I am at a unique place in my professional viewpoint as a fundraiser. After years as a development professional, my professional skills and my faith are now intersecting. These two areas are now informing one another and one of the passions that has come out of it is how churches could be leading in charity. There are many churches who are doing this well, but overwhelmingly I run into churches who have circuitously made their mission only about Sunday. If your church is not compassionately and intentionally serving your community, most likely its growth is coming from poached church goers. That is not the gospel message.
Not only do churches have all the best components of a successful charity structure built in, we are called to demonstrate our love.
Churches invest money, time, leadership and strategy to the “production” side of their services. Financial management of the church’s resources is a strategy that sometimes gets neglected. Tithes and funds are mainly sought to cover the expense of the church budget. Your churches budget and financial goals should include meeting community needs. Ultimately this is the area that you can impact lives in a real, tangible and transforming way. Ministries or charities that spring up out of a churches generosity are the “hands” of the gospel. Lives that would not normally find themselves in a church setting can be touched and healed. Your church should be actively seeking funds to accomplish this.
By avoiding giving a central theme of your work and communication, you may be endorsing a spirit of consumerism: people who are “takers”, critical of your work and are attending with a “how the church serves me” perspective. The body of Christ is called to individually and collectively live sacrificially so the work of God can be exalted, both in deeds and giving. Don’t shy away from the message of giving to your church. It is a natural purifier that will keep your body healthy.
Marching Orders: Make communication clear and regular and consistent. Focus in on the work that your church is doing. You and your congregants are in this together, their sacrifice and generosity is inspired by how they want to serve God. The failure of churches to effectively communicate the impact of their missions and outreach programs will leave many members to give directly to community based-nonprofits. Lift up the needs of the community and invite your church to participate at any level, from volunteering to donations. When you communicate clearly the ways you serve as a body it will also demonstrate the expectation of service and sacrifice. Plan ahead and over publicize how your church can participate in time, in-kind gifts, spreading the word and money. There is no such thing as over-communication.
Make it easy. Now that you have their ear and commitment make a plan on how you receive and acknowledge gifts, organize volunteer time and manage in-kind distribution. Because community based nonprofits have perfected the donor experience you have a lot of competition. Everyone is pressed for time. Your congregants have the heart to give, but if you make it so laborious they may choose to find easier ways to express their philanthropic efforts. That means less funds are diverted through the church to be used for ministry. Online giving is the top reported growing avenue of receiving donations. A monitored group of 202 congregations and other faith-based groups raised a total of $110 million through online giving in 12 months and grew 16.7 percent during that same period (blackbaud 2013 index report) If you have not partnered with an online giving provider that understand the needs of faith-based organizations, you are missing critical opportunities to fund your mission.
Churches are poised to be power-houses of community and charity. You have a committed body of philanthropists who gather often and inherently feel committed to action for the good of humanity. By implementing a strategic approach to charity your church will remain vital and healthy in ways that can minister to the “sick” (Luke 5:31) in our communities.