Figuring out how to build a culture of generosity and fully fund your ministry plan can feel overwhelming. It may seem like you’ve tried everything only to achieve lackluster results. Now is the time to develop a plan for how you can re-imagine your church’s approach to annual giving.

Religious giving is the largest giving category among all charities, however, in recent years, churches have been experiencing a shortage of new donors and a decline in the number of people contributing.

Relying on a smaller number of donors is simply not sustainable. So, what has to change?

One thing is for sure. In this current environment, turning the tide on giving will require more than a powerful sermon or gimmicky campaign.

Today’s complex giving climate requires an intentional effort to grow a culture of radical generosity that is much more than simply fundraising. Stewardship and generosity are key markers of discipleship. Nurturing these pillars of faith formation in your congregation will have a lasting impact.

So, let’s look at how you can create a more intentional and effective approach to annual giving in eleven targeted steps. 

Turn Annual Giving into a Discipleship Event

In order to reset and revitalize your church’s giving culture, you’ll need to prioritize and plan well. These eleven steps will help you revamp your annual giving and reach Next Level Generosity

One: Develop an annual giving plan.

It may feel uncomfortable to talk about finances, but annual giving sustains ministry and requires proper planning to be successful. Your annual giving plan should provide a roadmap to achieve your yearly ministry goals. Planning isn’t just about deciding what you want to achieve. Planning is also about how you are going to achieve it.

When developing your annual giving plan, you will want to consider when is the best time to ask for estimates of giving. At Horizons, we have found that churches are most successful in inviting estimates of giving from their members in the first quarter of the year.

In the new year, people often have a better idea of their projected income and financial status. Also, the end of the year is so hectic (especially in the church)! The rush of end-of-year activities makes it challenging to capture people’s attention. Also, the beginning of a new year provides a time for reflection and introspection. That is likely why we make new year’s resolutions!

Your annual giving plan should not only include well-timed estimates of giving, but also an opportunity for spiritual growth. It is important to be mindful that receiving generous contributions is not the primary objective. Ultimately, any annual giving plan should seek to cultivate a culture of generosity grounded in the spiritual growth of your congregation.

Two: Use analytics to measure ministry effectiveness.

Stay on track with your annual giving by using analytics to measure effectiveness. Here at Horizons, we partner with our clients to achieve their annual giving goals with the help of key impact metrics. Analytics helps measure the effectiveness of your generosity and discipleship growth strategies and make course corrections when needed.

Three: Establish an annual generosity theme.

To generate community engagement and inspire generosity, it is helpful to use a theme and graphics that help convey your impact story. Providing a theme will help focus your message and inspire the Next Level Generosity you’re seeking. There are many themes provided in scripture and other resources that will enable you to carry your generosity message throughout the entire year.

Four: Teach and preach on generosity.

Generosity must be taught to be understood. Developing a generosity culture requires preaching and teaching on the spiritual foundational elements of stewardship and generosity. Make sure you are preaching about giftedness in terms of discipleship and spiritual formation. Remember, generosity is a fundamental part of being a Christian and should be an integral part of your teaching ministry.

Five: Communicate life change and impact weekly.

In order for your congregation to feel inspired in their giving, it’s important they believe their contributions are actually making a difference. After all, people are trusting you with their time, talent, and treasure. So, show them some appreciation by communicating the tangible impact of their donations on a regular basis. At least weekly, tell your supporters how their giving is making an impact and changing lives. Include impact reports in weekend services, church newsletters, social media, and on your website.

Six: Include generosity as part of your discipleship pathway.

Generosity should be included as a part of your discipleship path. Many churches use a discipleship path to help people assess the breadth and depth of their spiritual growth and development. Giving should be at the heart of any discussion about discipleship since financial stewardship is the management of God’s money. Growth in giving often results from a deepening of the givers’ relationship with God and as an expression of discipleship. Generosity glorifies God, strengthens the church, and moves individuals further along their discipleship journey.

Seven: Invest in your generosity team.

Creating a generosity culture is not solely the pastor’s responsibility. Many churches engage a generosity team to provide energy and support to the effort. A generosity team, comprised of committed and generous members, can help convey the importance of generosity from a spiritual perspective, help you tell your impact story, and express gratitude for those who have been generous to the church. A generosity team can help you inspire a culture of generosity and achieve your annual giving plan.

Eight: Develop a financial leader ministry.

Financial leaders are those members of your community who contribute the vast majority of your revenue. In most congregations, there is a group of people whose commitment and capacity inspire them to invest heavily in your ministries.

It’s important to establish a financial leader ministry to keep these leaders informed and engaged. Most financial leaders appreciate being invited to offer feedback on key decisions and use their influence to encourage others. Continuing to build relationships with your financial leaders and nurturing them in their faith will help ensure their ongoing investment.

Nine: Express appreciation for donors regularly.

Expressions of generosity deserve a reciprocal expression of gratitude. No matter the size of an individual’s contribution, it’s so important to say thank you. Never underestimate the impact a little appreciation shows. Gratitude may be expressed through personal letters, emails, phone calls, text messages, and in-person conversations. It is true that most people do not give to something in order to be thanked, however, most givers appreciate a simple, but heartfelt thank you. You and your generosity team have the ability to make givers feel great about contributing to your important ministry. All it takes is a moment to say thank you.

Ten: Share stories about how being generous has impacted the giver.

We already mentioned how important it is for givers to see that their contributions are having an impact. But what about the impact giving has on the giver? We often think of giving as a one-way exchange, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are a tither or know someone who is, you already know about how generous living can be a catalyst for lifelong change. Giving and generosity have the ability to truly transform the giver’s life, so make sure you share stories from givers about how their personal generosity has shaped them and impacted their lives.

Eleven: Invite people to take the next step in their giving journey.

After you’ve established the foundation for a culture of generosity in your church, invite people to take the next step on their giving journey. You will want to make sure you have a variety of ways in which people can contribute and that they are as simple as possible. It’s important to include digital giving options such as text-based giving and quick and easy donations on your website. Communicate to your members all the ways in which they can make a gift to your church, especially to those who have not yet returned to in-person worship.

Take your church’s annual giving to the next level!

If you’re in the process of determining how to build a culture of generosity and fully fund your annual ministry plan, then hopefully this has helped to inspire your thinking. Now is the time to take your church or faith-based nonprofit’s annual giving to the next level

Many churches and nonprofits struggle with their annual giving strategy. But with a little planning, there are many things you can do to promote a culture of generosity in your church and ministry. From prior planning to robust discipleship teaching, you can achieve Next Level Generosity.