As many of you are experiencing, it’s budget-building time. Cue some motivating music. My friends, I need the oomph because this is when my arithmophobia and/or numerophobia flares up (yeah, check it out – they’re real things). I sit on our church’s Finance Committee. God bless them for having me.
It’s a good thing I like everyone on the committee because if I didn't I just might have to eat a quart of ice cream to quell my fears (mmmm, ice cream…maybe I’ll have to quell my fears anyway). For those of you who love, love, love numbers and budgets, I stand in awe of you. Thank you for doing what you do. You are our unsung saints.
Churches seem to build budgets in one of two ways:
Option 1. You determine what God is calling your congregation to do. Depending on what your congregation has done in the past and is capable of doing in the future, you build a budget.
Option 2. You look at your budget and either stay constant, cut items, or do a small increase.
Oversimplified? Yes. But hear me out.
Option #1 looks to God first. Option #2 looks to the budget first.
Option #1 puts mission first. Option #2 looks at the budget first.
Option #1 is hopeful and future oriented. Option #2 is cautious and tentative.
Here’s the big secret: Option #1 doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. It may take work, it may take sacrifice, but it doesn't necessarily cost more money to get to where God is calling you. More on that next week.
I get why Option #2 is attractive, I do. Especially if you feel like you are on a shoestring budget and worry about where every penny will come from. It makes perfect sense. But – and this is critical – it’s not very inspiring.
To inspire giving, you need to show that you have a mission that people believe in and that their giving will make an impact. In my work with non-profits, I have never seen an organization send out their budget and ask people to fund it. Mission always comes first. And don’t believe what one person told his clergyperson, “The Methodist Church requires you build a budget based on pledges.” The Book of Discipline says a lot of things. It does not say that.
Just today, I came across a great post, “How to Tell the Fundraising Story that Really Matters.” Jeff Brooks and Jann Schultz put together a series of slides – two of which I think are brilliant:
“Donors don’t give to support you. They give to express their values.”
“Donors are thinking: ‘What can I do to make the world a better place?’”
So figure out what God is calling you to accomplish next year. How can you best express the values of your faith community or organization? What can you do next year to make the world a better place? Guess what? Do this and your budget will follow and …(bonus!) people will be far more excited to help your mission come to life.
Originally published on September 13, 2016.