January 2017

January 1, 2017 by Presbyterian Foundation

How Can Giving Metrics and Data Help in Developing Generous Disciples?

Metrics and data can tell much about a church’s generosity. Chris Willard and Warren Bird at Leadership Network share key giving metrics that will help church leaders develop generous disciples.

Giving Metrics That Tell a Church’s Generosity Story

By Chris Willard with Warren Bird   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked pastors, “How’s the financial giving going in your church?” And they reply, “Giving is great!”

Too often it’s not. What’s actually happening is that attendance is up (which makes pastors feel better), and a few people are giving at a high level. Since a large percentage of the church budget is being met, all seems well from a giving perspective.

But too often pastors don’t know about underlying problems because they are missing some key data points that more fully tell a church’s generosity story. They need metrics that show the giving patterns in the church.

I discussed this issue recently with David Thoroughman, CEO of the donor analytics firm MortarStone, a company that helps churches maximize their financial potential. He shared three key giving metrics that tell church leaders how they’re really doing.

Focus on Giving Units 

David says the first thing to know is the performance of the giving units in your church. He defines a giving unit as a person (or household) who gives $200 or more per year to a church’s general budget. David’s research shows that 99 percent of a church’s total funding comes from people who give $200 or more a year, but those giving units represent only 55 percent of the total attenders.

That means 45 percent of people who attend weekly and engage with ministries are giving less than $16/month!

For perspective, Starbucks gold card members spend $1,200 a year in their stores. Thus if a church’s gold-card standard is $200 a year, then almost half our people aren’t there!

“Every church leader should have a clear understanding of who their giving units are — period,” David says. “We should be aware of who we should be engaging to help grow them on their spiritual journey.”

“Giving Bands” Another Piece of the Puzzle 

David also recommends segmenting giving units into four “giving bands” to show the level of givers. This method allows for the purpose of developing a unique strategy for spiritually discipling each level of giver.

Giving an alarming statistic. David says for every 100 giving units in a church, six of them are financial leaders who give over $10,000 a year to the general fund. In other words, 40 percent of a church’s funding usually comes from 6 percent of its attenders!

What about those of the other 94 percent who are not giving as generously but readily could? How do you encourage and challenge them in this vital spiritual discipline? And what about the 6 percent who are pulling a huge weight financially? We owe them a strategic approach that helps care for them spiritually.

It’s my contention that large givers are largely under-served people in our churches. Many pastors don’t want to show favoritism or they’re intimidated by them. However, having a ministry focused toward giving leaders who largely fund the work of your church is just being wise.

“The financial leaders are uniquely blessed and uniquely positioned to carry the torch of your mission and make sure it’s funded,” David says. “They want to be pulled in, and they want to know what they can do.”

The Front and Back Door 

Last, David says we need to keep an eye on giving retention — how many people are starting to give, and how many are walking out the back door with their checkbooks.

Studying both those who start to give and those who used to give can reveal plenty about ministry programming, systems and processes for engagement.

“Ultimately, people want to stay where they buy into the vision,” David says. “If you’re not aware of your retention rate, you have a major gap in your strategy and your key performance metrics.”

The bottom line: If we have more people going out the back door than coming in the front door, we have a problem — and it’s not just a funding problem. It’s a ministry problem. It’s a discipleship problem.

“It’s not about the money,” David concludes. “We don’t care about the money. It’s about, are you connected with us on mission and are you growing people to be stewards?”

For more on this subject, see the special report Leadership Network published, “How Can Big Data Increase Generosity at Your Church?” (also at leadnet.org/downloads).

Generosity Strategies and Tactics is an ongoing series brought to you by Leadership Network thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment. To learn more go to www.leadnet.org (http://www.leadnet.org/).

Leaving a Legacy: Past. Present. Future.

January 10, 2017
by Erin Dunigan
After receiving three fairly significant bequests in 2006 — all between $200,000 to $400,000 in value, the First Presbyterian Church of Jefferson City, Missouri decided to allocate funds to three areas.

Virginia Holt (Tom Holt felt the donation to the carillon would fit what his wife Virginia would have wanted.)

