Imagine you are a football coach whose team is behind at halftime. When you are behind in a game, do you put in the second or third team to pull ahead? Of course not. You put in your go-to players, your first team, and you give them a pep talk and rally them to work together for the win. You might even pull the QB aside to whisper words of wisdom and encouragement. My point is, you go to the ones you know will give you the best chance for success, the first team. So, when it comes to closing any giving gap you have halfway through the year, why would you look anywhere else but to your giving leaders? If you are behind in giving right now then I want to say, it’s time to rally the first team giving leaders to help you close the gap.
In this Coach, entitled The Importance of a Leader’s First Strategy, I will show you how to engage your leaders, assuring success for your come-from-behind giving plans. Because your leaders, your first team, are the make or break of any initiative at your church, including giving.
How will getting your leaders on board assure success? The answer is that your top donors will give the majority of dollars to any offering. On average, 15% of any church’s donor base will give 50% of what is given annually. The next 15% will give another 20% to 30% of what will be given. Clearly, the few give the majority. If you want a giving “win,” prime the pump with the group that is already on board, your giving leaders. If you are going to close any giving gap, it will always start with utilizing a leader’s first approach. Your giving leaders already have a heart for giving and thus will give something to your special offering. Yet, how you set the stage with them could mean the difference in whether their gift is significant or small.
Before I share practical ways to get leaders engaged and involved in helping you close your giving gap, let me share the two goals of my come-from-behind strategies. First, of course, it is to close any giving gap that you are experiencing. Your giving leaders will be crucial to closing any gap. The other goal is to garner new donors. This second goal is key in gaining additional giving from your giving leaders. They never want to feel as if it always comes down to them to float the proverbial boat. By using this giving initiative to add new donors, you instill confidence in your leaders that you have a long-term plan in place. Communication is the key to achieving both goals.
One of my Brooks’ mantras that I coach into my pastors is to never announce from the pulpit any major initiative without first communicating with their leaders. Each of your leaders has spheres of influence at your church. Your announcement from the platform will be talked about in the parking lot and in the diner immediately after the service. If your leaders heard the news at the same time as everyone else, they can’t help you solidify the vision with others.
People are down on what they are not up on. To make sure your leaders are on board with any initiative, let me share with you two ways to accomplish this. The first is quick and easy, but also effective. The second is a longer-term strategy that will require more thought and effort, but it is a huge success if done regularly and correctly. Both require communication.
How? By connecting vision and giving – It is very important that we help leaders see giving is not just about paying bills and salaries. We MUST connect vision to dollars by:
- Linking giving to the story of changed lives,
- Linking the leaders to the vision of that story and then ultimately,
- Linking the congregation to support your vision with their generosity.
Your aim with leaders, as it will be with the entire congregation, is to personalize giving by putting a picture on giving. Show them what giving to the budget accomplishes and they will be more apt to give.
As you meet/communicate with your leaders, here are some practical ways to link vision to giving…
First, send out a direct appeal letter/email – For years I have effectively used a mid-summer appeal letter sent to giving leaders as a means of closing giving gaps. We have found them to be well received and effective if they are well written. One key is to make the appeal not sound desperate. See the Bonus Section for a sample taken from my new playbook, Recovering Your Lost Offerings: 2022 Close the Gap Playbook.
Letters/emails like this are sent out ahead of any special offering at least two to three weeks prior to the date of the offering. One crucial thing this will accomplish is to show donors that you have a plan to work towards increasing giving and givers. Donors always like to know others are doing their part!
Hold an annual Leadership Summit. I advise my clients to hold leadership meetings at least once a year. Typically, the best time of the year is right before school starts back. These meetings are inspirational and informational. They are basically like a pep rally before the big game.
I recommend starting with positive and upbeat worship to set the stage. We then spend time celebrating all the victories of the past year, thanking those that served and gave to make this happen. By showing videos and hearing testimonies of life change, your leaders get inspired for the next season ahead. I advise a brief financial update sharing both victories and challenges ahead. A big part of the evening is setting the stage for the coming year. The Senior Pastor ends the time by casting a vision that will motivate everyone. The point of this gathering is to create “insiders” of the leadership.
You want to call your leaders to commit to…
- Be informed – Make sure they know the story of your summer and what is coming up in the fall.
- Be supportive – Without a team, you cannot win. Your members’ support is crucial!
- Be in prayer – I believe we should enlist our leaders to help us pray in what dollars we need.
- Give! Ask them to become owners with you of the vision the Lord has given your church.
Getting ahead of our leaders is one of the biggest mistakes pastors make. By hosting yearly leadership meetings and sending direct communications throughout the year, you can avoid this mistake. Then, when you find yourself behind and need to close any giving gap, your leaders will be much more willing to dig deeper to help keep missions and ministry going. Another added benefit is that churches that communicate constantly with their members see less turnover than those that don’t.
The investment of time and energy you put into communicating with your leaders will be well worth it!
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach