October 15, 2014

7 Campaign Season Practices for Multi-site Leaders

Bryan Rose

Bryan Rose

(This is a guest post by Bryan Rose, Auxano Navigator)

One of the most exciting times to be in church leadership is during the big-vision season of a campaign. It can also be one of the most challenging, especially in a multi-site context. The need for unity, alignment and agreement across ministries, across campuses and even across town calls for every staff member to go above and beyond the norm to ensure clarity of vision. This is especially true in the first-chair leadership role of the Senior Pastor and the second-first-chair position of Campus Pastors.

Here are seven campaign season practices for multi-site church leaders:

Senior Pastor, Multiply Yourself by setting clear expectations and equipping campus pastors to lead with the same passionate effectiveness as you would.
Campus Pastor, Humble Yourself by remembering the weight of the vision your Senior Pastor carries and follow his lead. This is not the season to foster campus autonomy.

Senior Pastor, Create Something for Everyone by crafting campaign initiatives that speak to each campus, even if only one carries the primary focus.
Campus Pastor, Celebrate Everything for Someone by sharing of big plans at other campuses, people give big to vision that is bigger.

Senior Pastor, Speak to the Campus by going the extra mile to speak campaign vision into the context or personality of each campus during this season.
Campus Pastor, Speak for the Church by going the extra mile to reiterate the campaign vision of how God is using the whole church to impact people’s eternity.

Senior Pastor, Sow Vision by diligently tilling and seeding the vision soil… continually drip vision remembering that people aren’t really hearing it, until you are tired of saying it.
Campus Pastor, Reap Stories by diligently watering and harvesting the stories of how the vision is coming to life at your campus. Grab a smartphone camera and play them back at the next staff meeting.

Senior Pastor, Map the Journey by charting the course from start to finish, and building confidence by revealing the plans up front.
Campus Pastor, Guide the Progress by measuring each step and making real-time adjustments to keep the campus on track and progressing.

Senior Pastor, Get Outside the Lines by dreaming bigger, communicating bolder and leading stronger than at any other time.
Campus Pastor, Stay Inside the Lines by avoiding the “next project will be ours” insinuations, remembering it is always better to under promise and over deliver.

Senior Pastor, Go There First by living the sacrificial vision you are laying before the people. They can sense when you are not all-in.
Campus Pastor, Go There First, too by living the sacrificial vision you are laying before the people. They can sense when you are not all-in.

October 15, 2014

Three Important Lessons for Leading in a Rapid Growth Environment

Mac Lake

Mac Lake

(This is a special guest entry by Mac Lake, Auxano Navigator)

This week I spoke with two different pastors who’ve recently built new worship facilities. Within a few short months their churches have doubled in attendance. While they’re thrilled with the growth, they’re now feeling the pain of needing more leaders.

The early church experienced the same type of growth pains. In Acts 6 Luke reports, “the number of disciples was increasing.” While this was a positive development it brought a new set of challenges to the church. In this passage we can find three important lessons for leading in a rapid growth environment.

Lesson #1 Growth always reveals our leadership deficiencies.

“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.” – Acts 6:1

The disciples had to be overjoyed with the rapid expansion of the Gospel but others weren’t so happy. The Hellenistic Jews were concerned because their widows were no longer being ministered to at the level they had been previously. There was a sense of caring community that was being lost because of the numerical growth.

Do you see what’s happening? As the growth of the church was going up, ministry quality was going down. And because ministry quality was going down, complaining was going up. It became obvious there were not enough people to do the work. Growth always reveals your leadership deficiencies. And if you don’t address these leadership deficiencies you may lose the growth you gained. When explosive growth takes place classrooms become understaffed, small groups become large groups, new prospects fall through the cracks and people start to feel disconnected. That’s why it’s essential you have a strategy for developing leaders. A clearly defined strategy ensures you have an intentional plan for identifying, recruiting and empowering an ever-expanding base of leaders.

Lesson #2 Growth will require you to make hard choices about what you will and will not do.

“So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.” Acts 6:2

The Hellenistic Jews wanted the Apostles to do something about the system for caring for their widows. It would’ve been very easy for the twelve to say, “Hey guys, let’s divide this up and each of us take a week, that way each of us only have to distribute food once every three months.” But instead they said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word.” The Apostles decided they would not BE the solution. Instead they wisely demonstrated disciplined focus by staying in the zone of their giftedness and calling.

Sometimes when we feel the pain of a leadership shortage we allow ourselves to BE the solution. That’s when growth is stunted. As your church grows one of the biggest temptations for you and your staff is to “do” more ministry rather than develop more leaders. So as you feel the pains of growth make the hard choice about what you will and will not do.

Lesson #3 Focusing on Leadership Development fuels continual growth.

“Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.” Acts 6:3,6-7

The Apostles knew in order to sustain growth they had to act in a way that multiplied leaders. So they trained the Hellenistic Jews in a process of identifying and recruiting new leaders. This decision led to seven new men being deployed into leadership. But that wasn’t the biggest win. The biggest win was, “the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.” The Gospel moved forward, people were coming to Christ and lives were being changed.

One of the most fundamental things you must do in a growing church is build a culture of leadership development. If you wait until the need is pressing then you are already behind. Talk, pray, prepare and lead as if God is going to bring growth. Doing so will cause you to work with your current leaders to begin producing new leaders for the future.



October 15, 2014

Moving from Temporary to Permanent Space

David Putman

David Putman

(This is a guest post by David Putman, Auxano Navigator)

I’ve had the opportunity to consult with a number of fast growing new churches that were stuck. Without exception at least one of the factors that attributed to their plateau related to space. Sooner or later most new churches have to grapple with the question, “How do we move from temporary space to a permanent space?” Here’s what I found, “The right permanent space resulted in rapid growth for churches that were already on a growth trajectory even if they were stuck.”

At the same time, moving from temporary to permanent space isn’t a simple solution, but requires time, planning, and many resources. With this in mind I’ve discovered that churches that solve the space challenge have leaders who are thinking about permanent space long before they need it. Here are some principles you need to consider.

Operate out of a Preparedness Paradigm

Just the other day I talked to an XP of a fast growing new church. He had contacted us about some vision clarity work and a potential capital campaign. When I asked him what their specific goals were for the campaign he replied, “We just want to be prepared. If an opportunity comes our way we want to be ready.”

We see this with Abram, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.’” (Genesis 12:1-4 NIV)

Abram heard the voice of God and it appears that he simply gathered his family and animals and set out on a bold adventure that would change all of history. I often ask, “If God was to call us to do a new thing or to do something specific, how long would it take us to prepare to do it?”

We often blame missed opportunities on bad timing when in reality it’s poor planning. We need to get prepared before the opportunity comes our way.

Budget on 90% of Last Year’s Income

Pastor Chris Hodges of Church of the Highlands and board member for ARC (Association of Related Churches) encourages all churches to budget on 90% of last year’s income. You read this right! In other words if you take up $100,000 this year set your budget for $90,000 next year. If you take up $150,000 next year, then you will have $60,000 you can place in a fund for future opportunities. This is great wisdom for any church especially those considering moving from a temporary to permanent space.
Know Your Numbers

“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23 NIV). Knowing the condition of your flock was an ancient way of knowing your numbers. It is important not to assume anything when preparing to move from temporary to permanent space. I’ve worked with a number of churches that have purchased a piece of land, designed a building, and then visited a bank only to discover that there is no way they can build the building they’ve spent ten’s of thousands of dollars designing. Start by building a good relationship with a potential lender. Here are some numbers your potential lender will want you to be aware of when it comes to determining your capacity. They are:

• Maximum Annual Debt: 30 to 35%
• Maximum Capitalization: 3 to 4 times your annual income
• Loan-to-Value Ratio: 75%
• Debt Service: 1 to 1.25 annual income
• Consistent History: 2-3 years


October 2, 2014

Getting Million Dollar Ready – Post 2

light image 1This is the conclusion to my previous post. If you missed it, please click here.

