Generosity

Generosity 2018-03-19T15:21:05+00:00

“Hey Fletch” on Generosity

From around the globe, people tune in on Fletch’s warm and sound advice. He’s a friend and “church doctor,” bringing an objective perspective, broad knowledge and vast experience. Your question will get a personal reply from Fletch.

Is a Donation ‘Thank You’ Too Pushy?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hey Fletch … Do you encourage churches to acknowledge first time givers through a thank you letter?  I am considering starting this because I see this as a significant opportunity but do not want to come off pushy.

DRF—Great to hear from you. I have such warm memories of my time out there at your church. I was advising them of how to hire someone like you! I love seeing that you came, have stayed and have a rich ministry there.

A first time donation is a big step. The person is saying, “Hey, I’m beginning to buy into the family and vision here. Let me help and support it.” I would strongly encourage you to send a letter to them. I have done that for years. When we printed a 10 page color end-of-year “ministry stories” publication, we printed enough extra to send to new donors throughout the year. People loved it.

You don’t need to thank the person for the amount of the donation. Some churches treat that information as confidential and only for the business office. People do want to know that the money was received and that it matters. Regardless of the size of the gift, say “thank you for being a part of this family. Every person matters here.” 

Will you come off as pushy? Not with a great note. When were you ever upset that someone said, “thank you!” I have asked Brad Leeper, Principal at Generis to respond:

Brad Leeper—Rather than pushy, think pastoral. This new giver, through this financial gift, has indicated a new, deeper engagement with your church. The step to acknowledge and to say thank you is a powerful pastoral step that reinforces the risk and courage to enter into a new relationship with their church. And consequently, a new relationship with you as their pastor. 

Taking this step and receiving a silent response sends an unintended message that they are not necessarily welcomed or embraced here. Another reason to graciously acknowledge the gift is to prompt and encourage a second gift that comes faster with a note than silence. It seems only 4 of 10 first time givers ever make a subsequent second gift. Those lost second gifts means less financial resources for your mission and a loss of spiritual connection with that person. The lack of a courteous response in a thank you might send the message that we really do not want your next gift and, as odd as this might sound, we really do not want you either. Sending a note establishes a personal relationship with the giver which is pastoral to the core. 

One more reason to send a thank you acknowledgement. Most every non-profit will acknowledge that gift and show appreciation. Why would we as church leaders seem less pastoral and caring than a non-church organization? 

Sample Thank You Letter

Dear Joe and Julie,

Thanks for being part of our Church! The finance team let me know of your initial financial investment to our church. Your gift is generous and will return a big impact in the lives of many. Your part in our church really matters. It is an honor to be your pastor and to have you as part of our community! Pastor Eutychus 

 

Note: What if your church policy states (or you prefer) that you should not know about a person’s giving? It is easy to honor that policy by including one phrase: “While I am not aware of the amount, your gift is generous and will return a big impact in the lives of many.”

General Fund Robbed by Disaster Donations

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Hey Fletch … I have been a fan of your work and website for several years. I have a question and would love your insight. As a board member, let me say that our church has a history of taking special offerings whenever there is a disaster. Our congregation loves to give to emergency causes (wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, famine) and tends to give generously. However, our general fund often drops significantly during those weeks. People give to disaster relief and then our core offering diminishes. 

I have heard of some churches who build “disaster relief” into their budgets so that they can respond quickly when needs arise without draining regular income. Any thoughts on best practices around this?

DRF—Thank you for gracious words about XPastor. That is wonderful that your congregation gives so much to special needs. It sounds like your church has a huge heart for the hurting world … to the detriment of your general fund. It is truly a ‘steal from Peter to pay Paul’ issue!

There is no reason why you can’t have a line item in your General Fund—you can internally restrict it for disaster, compassion, mercies or benevolence. When a disaster hits, you would say to the congregation, “Our General Fund has money for disaster relief. As needed for the relief, gifts above our regular weekly offering will go toward this current need.” You may even want to salt the food by saying, “and we have already given $25,000 this week to get help on the way.” 

The issue that I see is one of communication. If people are accustomed to giving to a special fund, they will feel like the rules have shifted. You are changing away from a donor restricted fund, one which the money can only be used for disaster relief. You are moving to an internally restricted fund, where the Board can use the money as they see fit for the current disaster, future local needs, etc.

