Your Congregation Wants Three Things


Your Congregation Wants Three Things

 Last night I went to see the fifth in the “Mission: Impossible” movie series. There was lots of contemplative prayer (contemplative if you mean Tom Cruise praying that he can make it off the side of an airborne jet and into the cargo-hold loaded with bombs, and then parachute to safety with the arsenal to save the world). Yes, so very relaxing.
"Mission: Impossible" might have you thinking of several congregations that you are familiar with. But, good news! This movie has a relatively happy ending. And there’s no time for the blues these days because you can give your congregation some much-needed love.
This morning I sat in on a non-profit development webinar sponsored by Network for Good. “Donor Retention Isn’t Speed Dating” by Lynne Wester highlighted what every non-profit wants: return donors. In the non-profit world, the retention rate for donors who give from one year to the next is a dismal 39%. That means a whopping six out of ten donors drop off the face of the map when asked to donate to the same cause for a second year in a row. As Wester said, “If small for-profit businesses had these same retention rates, they would be out of business.”
I suspect that congregations fare quite a bit better in donor retention. But it doesn’t hurt to pay attention to trends in the “real” world. In order to improve retention numbers, Wester emphasizes at least three things donors want. Not surprisingly, these are the things your congregational givers want too:
      Transparency: Openness with how funds are spent – which leads to trust in the institution.
This does not (necessarily) mean that the budget is published in the newsletter (I'm not a fan because numbers alone don't tell your story), but it does mean that you have good financial practices in place and your budget is an open book.
      Gratitude: Thankfulness for the gift - which lets people know that you acknowledge their stewardship and appreciate them. You should be doing this far more than you think. Have you remembered to specially thank people who are tithing to your church for the first time? How about a thank you to someone who has faithfully given for 20, 30, or even 50 years? For starters, get in the habit of writing two thank you letters a day (it’s not that hard, really!).
      Impact: Letting people know all the good things their gifts are doing – which makes them happy that they are making a difference.  Do this in a variety of ways – with a report just before the offering is taken, through a video, or posters hanging around the church. Combine your impact stories with a “thank you” and you’ve done double duty!
Maybe the next movie you make will be “Mission: Possible.” Whatever it is – it will be a smash success because you remembered to be transparent, you lived with a heart of gratitude, and you told the impact that you and your congregation are making in the community. Live long and prosper.

P.S. Rev. Steve Wolff sent me a link to another fabulous adaptation of Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" - enjoy this "African Hipster Version" by Alex Boyé & Changing Lanes.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. Sometimes her life feels like an extended version of “Mission: Impossible.” She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com.

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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.