Finance: Funding the Budget

Most Finance Committee’s focus nearly all their attention on controlling or shrinking expenses. If they do give any attention to income, it is usually just lamenting that there isn’t more of it. Finance Committees can and should play a big role in growing generous givers. That’s actually one of their duties. This is how the budget gets funded.

If you want to grow generous giving, you have to understand why people do and don’t give. We’ve asked dozens of church finance people, “Why do people give?” Almost every time, the top answers are 1)People give out of guilt; and 2)People give for tax purposes. That explains a lot. People do give out of guilt…but rarely generously. Pretty much no one gives for tax purposes because why would anyone spend $100 on charity so they can save $20 in taxes.

People give generously if:

  1. They believe in the mission of the church and trust that the leaders are capable to fulfill the mission.
  2. They understand that their giving benefits themselves most of all.
  3. They have money to give. It’s pretty difficult to give generously when you’re broke.
  4. We make it easy for them to give generously.

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Assessing your Church’s Financial Health

About eight months ago, I called into the Dave Ramsey Show and got through. After I quit gushing over Dave, I asked him, “What would be the Baby Steps for a church?” This was not just a passing fancy of mine. I’ve been thinking and reading and visiting with people about this subject for many years. In this quarter’s webinar, Sheri Meister and I discuss the seven areas that church’s need to give attention if they want financial freedom to follow Jesus Christ.

Here’s the short version of the areas. I encourage you to watch/listen to this webinar to get the long version. Plus, there is a link to the assessment below that you can take for your church:

  1. Invested Leaders: Church leaders should be raised up from the top 20% of givers. Leaders that don’t give worry about what others might think. Leaders that give worry about the mission.
  2. A Focused Team: Now that you have Invested Leaders, the next step is to help them take responsibility for Overseeing Spending, Growing Giving, and Managing Reserve Funds.
  3. Stewardship Teaching: Money can be either a great obstacle to living for Jesus or a great tool. If you help people manage their money and teach on the benefits of giving, church income will go up.
  4. Budget Accuracy: With a growing income, now is the time to be honest about your budget. How will you plan to spend the income…not what you wish the income was.
  5. Debt Aversion: Debt is a weight on the ministry of a church. It will affect how you lead and make decisions. The sooner you can rid yourself of the debt, the better.
  6. Capital Reserve: With the Debt gone, a Growing Income, and an Accurate Budget, it’s time to build up reserves to care for the property. This helps you avoid always raising funds for the building so that people begin to think the building IS the ministry.
  7. Operating Reserve: At the same time, building up an Emergency/Opportunity Fund will help you take risks and weather storms.

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How the CARES Act gives back to Givers

I’m all for any way to encourage those not giving to give something or those who are giving very little to stepping up in their giving. Giving to the work of Jesus Christ is a life transforming action. I don’t understand it all the way, but I’ve experienced it myself and seen it in others. The CARES Act has given churches and other charities a little gift for encouraging these folks to donate or donate more. Here’s how:

  • Write off $300 of Charitable Contributions without itemizing: Only about 13% of tax payers itemize their taxes and can therefore claim a deduction for charitable contributions. The CARES act now allows the other 87% to claim this deduction…up to $300. How many of your households give less than $300/year?
  • For those that itemize, their giving limit was raised: Honestly I don’t know how many people are affected by this. The deduction for charitable giving used to capped at 60% of Adjusted Gross Income. The CARES Act raised that up to 100%.

Keep this in mind: People don’t give because of tax considerations. They give because they want to make the world a better place. People won’t give $300 just to save $66 on their tax bill, but that tax savings may be enough to encourage people who think well of your church to make that first gift.


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Letting Go to Fuel Generosity

In the 4th quarter webinar for 2020, Sheri Meister takes the learnings from Matt Miofsky’s book “Let Go” and applies them to the church fundraising world. Here’s what I got as the key teachings:

  • A New Hope: Discover who you are as a church and what success looks like for your church. Without hope of a better future, giving, volunteering, and passion will dry up.
  • Letting Go is Necessary: You can’t have it both ways. The world we were ministering to in 1970 or 1990 or even 2019 no longer exists. What ministries and methods are still life changing and what is life draining? We just don’t have the capacity to do a bunch of new things to reach the world of 2020 while still doing everything we’ve always done.
  • Value the Past without Living in the Past: This was a powerful statement from one of our attendees. Is your past a foundation you’re building off of or an idol you’ve started to worship?

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So you want to Preach on Giving: Part 5

A sermon on giving and generosity cannot be a Saturday night special! The subject is so touchy and sensitive, it’s like handling electricity or dangerous chemicals. If you don’t take great care in fine tuning the message, someone will get hurt…and likely that someone will be you. With being a guest preacher, I almost always have the luxury of being able to plan weeks ahead and have rarely given a message that I haven’t thoroughly polished. Being an average preacher at best, the polish makes me seem like almost a good preacher.

Here’s why you need to spend the extra time fine tuning your message:

  • Another Perspective: Up until now, this message may have come completely from you. How will a person that is older or younger hear it? How about someone of the opposite gender? People hear things differently depending on their past experiences.
  • Focus: In your research and preparation, you’ll run across great info that you’d love to share…but it doesn’t quite fit with your one point. If you include this, you will weaken your overall message.
  • Practice: People that read their sermons or rely too much on notes or stumble over the delivery seem less believable. A simple one-point message can and should be memorized.

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The Art of the Ask

One of the scariest tasks that pastors and others leaders can face is asking for money. But there are some people that seem to be able to ask for large donations without breaking a sweat. Are these people just born different? Maybe. If you are one of the normal people that doesn’t look forward to asking for donations, Sheri Meister can help you.

There are really two things you need to pay attention to when preparing to make a big ask. First, pay attention to building the relationship. Treat the donor as you would want to be treated. They are not a checkbook attached to a person. They are a person. Don’t just call on them when you want something. If you go to make the ask without building the relationship, get ready to be shot down.

Second, pay attention to building the case. Sometimes when people go to make the ask, they don’t have it clear in their mind the details. The most important thing is: What will be accomplished as a result of this gift? How will the world or the church or whatever going to be better? You should also have a good enough grasp of the strategy for using the gift. You’ll need to know the who, what, when, and where.

Sheri Meister is the primary teacher relying on her decades of experience in the non-profit and fundraising world.


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So you want to Preach on Giving: Part 4

Did you know that the Book of Discipline states “tithing is the minimum goal of giving in The United Methodist Church?” Meanwhile, the average Methodist gave just 1.6% of their income to the church according to a 2009 study by the Indiana University. 1.6%! Apparently Methodists aren’t relying too much on the Book of Discipline…or even the Bible…to guide their giving.

The good news is that there is a ton of room for growth…if people are challenged to grow in giving and generosity. Think about it. If your church is average, and they grow to just 2%, the income to the church will increase by 25%. Here’s an example of what it would look like in an average church:

  • The Median Household Income in the Dakotas is $60,000.
  • The average giving (1.6%) ends up being $960 for the year ($20/week except they miss four weeks of the year).
  • If they gave 2%, their giving goes to $1,200 for the year ($20/week without missing PLUS an extra $160 gift on Christmas Eve).
  • A church of 30 households sees their income increase from $28,800 to $36,000.

If people are never challenged or invited to think about their giving, they usually give the same amount year after year. While not everyone will accept the challenge, some will. Churches that are courageous enough to challenge their people on giving through New Consecration Sunday or the like will see their income grow year after year. Also, I and others have noticed that people growing in giving are usually more joyful and engaged.


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