4. The larger your support base and size of your organization, the greater your opportunity for transforming gifts.

This is both a statement of quantity and quality. The larger the church, the more members you have to give. The larger visionary needs you present increase your chance at receiving key gifts. Donors do measure their gift size based on the size of the need. Smaller and medium size churches rarely have multi-million dollar needs. If your church does have a multi-million dollar need, a key donor desires to participate, but not personally write the project off.

Every church regardless of size and need has the capacity to increase the size of gifts. It is not uncommon for me to interact with a church where 50-60% of its annual gifts are less than $1,000. If you are personally giving $100 to $1,000 annually to a non-profit, you believe in its cause and are involved in its mission. When I see these numbers I am typically in a church that is not in an impoverished zone or struggling locally with massive unemployment. Their constituents have nice homes, cars, and jobs. They just have not been discipled towards financial freedom and the generous life. If you want to increase both your average gift size, number of donors, and volume of larger gifts, you need to create a comprehensive discipleship strategy for all members.

5. Increased investment in staff and long tenured staff.

The healthier the staff is the better. The staff needs to be committed to each other and the long-term vision of the church. Silos and competition are not your friends. When a staff is supported, trained, and continually refreshed it will have positive results. Your business plan should provide for bonuses, raises, and upward mobility within your organization. If a staff member has to leave to discover a more personally rewarding position, it will consistently hurt your organization.

While generosity strongly rests on the desk of the senior leader, a wise pastor will inspire, invest, train, and support his staff. Each staff member should be a powerful visionary in his/her own right. They should have significant relationships with key leaders, and be able to strongly support the over all generosity ministry of the church. Most staff live as if the pastor needs to preach more about money and the administrator needs to keep others from spending so much. This is a very narrow view of stewardship.

6. A healthy financial position produces a future.

The church is not a for profit business, however it needs to demonstrate the highest level of financial success. Churches that consistently spend less than they receive, have a growing amount of cash reserves, and are readily generous to causes beyond their own institutional gain are in a great position to expand their influence. While key donors are viewed as having an excessive amount of resources, they are highly evaluative where they invest. They are not interested in losing money any more than you are.

Be public about how you run the business of the church. Have policies, practices, and consistent results that are worth sharing. There are churches that actually run their business so well that they pay cash for major projects, are prepared to respond to emergencies, and never find themselves in a negative financial posture.

7. Create a dynamic experience for attenders and members.

The leadership culture and financial practices are critical, but we should not overlook how important the weekend experience is to the donor. The proof is in the pudding so to speak. The most powerful ministry for the local church is its weekend worship experience. It needs to be positive, truthful, and life giving from the minute people drive into the parking lot. We all know the difference between the environments of a fast food chain and fine dining experience. The intangibles of the environment matter in the quality of the meal, training level of staff, and willingness to linger are all real experiences.

Interestingly, Auxano put together a vision document some time ago about how to correctly measure the success of a financial campaign. I am so glad our thoughts years ago aligned with the results of the research. To receive a free download of “Measures of a Great Campaign” click here.

October 1, 2014

Getting Million Dollar Ready

light image 1Every pastor dreams of what it would be like to receive a financial gift that would transform the future of the church. For many large institutions, a legacy gift or transformative gift is considered to be $1,000,000 or more. A recent study conducted by Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, focused its attention not on motivations of the key donor, but the characteristics of the non-profit institutions that receive large gifts. (Here is a link to the report if you are interested.) I took the time to review the research and convert the learnings into the church world. I have been a part of many capital projects that have received million dollar gifts. It may not surprise you that I have seen them come from long time members with a deep relationship to the pastor, church, and community. However, I have also seen more than one come from non-members, new members, and non-resident members.

Most of the pastors I work with under-estimate the potential of people to be extra-ordinarily generous. When you are wired and able to give, you actually enjoy the opportunity when it is presented. You may be saying that a million dollar gift is not in your sights. However, I promise that there are people that you know that are waiting to be more generous than you ever imagined. Please take the time to review my thoughts and step out in faith to create a culture that is ready for a transforming gift.

