You are not an island...ask away. Arek Sosha @pixabay.com
Life during coronavirus, Week Eight (week what?!): Knowing that “weeding” wouldn’t be very exciting, I took on another and far more dynamic task for you, dear readers. Paint. Who knew that old paint comes in so many colors? Who knew that paint comes in So. Many. Cans? And finally, who knew that deep in the basement, paint dries after 20 years? The educational value of this mission has been undeniable.
Speaking of questions, last week Rev. Ken Sloane and I had a terrific time during the Greater Northwest Area of the UMC’s webinar, Stewardship in the Age of COVID-19 and Five Tips for Managing Your Church Budget During the COVID-19 Crisis. You can go back and watch the webinar for the first time or watch it again (and again!). We think it’s filled with useful information. If you want any of the handouts, let me know.
Prior to the webinar, some of you emailed in questions. Ken and I were able to answer some of those during the webinar, but not all of them. So, let’s see what questions can be covered now:
Question 1: How do you appeal to those who have stopped giving? This question is similar to two others: How can we convince people to keep up on their pledge? How can we encourage people who may not be working to keep giving?
Answer: You let them know that the church is still in the business of being church. This means that you need to find a way to communicate to your individual congregants in a way that is meaningful to them. Email, text, phone calls, paper letters, during online worship. And what do you communicate about? All the things your congregation has done in the face of COVID. Let them know what you have been doing for the people you serve both inside and out in the community. Let them know that their financial stewardship matters.
And…it’s OK to inform them about the needs the church is facing. Everyone is concerned about finances. Because people care and love your congregation, they want to know where the gaps are and how they might help. Tell them.
Here’s the big caveat – if your parishioner has lost his or her job, please be extra sensitive, gracious, and pastoral. The rug has just been pulled out from under their feet and they may have no idea when their next paycheck will come. Or from where. Seriously, this is no time to push someone who is out of work for a donation…unless they are insistent.
Question 2: What communication is best for church members?
Answer: See Question #1. Be prepared to communicate in all the ways mentioned. Not only will this reach different folks, it provides reinforcement of your message.
Question 3: Is e-giving worth the 3% service fee?
Answer: I’ll answer your question with a question: Is it better to get a gift or not to get a gift? To use a financial phrase, “It’s the cost of doing business (CDB).” As Ken mentioned last week, for years the church bought offering envelopes (at a pretty good cost) to encourage faithful tithing. If people didn’t pick up their boxes at church, then they were mailed out (again, at a cost).
Whether you like it or not, people like to give electronically. It is no less a sacred act than putting money in an offering plate (wow, that’s sounding more archaic as time goes on). You might be interested in reading these posts: Digital Giving: The New Normal, Part 1 and Part 2.
Here’s another caveat: It never hurts to encourage your people to give a recurring gift through their bank. The beauty of this is that it costs you less (there’s that 3%) and you can count on a steady income stream.
And one more related question that came up: We have e-giving: should we add something easier like PayPal? My response? At this point in time, keep it simple. You have enough on your plate without adding anything else (and congrats on already having e-giving!).
Question 4: How do we thank people for giving so generously during our time of distancing?
Answer: Great question. You thank them like you would if social distancing was a thing of the past (praying!). Pick up the phone, write a letter, send an email. Communicate in a way that appeals to them. If you are worshiping on line, take time to thank everyone for their generosity. Let people know that they are part of a community of generous givers. They are not alone. For more ideas, check out these blog posts: A Thrilling Thank You Video and Feel Good! Read a Great Thank You Letter
Well folks, that does it for this week’s Q & A. Let me know if it's been helpful and perhaps we can do another round. And when you have a chance…go visit your paint. It misses you.
In the meantime, remember way back when – almost two months ago – I wrote a post “Be Not Afraid” based on a Catholic folk hymn of the same name? A bunch of artists got together to sing it for comfort during the pandemic. It was this morning’s sob fest. Here it is.