Over 30% of all faith-based giving happens during the last three months of the year with 17% happening in December. That statistic probably doesn’t surprise you. Year-end bonuses, tax-deduction deadlines, and a spirit of holiday generosity all combine to make December an awesome month of giving.
What might surprise you is that this extra giving doesn’t just happen by itself. In order to make the most of year-end giving, your church needs a plan. It doesn’t have to be crazy complicated, but some clear communication, an easy giving solution, and a little forethought can inspire incredible generosity. Here’s how to plan for year-end giving:
Step #1: Get everyone on board
Identify key staff/members that will implement the year-end giving plan. In many churches, this will include the pastor(s), church admins, communications team, and financial team. You can set the vision for year-end giving by answering these questions:
Step #2: When will we start the conversation around year-end giving?
Step #3: Where will the gifts go?
Step #4: Why is generosity important to our church?
Step #5: How do we make giving as straightforward as possible?
Step #6: What will we use to communicate the year-end giving campaign to our church?
The answers to these questions will look a little bit different for each church. The next few steps will help your team answer each question and see the year-end giving campaign through to 2017.
2. WHEN: Count backwards from December 31st
The closer we get to Christmas, the less likely people are to think about anything except holiday to-do lists and booking flights for Grandma’s. We recommend starting to talk about year-end giving at least 8 weeks before people start breaking out the noisemakers and throwing confetti in Times Square.
Pro Tip: Participate in Giving Tuesday as an exciting way to kick off this season of generosity! We’ve broken it down to 5 easy steps.
3. WHERE: Decide if year-end gifts go to an overall ministry fund or to meet a specific need
Some churches depend on extra year-end giving to tighten the gap between the church budget and incoming gifts. Others use the extra December gifts to start a church project or champion a local community need. There’s no wrong answer to this one. It depends completely on your church’s situation. If you do decide to direct gifts towards a specific ministry, we’ve compiled 3 unique ways to inspire year-end generosity that keeps giving.
4. WHY: Articulate your vision
Clear communication is key here. We’ve found that both church leaders and church communities benefit from having a written explanation of why the church is starting a year-end giving campaign and how those gifts will be used. Writing it out helps church leaders articulate the vision and it increases transparency, which is a key ingredient for unleashing generosity.
Pro Tip: Travel back in time and dig up some of the data about year-end giving in 2015. See how much giving increased during the holiday season last year and determine how those gifts were used. Include those two facts in your message about this year’s campaign with a call to action for your church to match or increase their year-end giving from the previous year.
Pro Tip: Include tax information. IRS legalese isn’t the most interesting stuff to read, but, it’s incredibly helpful information for givers who would like to receive a tax deduction for their gift (aka every giver).
5. HOW: Making the Giving Easy
You’ve got your team, your timing, where the gifts will go, and the vision to get them there. So what happens when you ask your church community to give and the only way to do so is by check, cash, or a clunky website?
Nothing. And that’s exactly what you want to avoid. Make sure it’s super simple for people to show their generosity. First step, test the giving page on your website. Make sure it only takes 1 or 2 clicks for someone to make their gift online.
Then, make sure you have a texting option. You might not find checkbooks or cash in someone’s back pocket anymore, but you’re guaranteed to see a smartphone. Giving by text empowers givers to giver with the simple technology they use everyday.
Finally, if your church has an app, make sure it’s easy to give directly from that app.
6. WHAT: Getting the word out
At this point, you’re ready to hit the road running with your awesome year-end giving plan. It’s time to make sure everyone has the opportunity to give by sharing the vision through a variety of sources. Cover your bases with these 4 pillars of communication.
Pulpit: Whether it’s a mention during the announcements or a sermon series dedicated to generosity, communicate your church’s desire to show incredible generosity this holiday season in some official capacity from the front of the church.
Public: Increase the impact of your year-end giving campaign by going public through your website and social media. Send your online community to a blog post or web page explaining your year-end giving campaign (see #4) through Facebook posts, Tweets, and Instagram posts.
Print: Don’t underestimate the power of holding something physical in your hands. Print out a tri-fold or one pager about the year-end campaign and hand them out at all your services. Better yet, hand write notes to members of your church for a powerful personal touch.
Presentation: Include a slide about the year-end campaign in your rotating announcement presentation, before or between services. Make it more engaging by playing a video of your pastor explaining the vision behind this year’s campaign (Hint: get double the mileage by sharing the video on social media as well!)
The party doesn’t have to stop after New Year’s Eve. Celebrate generosity and thank those who gave. You could have a special treat after services, drop balloons from the ceiling, regift Aunt Mildred’s fruitcake or simply say “Thank you” from the stage. No matter what celebration looks like for your church, don’t miss this opportunity to express gratitude to everyone who gave and celebrate generosity.