You should communicate the new style of giving well in advance of the next disaster. Share the reason for the change, in print and in person, with the Governing Board, Finance Team, staff and key leaders. Once a month for six months, share a carefully worded statement with the congregation about the change. Ensure that any online giving reflects the wording that your church formally adopts, such as “Give at this link for disaster relief. This is a part of our General Fund and will be targeted for the current need. Unused funds will be used for other church ministry.” 

I would also position this as one of great potential vision areas for the church. “We want to do so much and celebrate God’s generosity among us. By having these donations in the General Fund, we have governing board approved methods to strongly continue our ministry and disaster relief.”

Few Cheerleaders for Ministry

Monday, April 16, 2018

Hey Fletch … Thanks for the encouragement. As you might expect, working with the church does not come with a cheerleading squad. The more we work with churches in the ditch, the more frustrating it seems while some bash us because we are trying to help. Thanks for what you guys do … and ‘getting it’.

DRF—Like the guy who thought that all pastors should be self-supporting … and ridiculed our work on compensation. Like the guy who had a bad experience with a church leader and didn’t like the article on leadership.

Keep at it! I can cheer you!

Remember: no one goes to a doctor who only studied health. Everyone goes to doctors who study and treat disease. You are a doctor with hurting patients.

Online Donations Confusing for a Church School

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Hey Fletch … Our school is owned by our church. They are the umbrella. All online donations are being completed through the church. For example, if I want to donate to our school, I press the ‘donate now’ button on our website but get redirected to the church website in order to donate. How can I get around this? Folks who wish to donate to our school get confused when they get redirected to the church website and think their donation will be supporting the church and not the school. Please help.

DRF—You can put a “donate now” button on another website. The funds can still go through your church as designated funds for the school. I would suggest clear wording on the page saying that the donation is a restricted gift to the church and can only be used for the school.

The technical issue is the software piece. This is generally pretty workable, to have a “Donate Now” button on another site but there may be some complications. One way to get around this is to have a specially branded page on the church’s website, one that specifically helps people see that they are making a designated contribution to the school. When a donor makes a designated contribution, it can only be used for that purpose. It cannot be redirected, unless the page explicitly says “for the school and church use.”

One Size Fits All Retirement Plan

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Hey Fletch … My question is regarding retirement and employer contributions. We’ve had a one size fits all approach but now our staff has grown in numbers and levels of responsibility and we need to revisit it asap. I’m wanting to know how others categorize which staff gets what for retirement.

DRF—That question may be out of my pay grade (pun intended). Let me copy Dixie Beard at GuideStone on this as she is an expert at GuideStone Financial Resources. I might give the correct answer … or she may have to set me straight. To my knowledge, you can still separate your employees into classes—such as pastors, administrative personnel, facility workers, preschool teachers, etc. Each class can have a separate retirement structure.

Dixie Beard—You were on the right track, David. If the church is offering a 403(b) non-ERISA retirement plan, the church has flexibility. The church can provide different levels of employer contributions for various classifications of employees. For example, the church can provide a 10% employer contribution for the ministerial employees, 5% for the administrative employees and 3% for all other employees. Or, the church can state they want to provide employer contributions for only the Senior Pastor. It is up to the church as to how it wants to establish the employer contributions.

New Donor Email is a Mess

February 4, 2018

Hey Doc … Our new giver email is a mess. I clicked on a link and got a 404—page not found. The fonts are all strange for people who get it. Help!

DRF—An email to a new donor needs to be pristine. This is how newcomers see your! I’d suggest that you get a wordsmith to help on the text. Then, place that text in one master document. Select all and change the typeface to the same font and size. Check and double check all the links. A 404 happens when the link goes to a non-existent page.

We recently got a quote from a company that had the link: “Click here to see that we are Number 1 in the industry!” When I went to the review by an independent company, the firm was rated number 2. Oops, so much for bragging and not checking links!

A new donor email should be reviewed every six months. Check the text for it being fresh and up-to-date. Input the latest ministry story. Click all the links! Then copy the text all at once to your email. Different fonts happen when you copy from multiple sources.