The New Year is here. Whatever challenges you lamented or victories you celebrated in 2016, you’re beginning again. And that’s exciting!
A new year also ushers in a new ministry budget that must be funded. Depending on where you landed in 2016, you may already feel exhausted from having to start all over again. The good news is, more than $100 billion flows through religious organizations every year. That means there is plenty of money available to fund your ministry vision. The opportunity then is to harness those available dollars for Kingdom things, particularly local church ministry.
When it comes to giving, generosity, and stewardship, a wide gap remains between the view from the pew and the view from the pulpit. That disconnect has not yet fully translated into a paralyzing funding crisis for most local churches, but given current course and speed, it will if nothing substantive changes.
As I talk to pastors and executive staff members across the country, I hear similar things ...
It is vitally important that you and your ministry leaders understand what it will take for you to realize the God-inspired vision you see so clearly now. You can’t just “say something” and expect it to magically come to pass. And don’t think your passion on the platform will instantly overcome the built-in skepticism of the person sitting in the pew.
There is too much at stake.
If you can't answer that question ... neither can the PERSON in the PEW.
That's a BIG problem. And a proven strategy to NOT FUND your organization.
This is your most important asset. Focus on it. Lose sleep over it. Write it over and over until you get it right.
THEN ... practice saying to yourself.
There are a lot of assumptions leveled from the pulpit to the pew about church giving. One very important one is the ongoing debate around electronic giving and whether or not it has a place in the life of the local church and the discipline of worship and generosity.
Seriously. It’s 2016. Can’t we just agree that e-giving is here to stay?
It is astonishing to me that we are still talking about why “we should” or “should not” offer e-giving options to church members and visitors who would like to financially contribute to the work and ministry of a particular local church. Yet that very conversation is still alive and well in many churches today.
Not that "F" word!
That's another post for another time. I'm talking about F-O-C-U-S in your content and messaging strategy. The ability to stay on target until you determine the campaign is a horrible failure or a raging success.
Too many give up before they give an idea the chance to succeed.
Brand Journalism is a vehicle to let your biggest fans talk about the impact you've had on their business, brand, or cause. And it spreads that message through one of the oldest forms of communication ... storytelling. Too many times we undervalue what can be transferred between people when the message is couched inside a story.
Stories still matter. No matter what you're selling.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to write a book about incredible people doing amazing things.
I talk with lots of different leaders and organizations who are trying to make sense of the digital marketing landscape. I get it. It's tough, confusing, and ever-evolving. If you've grown weary trying to keep up, don't sweat it. You're not alone.
It's less important that you master everything as you keep yourself open to the native content consumption habits of your core audience. The biggest temptation is simply to project your personal preferences onto your target audience. By default, you will communicate in ways that are convenient for you instead of effective at engaging others.
Where this gets tricky is in the delivery systems required to deliver timely, relevant, and specific information.
For those of you who don't know my complete story (and why would you), there was a time in my career when I was responsible for the marketing, revenue, and operational efforts of a multi-million dollar business unit that sold offering envelopes to churches.
Offering envelopes are about as sexy as ... um .... NOTHING.
Nevertheless, we managed to sell more than 130 million of them a year to more than 12,000 customers.
There is a reason traditional nonprofits raise more money through this channel than most churches. They recognize it is more than a utilitarian effort or legal obligation. They know that connecting every dollar with impact is essential to building trust and confidence in the mind of the giver. And you don’t do this once but again and again and again. If you are willing to put a little thought into it, it will pay dividends for you.
Here are some common observations I share with churches related to contribution statements that might help you reframe the role they play in your ministry funding model ...
I am a HUGE fan of book publishing but not for the reasons you might think.
My interest in books is less about their artistic value or what accolades accompany them. My interest in books is a little more plain than most people.
I love books because they are the most efficient way to capture and transfer ideas from a brand, cause, or nonprofit to their respective support base. And if you are lucky enough to create or capture an experience worth remembering, then others will share your book and story as their own within their personal networks. Your book then becomes souvenir that represents a significant experience as well as a promise to benefit others.
So what is the problem with book publishing for nonprofits?