The Value of Segmenting Your Donors

The Value of Segmenting Your Donors

“Effective fund-raising churches refuse to treat all people as equals – and people truly are not when it comes to giving. Most of these churches develop some kind of segmentation strategy in which they categorize the congregation into types of donors.” George Barna in How to Increase Giving to Your Church

Do you segment your donor base? Most churches don’t. Many pastors will argue that segmenting donors violates Scripture. Nothing could be further from the truth. A failure to segment your donor base could result in you losing thousands of dollars to another ministry. While churches fail to understand this key to raising funds, other ministries utilize the concept to bring them fundraising success. The truth is we segment our congregation all the time, except when it comes to financial matters.

As your worship leader plans for worship this week, you expect him to put together the best music possible, right? The songs are picked with great care. At the same time, he makes sure that the right people are upfront leading the church in worship. You wouldn’t pick me as you are trying to attract people, not run them off! Am I offended that you have segmented me out of the equation? No, I count you as wise stewards of the resources that God has given you. We readily expect and accept segmentation in the church for all areas of ministry. Your task is to find those with the right gift mix and talents for the job at hand. Why should it be different when it comes to giving?

Most do not segment their giving base because they fear that they will show favoritism. You may have already thought of the key passage most will give to tell me how wrong segmentation is. It is James 2:1-4. The emphasis here is favoritism, not segmentation. You violate Scripture if you allow big donors upfront seating or parking or do what they tell you to do.

We have found that 50% of what is given comes from, on average, 15% of a church’s donor base. Around 20% to 25% give up to 90% of what is given. The percentages vary from church to church. For more on this, check out this week’s post entitled Winning the Parking Lot Vote. The reality is that the few give the majority of any church’s or ministries’ funds.

How should the fact that the few give the majority temper your view and guide your time and decisions as a pastor? Here are some thoughts…

  • Treat all donors equally, but don’t treat them all alike when it comes to giving. Go back and read the Barna quote! The principle is not favoritism but simply segmenting every donor segment so that each group hears the message in a way that uniquely challenges them.
  • Spend more time with your top-end donors to raise more money for ministry. Again, this isn’t favoritism. You are not giving them special parking slots. These donors give to vision, and they need to personally hear your heart and passion. It would help if you had a specific strategy for all those in your top end. For instance, I recommend the Sr. Pastor regularly schedule time to meet with their top donors. You could schedule one lunch per week with different key leaders in your church. This would give you a better chance to know them, their passions, fears, reservations, and how best to pastor them. It doesn’t have to be lunch, but find a way to meet and build into the lives of your key donors.
  • Don’t wait until you need money to meet with your money people. If the only time you call me up to have lunch is when you are in a capital campaign, don’t be surprised if I decline the invitation. Meeting regularly with key donors wins you the right to discuss giving and other church-related issues.
  • Never give up on seeing all donors move up the giving ladder. I am simply stating that when it comes to time management, you are better off spending your time with those that will more readily give than those that will not. However, in your teaching and preaching, we desire to make disciples. We must make stewardship education a part of our discipleship process as disciples give. Your top donors appreciate it when pastors incorporate a discipleship process that encourages people to be good stewards.

Several years ago, I was helping a pastor raise funds for a new facility. I advised him to meet with his top donors. I came back in for another planning meeting, and the pastor told me this story. “Mark, I recently met with one of our top donors for lunch. I never got to talk to him about our campaign as he and his wife were struggling with issues. After talking about his issue, the man apologized for talking about him instead of the campaign. Did I mess up by not talking to him about the campaign?” My response was, “No! Now more than ever, he is ready to talk about the campaign’s vision and how he and his wife can make a difference.” The pastor had won the right to talk finances by first building into this man’s life. Pray today about who God might want you to invest in. When it comes to that next capital campaign, you will be glad you did.

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