run a week or two behind knowing their last few months will be strong enough to carry them through their budget year. It’s always better to be ahead.
- You want to stay ahead – Well, who doesn’t? It takes continual work to assure your church’s financial stability.
- You want to connect your summer vision to giving moving everyone up the generosity ladder.
So, pretty much every church should have a summer giving plan!
When it comes to a giving strategy, it pays to think seasonal. See the Bonus Section. In my gazillion years of ministry, there is one thing I can count on. Every summer is a challenging giving time. So, I work to help you plan ahead of time. Because, after Easter, we have four challenging months ahead, and we need a strategy to stay on the road connecting people to Jesus and making disciples. The last thing you need is a lack of funds to do all that exciting stuff this summer.
Let’s get ahead of the curve. When I know there is a curve up ahead, I plan my driving accordingly. Summer throws us a curve when it comes to giving. You just need to know how to hit the curve that is thrown at you. Here is how.
First, determine what you need. For instance, let’s say your annual budget is $520K. Thus, you need $10K every week to make that budget. For the 15 summer weekends, you need $150K. The equation is Annual Budget divided by 52 equals your weekly need. Multiply that by the 15 weekends of summer and you have your summer giving need/goal. But hitting some arbitrary number won’t mean anything or motivate anyone. How do you motivate them?
By building out a message and strategy around each week’s offering from Memorial Day to Labor Day. My strategy, in a nutshell, is to take at least 60 to 120 seconds before each offering, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, to motivate people to be faithful and stay faithful in stewardship with their generosity. I want you to create a worshipful moment each week. While the focus is on a moment in worship, the actual giving might occur across many days and via multiple means.
Now that you know how much money you need this summer, it’s time to start thinking about a plan to head off any summer slump in giving. Let me share with you what I call The Three Keys for Summer Planning – They are:
1. Set the Vision for your summer giving initiative. Every appeal needs its own vision that drives a donor to give you more. I will be writing more on this in next week’s edition.
2. Build the infrastructure required for a successful summer giving initiative. I’ll share on this in another Coach.
3. Prime the pump to assure a successful summer giving initiative. This recommendation comes in two parts.
Leaders First! Most of your money is coming from top donors. That is why it’s important to gain their support for your plan. I’m going to be writing on this soon!
Make May a push for setting up recurring giving. COVID-19 taught us that the offering is 24/7 and beyond the walls of our buildings. I push for recurring giving two times annually, in January and in May.
The 15 weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day will determine how the rest of the financial year goes. The amount of thought, work, and prayer you put into summer giving planning will determine the results of these fifteen weeks.
What should you be thinking and doing now to prepare for your best summer of giving? Here is what I would focus on.
Get your team on board. Your biggest challenge will be your staff. I’d start by letting them read my materials. If we are ever going to change the conversation about stewardship, it must start with our own staff/teams. If your staff or leadership is not on board, you will never get the congregation on board. We need their support and creativity.
At the next staff meeting, ask the following questions… (please refer above for how to establish your summer giving need.)
- Do you guys know how much we need each Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day?
- Do you know what missions or ministries we would need to cut if we don’t hit those numbers?
- Will not being able to do those missions and ministry initiatives matter?
If, after this, they don’t see the need for a summer giving plan, then you might need to start looking for a new team! After asking those questions and listening for a bit, I would challenge them to help you craft the absolute best summer giving plan of all time! Just as I have made you think briefly about summer giving, you need to get your team thinking along with you. Because it’s time to start thinking about a summer giving plan!
Hey, I’ve got you covered this summer! In the next few weeks, I will give you everything you will need to plan out an effective summer giving strategy. All you have to do is follow my lead, personalize the plan to fit your culture and context, and then execute the plan. If you will do this, you can turn your summer slump into a summer victory. Right now, your mind is on Easter but it’s time to start thinking about summer giving. I’m here to coach you up! Start thinking!
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach