Have you considered the benefits of moving your collection of estimates of annual giving to the first quarter of 2021?

Even before challenges of COVID-19, the economic uncertainties and cultural discord we are currently experiencing, Horizons has long been suggesting that January and February are the best time for most churches to invite estimates of giving. We have found this to be true across a wide variety of church sizes and denominations.  

Most churches begin their pattern of fall generosity efforts to meet the needs of the church and culture that existed 60 years ago. If your church is still collecting estimates of giving in the fall, is it time to ask why and if this practice still serves you well.

The number of churches that have moved from a fall to a new year collection of estimates of giving grows every year. Here are some of the reasons.

  • More information: In January and February, most people have a better picture of their income, having just received raises, cost of living adjustments, annual bonuses, new sales or profit goals, and small business owners have closed their books and taken distributions. The more clarity a giver has about their income for the coming year, the less likely they are to make a “safe estimate,” because they are taking into account the uncertainties of what they do not yet know about next year’s income.

  • More focus: The fall tends to be a time of distractions and high levels of activities in school, sports, holidays, etc. The new year tends to be a time when people reflect back on the previous year and make resolutions to live a more intentional and meaningful life. This is a great time to cast vision about the church’s ministry impact and ask your households to prayerfully consider if their giving is reflective of God’s goodness and leading. Having greater attention, focus, and generally higher worship attendance creates a better environment for reflection and prayer.

  • Pledges and the budget: As recently as 20 years ago, most church budgets were set to precisely match pledges received from their membership, plus a small allowance for loose plate offerings. Despite the mighty efforts made by many churches to keep the practice alive, few churches collect pledges from more than 60% of their members. The result? Today, almost all churches are setting their budgets using financial projections based on past giving from a large portion of their membership. Fortunately, this task has been made far easier by modern accounting software now used by virtually all churches regardless of size. This more effective practice of setting a budget based on actual giving offers the opportunity to separate the annual pledging process from the budgeting process, allowing the annual giving effort to focus on discipleship and the church’s mission, as the new year begins, rather than simply funding the budget.

 People-Centric: A Better Way

  • Our motive: The starting place is an examination of our motives. Ask yourself: Is the primary motive of collecting estimates of giving to get money from our congregation? Of course not! However, it is not hyperbole to say that the basis of most annual giving appeals is rooted in the needs of the church to develop and fund a budget, not the spiritual growth of the person. Your members have no trouble distinguishing the difference, no matter how well we try to disguise it with spiritual language. An increasing number of Christians are looking at the institution-centered focus and opting out of the process all together. 

  • Fundraising vs. Spiritual Development: Our experience in guiding churches in the development of cultures of generosity has made it abundantly clear that a when the annual giving effort has the primary goal of spiritual growth and community impact, rather than meeting a budgeted goal, the bi-product is much higher levels of household giving. 

If you are interested in learning more about a spiritual development process that results in increased generosity, I encourage you to read the experiences of three churches of different sizes and denominations who embraced a better way. Click here to read more: Scrap Your Boring Annual Campaign.

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