GIVING & Why it changes during a crisis (and how to crisis-proof your budget).

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., April 28, 2020.

Many churches are experiencing a downturn in giving during the recent quarantine.  And what they are seeing is not a typical. Here are some thoughts I’ve gleaned over the years and from clients.

During an “external crisis” (meaning job layoffs in the community, people leaving the area for a different town or quarantine due to a pandemic) the following occur. In addition, below are actions that can help crisis-proof a church’s budget.

1. Giving is down roughly 25 to 40% for churches that have not strongly emphasized online giving before the external crisis. Those that have emphasized online giving beforehand still drop but only about 20 to 25%. The lesson here is to robustly embrace online giving going forward.

2. During an external crisis there is usually a loss of long-time givers. This is because the external crisis exacerbates some frustration they have. However research by Bruno Dyck and Frederick Stark at the University of Manitoba (“The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model,” Administrative Science Quarterly 44)  found that if people who stop giving are personally visited and listened to, the frustration can often be diffused. This is hard to do during a quarantine, but it’s something to consider as restrictions loosen.

3. New givers will usually appear during one of these external crises. This is because people see the need for the church and the good things it’s doing. And they want to support it. However new givers typically do not give as much as long-time givers. Therefore if you are replacing them one for one, it’s usually not enough to make up the difference.

4. An important strategy is to track the quarterly ebb and flow of giving. Every church has a giving cycle. e.g. certain times during the year when giving decreases. It’s important to know when these coincide with an external crisis, so that you don’t over react to a downturn fueled by two concurrent forces: seasonal and external.

5. Some of my church clients who are younger congregations put a freeze on “new spending” when they saw the external crisis on the horizon. This doesn’t help you too much when you are in the middle of a downturn, but it is a good strategy for the future.

6. During this time another prescription is to make online giving convenient and to communicate it as an important option. Allowing giving to take place online allows the giver more time to pray over and consider their support.

7. It’s critically important to teach the reason for giving. Giving not just to keep the church going, but to increase ministry during this time when more people have needs. Therefore emphasize the good you were doing, why people give and how people’s spiritual journey includes meeting the needs of others.

For more ideas see Growing the Post-pandemic Church.  

COMMITMENT & 6 Ideas That Can Increase Giving and Community

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D. and the 2017 Missional Coaches Cohort, 2/1/17.

  • Annually teach on giving.
    • Teach as a two-week series [studies show one week isn’t enough; three weeks people get bored / annoyed]. Offer it in January or February, after everyone’s Christmas bills come in and household budget/resource allocation is a priority.
    • When teaching on giving, teach on graduated giving – meaning, if you don’t
      give at all, where could you start? If you do give, but give less than 10%, how
      could you increase to the next percentage? If you give 10% or above, could you begin increasing giving to the next percentage as a ‘legacy gift’ to the church?
  • Annually review tithes & offerings.
    • Who knows who gives, and how much? Who knows who’s not giving, or has
      slacked off in giving? John Maxwell suggests the Treasurer, Senior Pastor, and Exec Pastor know in order to pray for givers & giving, and lean into those needing encouragement.
  • Annually review ministry priorities.
    • Get key staff and board together for a half-day or full day of ministry review. Are you most important ministries getting significant resources for ministry?
    • If they’re not, they might not be as high a priority as you think they are. Make adjustments as necessary.
  • Offer Stewardship classes.
    • Twice a year, offer Financial Peace Classes [or similar program].
    • Rather than a staff or board member, attempt to have a key layperson whose financial affairs are in order teach the class, in order to avoid people viewing church leaders as greedy for resources.
  • Expand giving options.
    • Do you offer a variety of ways to give such as: text-to-give, webpage for
      automatic giving, or giving kiosks? What does live giving look like in your church?
    • Do you have special giving opportunities – a campaign to pay down debt / faith promise giving for missions? Beyond weekly / monthly giving, what special giving emphases could be created?
  • Tell stories about giving.
    • Who’s willing to share live or via video a story of how God stretched them to give more generously/sacrificially? Who’s been blessed by receiving a gift through the church? What ministries could you highlight that wouldn’t exist without giving?
    • Interview some older folks who are long-time members. Ask about the vision and mission of the church, and how they see it being fulfilled. Ask them how they prayed and gave in the early days for God to bless and expand the church’s reach.
    • Interview younger folks, families, or individuals who are new. Ask about their experience being welcomed or helped. Use questions in these video stories to connect the dots between giving and outreach / mission accomplishment.

© Bob Whitesel DMin PhD & MissionalCoaches.com #PowellChurch