We hate asking for money. It’s not fun. It’s awkward. So what ends up happening is that we either a) don’t ask for money nearly as often as we should or b) when we do ask, we do a really bad job at it (cue person standing at pulpit, head down, reading a prepared statement too fast, with no emotion, no pauses, no eye-contact, wishing the awkward moment was over as soon as possible).
It doesn’t have to be that way, though! How should churches ask for money? Follow these tips and asking for money at your church will not only be much more effective, but may even be fun.
Before you ask (most of the work is done before you ever ask)
- VISION and leadership: Where are you going? And do they trust you to take them there? If they don’t have a clear idea of your purpose as a community and share a passion for the mission, then they won’t care enough to give their money toward something you’re doing. They must trust your leadership. The more they’ve “bought into” the vision and your plan, the more they will literally buy into it with their hard-earned dollars.
- Communicating your value: Have you consistently communicated the value that your ministry provides to your community? Most of your communications should be focused on precisely this task. And you should have a strong record of doing so for many months before you begin asking for money. Here are 12 ideas on how to do that!
- Communicating needs: When you finally ask for money, it’s best if it doesn’t feel like it’s coming out of left field. Make sure you are being as transparent as possible when needs arise, and start sharing those and communicating them intentionally. Who knows, maybe somebody listening has an easy solution or is particularly motivated to donate the money themselves (before you ever even have to ask!).
- Past performance: How have you handled their money in the past? Have you proven to be a good steward of it? Did you do what you said you would do? And did you express gratitude?
- Do the research: Research the problem you’re trying to solve, understand your options, and have a detailed plan of how the money will be spent. If you don’t, people will know it and lose confidence in your leadership.
- Define your campaign creatively: If some of your income is fungible (like general offertory, etc. which can be spent at your discretion), use those funds for all your boring stuff (paying debt, fixing roof gutters, replacing the plumbing, new office equipment for staff, etc.). And save the things that most directly impact your people (generally more fun stuff) for your fundraising campaigns. These are the things people will be most motivated and excited to give money toward – like a new church building, donuts, more comfortable pews, or a playground for the kids.
- Bundling is smart: If you do need to raise money for something boring (like a new plumbing or irrigation system), consider bundling it with something more visible and fun, like a baptismal font or fountain for the courtyard. People will be way more excited to give money to support it since 1) it’s easier to communicate the tangible vision and value to the community and 2) everyone will look forward to more directly enjoying them.
When you ask
- Be clear about the problem: Be clear and honest about what problem you are trying to solve. Don’t just say “we need more parking.” Say “we have many people who want to be a part of what we are doing but can’t because there is no room for them to park, so they are leaving and not coming back.”
- Emphasize the why: Tell people why you need to solve this problem (even if you think it seems obvious). This goes beyond simply stating the problem or what the money is for, but gets to the heart of why people should care and it should tap into your mission in some way. So instead of saying, “we need money to make the bathroom ADA compliant,” you instead talk about the specific ways it will make life so much easier for some of our parishioners, be more welcoming to new folks, help us avoid fines from the city for non-compliance, or whatever the case may be.
- Communicate the plan: So they care about the problem and understand why it needs to be solved, but what’s the plan? You need to have a clear plan and communicate it in a way that gives people the confidence that you are capable of leading the way in solving this problem. You’ll need enough detail to your solution/plan that convinces people that you have done some thoughtful research and are capable of managing the project and succeeding.
- It’s not about you: People are not very motivated to make you the hero (the one who flies in to save the day solving this problem). They want to be the hero themselves (we all do!). So when you communicate, make sure you are explaining it in a way that is clear that we need them to step up, be the hero, and make this happen. You are just there to help them do it.
- Get the CTA (Call to Action) right: Once you’ve done all that, make sure participating is easy. If they are filling out a pledge card, keep it short. Don’t ask for information that isn’t truly necessary. Same with any online form. The more hoops somebody has to jump through to give money, the less people will participate. It’s that simple. Make the process easy and short, which must include an easy way to pay. Your online giving software must be simple and user-friendly. And make the CTA obvious to find and easy to follow, with as few following steps as possible. All of this applies whether you are announcing this in person, putting it in an email, or wherever. However, your CTA will likely be different depending on the communication channel, of course.
- If you don’t care, they won’t care: Do your passion and joy come through in your communications? If not, don’t be surprised if nobody finds your cause all that compelling. If their leader doesn’t care, why would they care or trust you with their money?
- Have fun and inspire: Yes yes, I know asking for money is not fun, neither is giving it…until it’s connected with something much bigger which transcends it. You must help your people look past the hard, awkward, not-so-fun part of asking for and giving money, and on toward what it’s all for!
- Consider your communication channels: In-person announcements can be, by far, the most human and compelling. So make them good! But often the transition from your pitch to them paying (making a gift) is more difficult. On the other hand, if you can send them an electronic followup with a link to give, that part of the process becomes a matter of a few quick clicks. Make sure to use channels that get the best open rates (email and text messaging being far better than any other channel available today).
- Say different things to different people: One of the worst things churches do when asking for money is they send (or say) the same thing to everyone. Huge mistake! The way you approach somebody who gives every week vs. a long-time member who has never donated vs. somebody who just walked through your door — should be totally different! This is one way Flocknote really helps (especially with our Flocknote People add-on). We allow you to send different emails or text messages to people based on how much or whether they’ve given to a particular fund, how recently they’ve joined your network, whether they’ve opened any notes lately, what other groups they are members of, etc. The possibilities are endless and demonstrate just what we mean here at Flocknote when we talk about “smarter” church communication.
- Get to the point: Details are important, but they don’t all need to be explained up front. If you can’t get a strong summary of all-of-the-above tips across in a paragraph or two, you’ll lose most people’s attention. This may be one of the hardest, but most important, parts of this process — so don’t skimp on this step! Spend the time to figure out how to communicate the problem, explain the why, and tell them how to participate — all in a few sentences. (Then tell them where they can find more details if they’re interested.)
Finally, don’t forget to say thank you often. Then repeat back from the top. Let us know if this post on how should churches ask for money? helped you, if you have any additional tips, or if we can help you with executing any of the above.