Director of The Media Story, podcast and blog.
I haven't talked about this at all in the two years since I started working with churches to help them tell their stories in the community better. For a long time it didn't even occur to me to talk about it and why would I? We don't tell stories because they raise money, we tell stories because they are fundamental to our existence as humans and we're able to connect people to God in ways that spitting information at them will never accomplish.
But the fact is, stories raise money. A lot of money. And serving our community takes money, so we shouldn't be ashamed to fund-raise for God's kingdom.
Did you know there are national conferences for non-profits that exist solely to help them tell better stories to raise money? Ask any development/fundraising professional what they do and they'll tell you "I tell stories."
Yet often in the church we ask for money in other ways that make people feel guilty or reluctant. In today's culture, people don't give to numbers, knowledge, or information. They give to stories.
Consider the following two appeals:
Story #1: "Our church has seen a 3.5% increase in attendance over the last 3 months, which has led to 13 individuals requesting Bible studies and 6 baptisms! When you return your tithes and offerings, make sure to remember our Small Group ministry which provides funds for materials, refreshments, and other expenses!"
Story #2: "Jon and Cheryl are one of the many new folks who have started attending our church recently. Just a few months ago they never thought they'd be in a church. They were overworked, underpaid, and working through a medical complication Jon suffered last year, which has left them in a financial deficit. They say it's because of the Bible studies their friends Chris and Natasha invited them to that got them wondering what more their lives could be. They realized there had been a depth missing in their lives that has now been filled by Christ, which led them to be baptized! But none of that would have happened without our Small Group ministry which allows the space for lives to be transformed like Jon and Cheryl. We need your help to make sure it continues flourishing!"
If you're like most people, you connected with Story #2 because it conveyed more than just numbers. In fact, people tend to give more to of a single story than to a data report of positive outcomes for larger numbers.
Check out the following fundraising video for a church in Brooklyn, NY. They not only straight-up ask you to donate, but go one step further and ask for each person to create their own campaign. But it doesn't feel pushy or harsh because you feel like you're a part of this movement, this mission the church is accomplishing in their community. And it's because it is framed within the church's story.
Treasurer of the South Pacific Division
We learned from the tithe-studies done in our region that many people don't really choose not to return tithe or give offerings. They just don't get around to it or don't have the money with them when they get to church. We realized that we needed to develop a website and a mobile giving app that addressed how people were managing their finances today.
We've been rolling out the online and mobile options over the last three years. In the first year, we had about two million dollars in tithe coming in from that source, but now, we're reaching almost two million dollars per month! We think that a lot of that increase has to do with being able to access the e-giving website and app. When we looked at the reports, the internet site usage goes up on the days that most people get paid, and on the offering side, i.e. the mobile app, the usage spike occurs during the Sabbath worship service time. It has become part of their worship.
Since younger people and even older ones don't go around carrying cash anymore, we definitely need to engage our younger generation in this way, otherwise it's going to prevent them from giving. Stewardship is about planning ahead!
We are in consultation with a few other divisions in this regard. The app has more than recovered the cost of its development. We are grateful for the vision and dedication of our IT people, and our administrators' support of the project.
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This article originally appeared in the October-December 2016 issue of Dynamic Steward.
eGiving app on iTunes