Just in case you still do not think this content may be for you. I recently visited with a young pastor in a medium size church in a small town. A year after Auxano completed a capital campaign with his church with a strategic focus on key leaders, he reported this finding. At the end of this calendar year their number #1 giver would have previously not been on their top 25 donor list. Not only has this family become the lead donor, but they are now volunteering for key leadership positions in the church. Previously, he was a fan, now he is a serious player in the mission. How many people like this might exist in your church?

Here are the findings that I think you will find important.

1. A long tenured pastor increases the opportunity for a transformative gift.

Relationship, security, and integrity over time are everything to a key donor. The long-term pastor that is able to consistently articulate a powerfully clear vision that connects both the passions of the donor and the results of their donation is critical. Most churches do not have a vision that is clear enough, consistent enough, or large enough to engage a big thinker.

It may surprise you to learn that most high capacity leaders find it very difficult to connect in a significant way to the vision of the local church. They have big dreams and unique passions that are not easily channeled through common church leadership structures. They also have very specific passions. A key donor will give a tip when asked, but they will release a flood when engaged via their passion.

I firmly believe that every lead pastor needs to have a list of 10-50 high capacity leaders that he consistently engages in a mutually meaningful discipleship relationship. This ministry will result in learning that goes two ways, increasing both the confidence of the pastor and transforming leader.

2. A church that has a demonstrated track record for success.

Waste, failure, inconsistency, or lack of clarity hurts churches more than you may realize. I regularly sit in church finance and leadership meetings with lay people who are frustrated by financial mismanagement. It typically revolves around historic church loyalties that over fund ineffective ministries, regularly over spend, or do not have solid practices tying expenses to results. Nothing will chase away a transforming leader like failure, laziness, and incompetence.

3. A senior leader with a clear vision that is easily transferable and calls for actionable support.

A powerfully clear and engaging vision should be tightly aligned with ministry direction, programming priorities, and staff accountability. Remember that key leaders exist in the business world and are held to a high standard of productivity. They are also consistently solicited by significant non-profits for support. You have real competition and a standard by which you are measured.

Learn to be a strong organizational leader. Have a clear vision, align your priorities, spend wisely, and demonstrate results.

Please click here to be taken to the last findings.

August 18, 2014

Breaking Thru to High Capacity Leaders

mentorship-1The question of key donors always comes up wherever I speak, teach, or coach on stewardship. It typically revolves around a few topics like these: what should and shouldn’t a pastor know about donations and issues of favoritism. It is definitely a touchy subject and one we need to shine a powerful light on. I strongly believe that senior leaders need to bear the responsibility of discipleship of key leaders and donors. Here are some thoughts to help you get in the game if you are having trouble.

1. Think in terms of key leaders and influencers, not strictly donors.

You should also think beyond current practice to historical and potential influence. Resources come in all sizes and shapes. Not everyone knows how to use or release them. Broaden the conversation beyond money.

2. People who are high impact often times can live isolated either due to their busy travel schedules or need for privacy.

However, they do desire a few solid relationships with other strong leaders. Pastors uniquely fit this role and have more influence than they may realize. Proceed with confidence.

3. Every believer needs to be discipled, and every believer needs to be serving in line with his or her gift and passion.

Somehow we get this when it comes to hospitality, encouragement, or teaching, but struggle when it comes to generosity. Doesn’t every gift need support?

4. Build the relationship first and let it be of mutual benefit.

Pastors are high capacity leaders themselves who are often isolated and without a mentor. Be friends, listen, and care. Let it become second nature to you.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask.

High capacity leaders need to be asked in a clear and specific way. They are not interested in wasting their time or resources. They respond to high challenge and a successful plan. Don’t let their busy schedules or aloof persona be intimidating.

It may be scary or seem unspiritual to you, but press through. Just as the poor need to be served so do the well resourced. I promise they have less together than you might perceive.

August 5, 2014

10 Principles for Discipling Key Donors

Donor-Hero-2-2Recently I had several pastors step into the ranks of being committed to providing ongoing discipleship to key donors. It began during the planning phase of a capital campaign, which laid the foundation for a long-term fruitful ministry. Each pastor put in place a unique structure that reflected his personality, church culture, and relational network. Though each took a distinct approach the results were the same, exponential. Here is a list of common principles these pastors employed.

