Mark Brooks

Why There Must Be a New Approach to Raising Funds

America has changed, which is why there must be a new approach to raising funds. Sadly, we serve in one of the most change adverse organizations on the face of the planet, a local church! We are our own worst enemies when it comes to the financial security of our church.

One of the major reasons why this is true is the ignorance of the true state of giving in American when it comes to the Church. Consider these facts:

  • 29% of all charitable gifts went to religious causes in 2018. That is the first time the percentage has dipped below 30%. In 1987 the percentage given to religion was at 53%.
  • 1%. At the current rate of decline in giving, Americans will decrease their giving from just over 2% of their disposable incomes to the church to 1% by 2050. Up until the ’70s, Americans had given over 3% of their disposable incomes to the Church.
  • 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 today. Baby Boomers are the largest generational group of donors in America by dollar amount given. Their aging and retirement means your key donor group’s years of generosity are limited. One of my clients recently found that 84% of their $1.5 million annual budget came from members fifty and up. Your statistics most likely are similar.
  • The Nones, those when asked what their religious affiliation is, say none, are the fastest-growing “faith” group in America.

I could list many more issues we face from demographics to technology. The bottom line is that we are in a different day than our grandparents and parents. How are we to respond to these changes? Here are some thoughts,

It’s past time to admit we have a problem. See the above bullet points. We have huge infrastructure issues that we are avoiding. Church facilities are deteriorating at the same time giving is declining. Failing to address this crisis will hasten the demise of many local churches.

We must admit that current strategies are failing. I commend The Contemporary Church Movement for its desire to reach out to the unreached. Yet many of the practices of this movement have actually hurt the Church rather than advanced the Church. We need a fresh look at our current strategies AND the strategies moving forward.

Stewardship firms, which actually helped churches raise capital dollars, have missed the changes in the American church scene and how to address them. Too few are still stuck utilizing 20th-century thinking to meet 21st-century challenges!

The time to act is NOW! We did not get into this problem overnight, and we will not get out of the problem with any quick fix. The church that survives into the future is the church that plans for the future today. What is your plan?

I have a plan! The following are my views of how we should respond, particularly when it comes to reversing the decline in giving.

My Two-Track Approach to Generosity – The above was my introduction.  I needed you to see what is ahead of us.  We must act now.  My advice to the churches is to think of generosity in two separate tracks.  Here is the fist track,

The Leaders Track – My mentor, Dave Sutherland, used to tell churches that they could take a snapshot photo of their congregation right at that moment and, that was who we had to work with in terms of raising funds.  A couple of years ago, the Blackbaud Institute published a study about the changes in giving as a result of America’s generational shift.  They talked about focusing on keeping what you have. 

My point is that you need to have a specific focus and plan for your top donors.  Without them, you would not be where you are and without them, you won’t be where you want to be.  They are your generosity leaders.  My personal view is that we in the Church have less than ten years with our current batch of generosity leaders.

How can we help these leaders end their generosity journey with the greatest impact possible?  These leaders are interested in the legacy they are leaving behind.  They want to help make a difference.  Your church is a perfect place for them to leave a legacy at.  How can you accomplish this?

My partners and I have been for the last two to three years, working on what we feel is the model of generosity for the 21st century.  I can tell you it isn’t what any other firm is selling!  We are moving our clients towards the establishment of what for now we are calling,

The Legacy Team – A group of people who either have the gift of generosity, or they are looking for creative ways to use the blessings God has given them to be a blessing to others.

This is not an exclusive club of elites.  It is a team of people who love being generous.  Remember, the Widow was deemed more generous than all the other donors! 

The Legacy Team concept can help your church be prepared for the projected decline in giving.  That decline is coming.  The question remains, what are you doing to negate this decline?

I believe the long-term solution to the decline in giving is through discipleship.

Why is discipleship so important?  Here are two practical reasons.

We are mandated to make disciples.  Jesus’ last words to his disciples in Matthew 28 were to go to the ends of the earth, making disciples.  He did not call us to attract a crowd.  He never lowered the bar for anyone.  We shouldn’t either. 

I believe one huge reason for the decline in giving is the decline in focusing upon making disciples.  Disciples are generous.  By making disciples, you are assuring your financial future by making generous members.  That leads me to the second practical reason for stressing discipleship.

Discipleship driven churches have a higher average per giver than those that don’t stress discipleship.  I have spent well over twenty years analyzing church giving data.  My findings are that churches with a more traditional discipleship process like Sunday School, always have a higher average per giver than those that do not stress discipleship.  Sadly, Sunday School has fallen into disregard as most churches, if they have a discipleship process, would point to their small group ministry.  Therein lies one of our problems.

It’s time to rethink our small group strategies.  Full disclosure.  I hate small groups!  Since resigning as a senior pastor, I have led or attended small groups in multiple churches.  While some might study some trending book, Max Lucado seems a favorite; few actually study the Bible.  Most small groups meet only for fellowship ending in a brief prayer time.  In the majority of churches that have a small group ministry, few have a set plan that results in making and deepening discipleship.  The result is we are producing illiterate church members who give only small portions to your church.  I contend we do not have a giving problem. We have a discipleship problem.

How do you implement these two tracks? First, the Senior Pastor has to be all in for this to work.  If the Senior Pastor is fearful of any talk about money, finances, or giving, that church will always be struggling to fund missions and ministry.  If you have read this far, you are all in, so let me give you a practical road map for beginning The Discipleship Track.

First, start with the easiest thing a pastor can do, preach a series on stewardship.  Notice I said series.  Barna has shown that one-off sermons on giving are not as effective as a series on giving.  Next, this will be tough for some to swallow, but I have an opinion about the frequency of which you should preach a stewardship series.  My preference is every year!  Right now, start planning out your stewardship series for 2020.  Next, we need to,

Rethink small groups! Stop focusing on the number of small groups or people involved in small groups.  We need to ask this question of our small groups.  Are people better equipped in God’s Word as a result of being involved in your small groups or not?  If not, it is time to rethink this strategy.  Why?

We are called to make disciples!  Period.  You can’t do that with thirty to forty-minute sermons.  Where are your members going to gain depth in their relationship with God?  How will your members learn about the joy of generosity unless you teach them?

In 2020 think of how at your church you can best implement The Two Tracks of Generosity. Oh, and I can help you with that!

Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach