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Navigating the Delicate Conversation: How to Ask Congregants to Increase Their Contributions

Updated: Nov 19, 2023


Sunlight filters through the vibrant stained glass windows of a church, casting a mosaic of colors over the congregation gathered within.
Amidst the tranquil hues of a sacred space, our church community contemplates a heartfelt appeal to strengthen our collective support and mission.

Discussing financial contributions can often feel like a sensitive topic, especially within a faith community. However, there are times when increased giving is necessary to sustain and expand a church’s mission and activities. Here, we'll explore some thoughtful and respectful strategies to ask your congregants to consider increasing their contributions to the church.

The Importance of Timing


Assess the Congregation's Financial Health


Before broaching the topic of increased giving, assess the financial stability of your congregation. If the majority of your members are facing economic hardship, it may not be the right time to ask for increased contributions.


Understanding Economic Context

Begin by gaining a thorough understanding of the economic landscape affecting your congregation. This might involve looking at local employment rates, the cost of living, and general economic indicators within your community. For insights on your local economies, you can reference U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for employment and economic data.


Conducting a Discreet Survey

Consider conducting a confidential survey to gauge the financial wellbeing of your congregation members without intruding on their privacy. Questions can be designed to understand the general economic comfort level rather than specifics of individual incomes.

Joy Church App's built-in polling feature allows you to conduct surveys in a confidential manner (when setting up the survey, make sure results are not reported or shared).


Observing Giving Trends

Analyze the trends in giving over recent months or years. Have there been significant drops that correlate with economic downturns? This data can help infer the financial health of your congregation without direct inquiry. Check Nonprofit Source's Charitable Giving Statistics reports to stats and trends in your area.


Consulting with Financial Advisors

Seek advice from financial advisors or experts who understand both the fiscal aspects of running a church and the economic challenges that congregants might face. They can provide an informed perspective on whether it’s prudent to encourage increased giving at this time. For a list of suggested advisors, reference National Association of Church Business Administration for financial consultation


Ensuring Sensitivity in Communication

Any communication about the church’s financial needs and the congregation's ability to contribute should be handled with utmost sensitivity and discretion. Ensure that messages about finances are always empathetic to individual circumstances.


Align with Mission or Project Initiatives


Timing your request to coincide with the launch of a new mission or project can provide context for the need for additional funds, making the request more understandable and urgent.


Connecting Giving to Tangible Goals

When congregants see a direct correlation between their giving and tangible church goals, they are often more motivated to contribute. Clearly communicate how the new mission or project will advance the church’s vision and make a real difference in the community or beyond.


Showcasing Project Plans

Provide detailed plans for the new initiative, including objectives, timelines, and how exactly the funds will be utilized. This level of detail can help congregants visualize the project and understand the necessity of their financial support. The article You owe your project players a communication infrastructure by Joan Knutson in Project Management Institute says, "Communication is paramount because the success or failure of a project often rests with the success or failure of the communications among all the project players."


Creating a Narrative Around the Initiative

Develop a compelling narrative around the new mission or project. Share stories of those who will benefit and how the project aligns with the church's broader mission. A narrative that resonates emotionally and spiritually can be a powerful motivator for increased giving.


Storytelling Tips for Small Non-Profits by Vanessa Chase recommends:

  1. Set Reasonable Goals Storytelling can be a very nebulous activity that escalates into total overwhelm. The good news is that it doesn't have to be like that. If you worry about not having the time or the resources to tell stories, I recommend taking a few steps back and starting with goal setting. How do you hope telling stories will help your non-profit? Define what it is you want to get from your storytelling efforts. You could set one goal, or you could try setting good, better, and best variations of your goal. Personally I like the latter because it gives you a spectrum to work with. You may want to err on the side of setting small goals to start. It could be something like telling one story this quarter. That might not seem like a lot, but it's somewhere to start.

  2. Time Block If lack of time is getting the better of you, one easy thing you can do is give yourself time blocks for storytelling. These are pre-scheduled times that you'll work on storytelling. It could be 30 minutes once a week or maybe 2 hours once a month. The goal is to set a standing appointment with yourself where you can dedicate time to storytelling.

  3. Leverage One Story You may not have the time or resources to share a story a week and that is a-okay! I often tell non-profit professionals that you don't need to be a content creation machine. The truth is that a good portion of your audience won't see something that one time you share it. This means that you can re-share and leverage content you've already created like a story. As an example, let's say you wrote a story that you plan to share in an upcoming newsletter. In addition to that newsletter, you could also share that story on your social media channels, maybe add it to your website, or file it away to use again in your annual report.

  4. Ask Board Members or Volunteers to Help Sometimes we just need a few more hands on deck to help us complete a project. There are parts of storytelling that you could ask board members or volunteers to help with. Start by identifying the skill sets your board members and volunteers may have that could support storytelling. For example, someone may have strong writing skills that could help with writing stories. Or, maybe you have someone with great people skills who could help interview people for stories. Work your match making to see what's possible.


Leveraging Multimedia Presentations

Use videos, images, and testimonials in your presentations to create a vivid picture of the project’s potential impact. Multimedia can be especially persuasive and memorable for congregants.


Setting Incremental Milestones

Break down the project into incremental milestones with associated fundraising targets. This can make the overall goal seem more achievable and allows for celebrating progress along the way.


