Electronic giving isn’t going away yet some churches are still resistant to allowing people to give electronically. I wonder if there was a time when checks were knew and churches only accepted cash, livestock or grain. In this webinar, I try to make the case for why churches should make the switch. Long story short, 1)checks and cash usage are in decline, 2)it’s kind of silly to only accept gifts one hour per week…if the weather is good, 3)it helps people give consistently, and 4)it can be part of a person’s discipleship.
Deciding to allow electronic giving is only the first step. We also need a strategy for promoting and transitioning donors. Just because we set up electronic giving doesn’t mean that people will flock to it or even be aware of the option. You need to have a strategy for rolling it out and regularly making the congregation aware of this option.
A church that has enough money to do everything it wants is in serious danger. How can having enough money be dangerous? John Wesley was very strong about warning people about riches and increasing riches. This applies to churches as well. Just as people need to guard their hearts against trusting in money instead of God, churches need to do the same.
As you teach your people of the importance of giving and generosity, you will likely receive a large gift or bequest. This gift can be either a great tool for future growth or a great trap that eventually leads to the church going broke and closing. Isn’t ironic…teaching on generosity can lead to your church going broke. I’ve seen it happen. A lot of times churches don’t realize they are in this trap until their situation gets dire. If your church has fallen into this trap, there is hope…but the first step is to acknowledge the situation.
Hopefully this is timely and helpful for any church struggling financially. Here’s the bad news: There is no silver bullet when it comes to raising up generous givers. If your church is struggling financially, there is no quick fix. There is a strong spiritual element connected to our relationship with money…and practically nothing happens quickly in the spiritual world. Even when you first came to faith, for how many years were people praying for you and planting seeds in your life?
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything…just don’t expect an immediate turnaround. First of all, there needs to be the right conditions within the church to grow generous givers. Has leadership proven themselves trustworthy? Do they have a clear idea of where the church needs to go (i.e. their mission)?
The next thing is to give attention to these six areas: 1)Engaging; 2)Inspiring; 3)Teaching; 4)Asking; 5)Thanking; and 6)Reporting. There’s no fixed schedule. All areas need attention…especially the areas where you are weakest. In this webinar, Sheri Meister and I share the principles of each area as well as some practical steps the church can take.
What’s the worst thing that could happen if I don’t keep the IRS in mind when issuing Giving Statements or something to acknowledge gifts? Well…the IRS could disallow the donors charitable tax deduction which would lead them to have to pay more taxes. This would probably lead to a ticked off donor who will likely share this with other donors. You’ve basically discouraged anyone from wanting to give too generously to your church.
It really isn’t that hard to keep the IRS happy. All you need to do is properly document the gift (what did they give, who did they give it too, when did they give it) and include a simple statement that the donor didn’t receive any goods or services in exchange for the gift except for intangible religious benefits. You can sneak these element in and still have a nice “Thank you.”
I decided that every tenth post/video would be on Stewardship Education. I realize that the title of this post and the picture probably don’t make you think, “I bet this an educational video.” One thing I run into over and over again is pastors and church leaders being afraid of preaching on money, giving, and stewardship. It’s almost always churches that struggle financially that are afraid to talk about giving…because it might hurt their finances. You never hear this from a church that is financially strong. They don’t see the connection between their financial struggles and their avoidance of teaching on money and giving.
I’m convinced that these leaders, while trying not to appear greedy or money grubbing, are robbing their church. They are robbing their churches in two ways: 1)their church will be robbed of the resources to better carry out the mission; and 2)their people will be robbed of much joy and closeness to Jesus that comes from being able to trust the Lord with your finances. This video delves into it more:
Churches might avoid QuickBooks because they think they will need a separate system to track donations. Most church accounting programs have a module for accounting and a separate module for keeping the giving records. For years, the rumor was that you could track giving records in QuickBooks…and that rumor is true! I played around in QuickBooks and changed some settings, and it worked pretty slick. For very large churches, they may need a more robust system like Fellowship One or Church Community Builder, but for the majority of churches, that’s not necessary. They don’t need a system to track and communicate with members. They just need something that will give them a statement for each donor.
Below is my quick and fairly successful attempt at tracking donations in QuickBooks:
Are donor-restricted gifts a blessing or a curse? Often they are a blessing…especially when the church’s leadership is trying to raise money for a cause or project. A lot of churches take special offerings for specific missions (e.g. Mission of the Month). Others raise money for capital projects or to retire debt. But what about those gifts with strings attached that we aren’t asking for? What about those strings church boards put on certain unrestricted gifts?
The less strings, the better…as long as you have quality leadership. My general strategy is to use up any funds with strings attached first. The more freedom our leaders have, usually the better. They know the challenges and opportunities more than anyone else. I can already hear someone saying, “But what about accountability?” Donor restricted gifts are trying to control the leadership’s decisions…not hold them responsible (i.e. accountable) for those decisions. You hold them accountable by confronting poor decisions…usually through the Staff-Parish Relations Committee…and maybe voting for them to no longer be in leadership.