Five Strategies to Ignite a Culture of Generosity
After learning about my role at the church, someone recently said, “I could never be in fundraising; you must love asking people for money!” My response surprised them: “My goodness no, I don’t love asking people for money. But I do love helping people live generously and steward their resources to change the world.”
The role of fundraising in the church is a sensitive subject. I felt uncomfortable even using the word until I read the Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri Nowen. In this fabulous book, Nowen describes fundraising as – [A] call to conversion. And this call comes to both those who seek funds and those who have funds. Whether we are asking for money or giving money we are drawn together by God, who is about to do a new thing through our collaboration. This invitation to generosity is discipleship in action.
I hope to redirect our focus on “fundraising” away from asking people for money. Instead, I encourage you to see it as the incredible privilege of inviting others to be part of God’s transforming work in the world. Igniting a culture of generosity helps the stewards of God’s resources become better stewards.
In The Walk: Five Essential Practices of the Christian Life, Adam Hamilton says, “We are made for generosity. It is meant to be both the shape of our heart and the way we live.”
Here are five strategies to help ignite a culture of generosity within your local church:
1. Prioritize an annual invitation through a yearly Stewardship Campaign
- Annual giving is what makes the daily mission and ministry of the church possible. It is also an annual opportunity for the congregation to discern God’s work in their life and what God might be calling them to do in the year ahead with their resources. A yearly sermon or sermon series on giving helps your congregants know what God says about money and generosity, giving them something to strive toward, like the tithe.
- At Resurrection, we focus on giving in October or November, which ties to the season – Fall Harvest and Thanksgiving. The focus is not on “covering a budget;” it’s an invitation to discipleship, to experience the joy found in giving. Donors are not motivated by a budget; instead, they are motivated by what that budget will produce. Lead with the stories of ministry impact and an invitation to discern what God is calling you and your congregation to do in the new year.
- After prayer and discernment, we ask congregants to complete a physical commitment card as an act of worship, which includes the total amount they intend to commit for the year. Our statistics show that the average gift from a donor who completes a commitment card is 387% greater than a donor who does not complete a card.
- To thank our donors, each household that turns in a commitment card receives a thank you coffee mug and a personalized thank you email or letter.
2. Instill the practice of generosity as you welcome new members
- We typically receive new members four times a year in a gathering called “Coffee with the Pastor,” when our pastors share their personal testimonies, the history of the church, and explain our five membership expectations (the five essential practices found in The Walk). Giving in proportion to one’s income, with the tithe being the goal, is one of our membership expectations. Each new member is asked to complete a commitment card, and as a thank you, each is gifted a Study Bible. It might seem like an extravagant expense to provide a Study Bible as a thank you gift, but we have found that, for most, this is their first Study Bible and their annual commitment is far more than the cost of the Bible.
3. Weekly Offering
- Each week during worship services, there is an intentional invitation to make a financial gift. The invitation is inspirational, includes a story of impact, plus provides instructions on how to give. These instructions include access to an immediate QR code, number to text, online web address, and information on how to send a check. While 46% of our donors give online, more than 25% still prefer to give by check, so providing mailing information for checks remains important.
4. Special Asks and Christmas Eve
- Special appeals – like responding to a natural disaster or meeting critical needs in your community or the world – provide donors who may not be actively giving to your church opportunities to be generous. We extend frequent, one-time generosity opportunities for hunger relief, educational initiatives (like school supplies, books for our book mobile, and school uniforms), fruit trees during creation care weekend, and an intentional mission focus through Vacation Bible Camp.
- The largest single generosity experience at Resurrection each year is the Candlelight Christmas Eve Offering. Inspired by Rev. Mike Slaughter from Ginghamsburg Church in Tipp City, OH, we give away 100% of the Christmas Eve offering. This is our largest attended worship service each year, and the entire offering is given away, 50% to local community initiatives and 50% to international ministry initiatives. For many first-time donors, this bears witness to them of the outwardly focused mission and purpose of the church.
5. Planned Giving
- Planned Giving provides the opportunity for donors to create a legacy through a planned gift, often as part of their estate. Future giving through instruments like a will, trust, beneficiary designation on an IRA or life insurance policy, cash, securities, and real estate gives donors an opportunity to continue their generosity into the future, furthering their Kingdom impact after they are gone. Each year, we have one Sunday focused on “legacy” that includes an invitation to consider leaving an estate gift to the church.
- We make the steps easy, including an invitation to consider gifts to strategic ministry funds that will live into the future by completing a confidential donor declaration. In addition, we offer estate planning seminars and professional resources to assist donors when they are making these important decisions.
As you consider each of these strategies, they are united by the following principles:
- A Compelling Vision – Donors want their generosity to have an impact. Motivation starts with a clear picture of how their gifts will be utilized.
- Personal and Prompt Communication and Follow-up – The donor’s experience of giving must be personal and prompt. This includes timely response to calls, personalized thank you notes, and regular updates.
- Financial Transparency and Trust – You build trust with your donors through financial transparency, accurate records, and fostering personal relationships that go beyond the financial ask.
I hope you’ll use these practical, actionable ideas and move beyond mere “fundraising” to ignite a culture of generosity that gives your ministry even greater kingdom impact.
Debi Nixon serves as the Executive Director of the Resurrection Foundation and Donor Relations. She is passionate about helping others experience the radical love of Jesus through hospitality and about helping others steward their resources and gifts for greatest kingdom impact. Debi and her husband Reed enjoy being at the lake, taking walks, and time with their two grown children. But if you want to know her true joy…ask about her grandchildren!
 Henri Nowen, A Spirituality of Fundraising (Upper Room, 2010)pg. 17
 Adam Hamilton, The Walk: Five Essential Practices of the Christian Life (Abingdon Press 2019), pg. 99