Engaging Donors in the Process

Invite potential donors to be part of the planning process for the new initiative. When congregants feel ownership over a project, they are more likely to invest in its success. How to Engage Donors Creatively by Jess Woloszyn gives some practical steps on how to engage former and prospective donors.


Transparency is Key


Emphasizing Open Financial Practices

Transparency in financial dealings is a cornerstone of trust within any community. For churches, this means openly sharing the details of financial health, including sources of income, operational costs, and the financial challenges and successes experienced over time.


Detailed Breakdown of Financial Needs

Provide a comprehensive and understandable breakdown of the church’s finances. This should include current expenses, sources of income, and how funds are distributed across various church functions. Present this information through accessible reports or visual representations like charts and graphs. Read ECFA's Integrity Standards regarding Financial Reporting for Churches.


Setting and Communicating Clear Financial Goals

When asking for increased giving, be clear about what these funds will achieve. Set specific, measurable goals for each project or initiative. For instance, if the goal is to renovate the church's community hall, provide a cost estimate and timeline for the project.


Demonstrating Impact Through Regular Updates

After setting goals, provide regular updates on the progress toward these goals. Share both successes and setbacks. This ongoing dialogue about finances will continue to build trust and encourage a culture of giving within the congregation.


Highlighting the Difference Made by Contributions

Share stories and evidence of how contributions directly impact the church's mission and community. This can be done through testimonials, before-and-after pictures of projects, or showcasing improvements in ministry services. See Storytelling Tips for Small Non-Profits above.


Using Financial Management Tools

Utilize financial management tools that not only assist in tracking and reporting but can also be shared with the congregation to maintain transparency. These tools can simplify complex financial data into user-friendly formats.


Joy Church App's suite of reports can easily show donor contributions over time to help you make important decisions on a campaign's impact


Build Emotional Connection


Harnessing the Power of Personal Stories

Personal stories and testimonials are potent tools that can illustrate the positive outcomes of the church's work. Encourage members who have been impacted by the church's programs to share their experiences. These narratives can be shared during services, in newsletters, or through the church’s social media channels to reach a wider audience.


Creating a Testimonial Campaign

Consider creating a dedicated campaign that collects and shares these stories, showing the real-life impact of the church’s activities. These can be in the form of written stories, videos, or even live presentations during church events.


Recognizing Individual Contributions

Acknowledgment of individual contributions, regardless of the amount, reinforces the value of every giver. This can be done publicly, for those who consent, or through personal notes of thanks, which can have a significant impact on the individual.


Expressing Sincere Gratitude

Gratitude should be the foundation of every conversation about giving. Expressing thanks shows members that their support is not taken for granted and is vital to the church’s mission. This gratitude can be expressed in various formats, from verbal acknowledgments in gatherings to personalized thank-you cards.


Visualizing the Impact of Giving

Create visual representations, such as infographics or impact videos, that clearly show how much has been given and what has been achieved with those funds. This not only demonstrates transparency but also helps congregants see the tangible results of their generosity.


Celebrating Milestones Together

Celebrate the achievements and milestones made possible by congregational giving. This could be through special services, community events, or online highlights. Celebrations can serve as a powerful reminder of what can be achieved together and strengthen the bond between the church and its members.


The Ask: How to Do It


Crafting a Personalized Appeal

A personalized appeal can significantly increase the effectiveness of your message. Consider segmenting your congregation based on past giving habits or involvement levels, and tailor your communication accordingly. For instance, long-term members might appreciate a reflective message on past achievements and future goals, while newer members might respond to information on what the church stands for and is aiming to accomplish.



Ensuring a Pressure-Free Environment

It's crucial that appeals for increased giving are made in a way that does not pressure the congregation. Emphasize the voluntary nature of giving and ensure that all communications convey a message of gratitude for any level of support.


Employing Direct but Gentle Communication

When crafting the message, be clear and direct about the need for increased funds but balance this with a gentle tone that respects the individual's decision-making process.


Leveraging Multi-Channel Communication

Utilize a multi-channel approach to ensure that your message is conveyed through various mediums. Incorporate the appeal into sermons, newsletters, and social media posts, and consider a special announcement in church bulletins. Each channel can reinforce the message in a different way, catering to different segments of your congregation.


Offering Diverse Giving Opportunities

Offer various ways for members to contribute financially, including one-time donations, recurring tithes, and pledges for specific projects. Make the process as simple as possible by providing online giving options or mobile giving apps that can facilitate immediate action.


Utilize Joy Church App's many ways for members (and non-members) to donate via online giving from their computer, tablet, phone, or in person using an integrated credit card / debit terminal.


Encouraging Non-Monetary Contributions

Recognize that some members may wish to contribute in non-monetary ways. Encourage them to offer their time, talents, or services. This can include volunteering for church events, contributing to maintenance work, or lending professional expertise.


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Asking for increased financial contributions is never an easy task, but it is often necessary for the growth and sustenance of a faith community. By choosing the right timing, being transparent, building an emotional connection, and making the ask in a respectful and open-ended manner, you can navigate this delicate conversation successfully.


Remember, the goal is not just to raise money but to empower your congregation to participate more fully in the collective mission and vision of your church. With thoughtful planning and a sensitive approach, you can inspire a spirit of increased generosity among your congregants.

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