So, what do we do? Many churches put a message in the bulletin, to educate the congregation on our financial situation, hoping that people will respond. Or, if things really look bleak, someone from the governing board will ascend the steps of the pulpit during a worship service and inform folks that unless we bring in such and such amount of money by year's end, we are going to be in big trouble!
Is this method of of raising awareness and fund raising effective? Yes, to a degree, particularly with those in our churches who are very committed and already contributing significantly; but it is not the best way to fund ministry year after year. It is also not the easiest way. It leaves a negative feeling with the congregation, and the board, and if we do it enough, we train people to only increase giving at the end of the year, and only if the congregation is "short." So what could we do? To answer, let me share with you three scenarios:
1. You have just bought an expensive suit of clothes. You are walking home from the store when you pass a river. As you travel along you hear cries for help. You run to the river bank and discover that someone is flailing in the water. They will drown if you don't save them. You want to help. but you quickly realize that if you do, you will ruin your new clothing. To take it off will waste valuable time. Do you do it? Would you sacrifice your brand new suit to save a life? I expect that almost everyone, maybe better than 95% of us, would go for it!
2. I call you up from our local congregation, I tell you about a crisis that has happened. A family is in a hard way. They have no access to clean water. For the cost of a new suit, you could save a family. Will you help? I will give you some time to think and pray about it ... and tomorrow I will call you back. Will you give? 8 out of 10 people would give something to help.
3. You watch the news tonight and you hear all about the crisis. The announcer is clear, families are without clean water, and if they do not get the money they need, they will die. Each family needs about the amount of money required to buy a new suit of clothes. Nobody approaches you personally to help. Nobody calls you, no letter, no one approaches you in church. Will you give? Will you help? The reality is, many of us would not take the initiative to do something, even though we know the need exists, even though we know that people will die if not enough people help.
Friends, the truth is, one of the most effective ways to motivate people to give (or to give more) is a direct ask! Research in the non-for-profit sector indicates that 8 out of 10 people will respond if they receive a direct ask. 8 out of 10 people who are asked to prayerfully increase their giving to the church's mission and ministry will do so.
Further, I think the scenarios above illustrate that it also very important how we ask. Asks that clearly communicate the situation (education), and come from another person (people give to people), and make an appeal to what the potential giver values (compassion) are most effective.
So, how does your church seek money to fund its important ministries? Is there something we can do to increase congregational giving? How about a good ASK?
Jesus once said, "Ask and you will receive..." (Mtt.7:7)