First, they paid off their mortgage and long-term debt. Second, they set up a fund to grow new ministries and support existing ones. The final third they put into a fund for nontraditional and future worship. Past. Present. Future.Then the church received notification that they are the beneficiaries of two more bequests.“This is an amazing thing — a good thing,” shared Pastor Rob Erickson, who has been at the church since 2010. These gifts, he suggested, have come because of seeds planted long ago — seeds that are now bearing fruit.“It reminds me of Paul — it is not fruit that I’ve planted, but fruit that other pastors have planted over time and other sessions and trustees — it has created an attitude within the church that is truly amazing,” shared Erickson. He himself has included the church in his will. “Because that’s what we do here.”But the sowing of such seeds is not something that they have left only in the past.Recently the church hosted a program called “Our Last Legacy” in which they covered the topics of planning funerals, planning how we care for ourselves, and how to live life fully.

The presenters were all from the congregation — a nurse, a Stephen Minister, a lawyer, and pastor Erickson.They expected that, as in the past when they had brought in an outside speaker to cover such topics, they might have 10–12 people. But instead they had more than 50.“I think it mattered to have people who were known to them — people they trusted,” shared Erickson. For his part he walked them through his own funeral — what songs he wants, what scripture. “We even laughed as we were talking about the various parts,” explained Erickson, pleased with the response.Other topics included how to create a financial and legal legacy that is done in a way that helps those who are left to implement one’s wishes, but also how to live strong and well and healthy in the last quarter of life.

But for Erickson it is personal relationships that are the key.“People in your congregation are going to be giving to things they care about — to their alma matter, to other good causes in the community,” he said. So why not let them know about those good causes that are also in the congregation?FPC Jefferson City had a carillon that broke after 40 years and it needed to be replaced. Erickson talked with a man in the church whose wife, who had loved music, had passed away. The man talked with their son and daughter and together they were able to contribute the new carillon to her memory. “Now they remember Virginia every time they hear that carillon play.”

Another individual in the church who spent his life traveling and has grandchildren that are in the church’s youth group decided to contribute to a bus — not when he died, but now, so that he can see it put to use. “He gets to see pictures in the newsletter of the bus being put to great use,” explained Erickson.

They are also quick to celebrate such gifts — making sure that it is known within the congregation that the ministry is happening out of generous donations.

Would you like to host a ’Leaving a Legacy’ program at your church? The Presbyterian Foundation can help you talk to members about estate planning in meaningful, natural ways. For more information, contact your regional Ministry Relations Officer (MRO) today. Call 800-858-6127 option 3 and we’ll put you in touch, or search for your MRO at presbyterianfoundation.org.

Unexpected gift
The church welcomed new guests from the Salvation Army ministry to the Sunday night dinner

When First Presbyterian Church of Jefferson City, Missouri, received a number of sizable bequests, they put the money to use in three ways – to the past, to the present, and to the future. The future in this sense was a fund allocated for a new worship service – something they assumed might bring in younger people. The service was planned for the evening.

“What has happened is that we wound up with something that has drawn in families with young children – and also those who are without housing,” explained Pastor Rob Erickson.

“It is a curious first century version of the church we have going on here,” he continued. It was not what they had envisioned when they put the funds from a bequest to use – but it is what God seems to be doing among them.

“We planned – but sometimes God does something different with our plans than what we had imagined.”

The church has a ministry with the Salvation Army during the week, preparing and serving meals for the residents of Center of Hope (homeless shelter). One night those folks just started showing up. “They come because it is a more casual service – and we have dinner,” explained Erickson.

While not what they expected when they started, the Sunday night worship has been a blessing and “what God wanted them to do.The first time the folks from the Salvation Army ministry showed up, Erickson was already pressed for time and wondered what to do to incorporate the new guests who had arrived. But when he looked around he saw that those who were already there had begun to welcome the newcomers, to get them food, to make sure they had a place at the table. “They welcomed those in their midst – the stranger in their midst – and it was a glimpse of the kingdom.”

Upcoming Event – Generosity Now 2017

Increase your knowledge about the spiritual principles and best practices for faithful stewardship and generous giving at Generosity NOW, a premiere conference on Christian philanthropy sponsored by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. Participate in worship, plenary sessions and a wide variety of workshops.

Stewardship Sermons to Support Your Ministry

Rev. Dr. Mike Loudon shared Give Away the Borders of Your Life – on the Presbyterian Foundation’s fourth edition CD of stewardship messages. Listen now.

Contact a Ministry Relations Officer for assistance with stewardship in your congregation.