I asked a distinguished panel of donor development and fundraising experts about the advice they would give churches and ministries during a financial crisis. The panel included the late Mary Hutchinson, as well as Mark Dreistadt, Dale Berkey, and David Holland. I asked them to send me a couple of suggestions that could help a church or ministry get through a tough financial time. Here’s their suggestions:
1. Know who your donors are–and target appeals to them that is within their own personal interests and within their means. Blanket appeals with high reaching ask amounts will fail –especially now–and drive them away from your church/ministry forever. The right database is key to making these appeals targeted and the ask amount within reason for each donor.
2. Keep focused on the Lord being the source–not the people. He is not in a financial depression, the gas prices are no issue to Him. He can and will bless us according to His Word when we do as He calls us to do.
1. Don’t panic and slash budgets!–Things like personalization, along with special “high touch” modes of communication are often the first expenses laid on the altar of sacrifice when income starts to dip. But in times of uncertainty, these highly personal touches become more important than ever.
2. Point donors heavenward.–When things get weird, people tend to get much more spiritually focused and mindful of what God thinks about their lives and priorities. Handled tastefully and sensitively, it is possible to actually get some people more involved in your cause than in times in which they feel secure and complacent.
3. Ask for less, but more often.–When discretionary dollars are shrinking in a household it is natural to consider cutting back on giving. An individual who has been routinely making a quarterly $100 donation might look at that three-figure gift amount and decide she can no longer afford it. But if encouraged to become a monthly $35 giver with an automatic payment arrangement in place, she might find that workable (at no net annual loss to the organization.) Even getting a commitment for a $15 per month gift is better than losing this donor altogether.
1. Realize that the current economic situation affects different people in different ways. Lower income households may be challenged just to keep up with bills; large income individuals may have a significant portion of their resources tied up in stocks that are currently depressed; middle income households may feel the pressure but be able to adjust. This is certainly a time when giving patterns may change – and a time to be sensitive to individual challenges, but not a time to assume people will not give.
2. Recognize that God’s principles of stewardship and giving still apply. We must never lose sight of the fact that everything we have is on loan from our heavenly Father. We have a responsibility to honor Him with our giving, despite how things may appear. The tithe is not ours to keep but seed we sow.
3. Encourage people to recognize that God’s economy is different than man’s economy. The Bible is replete with examples of God’s provision in difficult times. He can make less accomplish more when His people respond in obedience to His word.
1. Acknowledge the challenging and somewhat confusing times we all live in right now from a financial standpoint. Don’t ignore it.
2. Be grateful and express that well for the gifts received
3. Demonstrate value and impact to your supporters and donors.
NOW – how can you put these suggestions into action with your donors and supporters?