Even in a tough year, people still give

December 11, 2020 by Stephen Keizer

Advent season is upon us! This is by far my favorite time of the year. It brings back memories of cutting down the Christmas tree, placing the luminaria out at Christmas Eve, singing along with the songs on the radio, participating in the Christmas Eve service at church, getting up early to open gifts, traveling to see relatives that I haven’t seen all year, snow (yes, I live in Michigan and love it especially at Christmas), and an entire month of treats.

However, in 2020, as almost everything has, these traditions may look a little different. But regardless of how we chose to celebrate during these challenging times, 2020 is coming to an end. Certainly, if nothing else, that is a reason to celebrate!

In these final weeks of 2020, we continue to figure out how best to finish the year in our church. How do we celebrate together when we can’t physically be together? How do we provide the opportunity for folks to continue to be generous when it has been such a tough year? Our friends, Kristine Miller and Joe Park at Horizons Stewardship, have encouraged us to do some things in the last few weeks of 2020 to engage our members and encourage strong end of the year giving.

  • Let your donors decide to give or not to give. This may seem odd as we sometimes think that our members are likely struggling financially, or don’t have any more to give, or they are just tired of being asked. But the opportunity to grow 2020 year-end giving remains strong. Eighty-five percent of donors intend to maintain or increase their giving through the end of 2020, while 25% of donors plan to give more in 2020 than in 2019 because they have additional resources available. Ninety-seven percent of donors who gave earlier to special COVID-related appeals say they are considering giving more to charitable causes in 2020. What remains true is that donors want to invest in causes that make a difference in the world and they want to do that this year, too! Don’t be shy. Donors have resources to contribute, and they want to give them this year.
  • Tell your ministry stories. People who have been blessed by your ministry are eager to express their gratitude, too. Telling your ministry story means letting your donors know how their continuing financial support is making a difference in the lives of those you serve. Always connect your ability to do ministry with the generosity of the givers. Look for opportunities to share stories of impact – written, in-person and video. Tell the story of one life at a time. Use donor-centric language and avoid focusing on your organization’s need to pay the bills.
  • Promote tax-advantaged contributions. Many of your donors can leverage contributions to reduce their tax liability. It is good stewardship! Strategies like bunching gifts, contributing stock directly, and Donor-Advised Funds can be extremely helpful. In 2020, cash contributions are deductible up to 100% of the donor’s adjusted gross income instead of the usual 60%. Donors who are 70 ½ years old or older can make a Qualified Charitable Distribution from their IRA of up to $100,000 annually. Effective tax giving strategies allow your donors to give more and create a win-win for your organization and your donors.
  • Encourage estate gifts. There has never been a better time. People often focus on end-of-life planning during major life events, and a pandemic surely qualifies. Now is a perfect time to educate members about planned giving opportunities. Wealth is not a prerequisite for making a legacy gift. Anyone with a will, estate plan, bank account, retirement account, or life insurance regardless of the amount of the asset, can make a legacy gift.

Contributions to religious organizations continue to decline, and donations are being redirected to charities that are effectively making their case and boldly asking donors for their support. So, take the time during the end of 2020 to communicate the importance of your ministry to your donors. Remind them of the impact your ministry makes in the lives of many. Give them the opportunity to make this year’s advent season truly memorable.


Stephen Keizer is the Vice President of Ministry Relations for the Presbyterian Foundation. His team of Ministry Relations Officers serves pastors and their congregations throughout the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from regional offices across the country. Send comments on this article to stephen.keizer@presbyterianfoundation.org.