1. Be bold. Provide a high challenge at the beginning of the process. Explain the need, role, and expectation of a generosity ministry.

2. Be open. Don’t hide anything, and share even the hard stuff. High capacity leaders will see through it if you don’t. They will also be able to discern how to become a part of the solution.

3. Be a family. Involve both the husband and wife. They are typically accustomed to serving together in philanthropic ventures. They know their roles and can become a powerful team.

4. Be a visionary. The purpose is to go further faster toward the vision. Don’t make the conversation as small as a project or need. Hint, just because the dollar amount is large doesn’t mean the vision is clear.

5. Be a discipler. Every conversation is a discipleship conversation. High capacity leaders tend to be isolated or primarily investing in others. Rarely does a pastor talk their language or does someone speak into their lives. It is your calling to respond to their need. Make it about vision, their particular passion, and the spiritual journey involved.

6. Be a sojourner. Don’t have a short-term-fund-a-crisis or project mindset. Be committed to a long-term discipleship relationship.

7. Be personal. Ask for specific prayer requests, have them into your home, call, and write hand-written notes. Invest yourself into their lives.

8. Be a community. You do not hold all the relationships, and high capacity leaders need to feel a strong connection to the body as a whole. Let leaders engage new leaders in the process. Ask them to share about their journey publicly. It will both challenge and strengthen the church.

9. Be clear. Key leaders want to know the specific need. They desire perspective to process how to respond. If you do not provide this clarity, another non-profit will.

10. Be inspiring. Share personal stories of dramatic life change or behind the scenes success in ministry. Show the impact value of the gift and how the future holds promise.

July 16, 2014

A Church Plant Moves Out of Storage


(Mike Gammill is one of our Lead Navigators at Auxano. He recently completed a campaign with San Marcos Community Church in San Marcos, TX. The Vision Clarity impact and unique Campaign story will inspire you.)

In the summer of 2013, San Marcos Community Church (http://sanmarcoscommunitychurch.org/) was in the church plant doldrums. As a twelve-year-old plant they really weren’t a “plant” anymore, but their base of mission and worship was still a leased facility. They did own land a couple of streets over. They owned a building too, but it was a metal prefab building and was, literally, in storage. Their dreams of permanent place were in storage too.

Twelve years in, the church had hit a plateau and energy was on the decline. “Trying to put on Saul’s armor” were the words the Senior Pastor used when we talked about most of the solutions available to him. He resonated with our Vision Clarity process, because we started with understanding their unique God-given ministry DNA, and then, from there, navigated them through growth obstacles with vision instead of hype, busyness…or a building project.

We started their seven-month vision clarity process in September of that year. The Senior Pastor quickly made a tough decision that paid dividends in spades: he consolidated all weekly ministry programs into a weekly prayer gathering. This prayer gathering became the central nervous system to a revival that broke out shortly after. Church attendance began to increase and a second service was added. Giving began to increase and the Holy Spirit challenged leadership to step up their commitment to – literally – lay the foundation for their permanent facility.

Then, in November, the call came from their landlord that could have disrupted everything. They had 90 days to find a new place to worship (the state of Texas was turning the building into a highway). Rather than seeing this as an obstacle, church leadership saw this as leading from the Holy Spirit. In addition to finding a new place to live, the time had clearly come to launch a capital campaign in the next three months. They needed to raise capital to construct and occupy a permanent church in San Marcos, Texas, a city where it’s easier to open a bar than a church.

The Holy Spirit inspired urgency, along with an increasingly healthy centralized prayer gathering that helped them to overcome a too-short time frame. On Palm Sunday 2014, the congregation made commitments that totaled over 2.5x their 2013 budget. General giving also increased over 30%. In the end, they blew past their goals and greatly increased the generosity level of the church. All this, and their mortgage in 2015 may be less than their lease was in 2014.

Meanwhile, God demonstrated his faithfulness when he led the church to relocate to a nearby dance hall and bar that had closed its doors. When God builds his church, nothing can stand in the way.


June 24, 2014

5 New Generosity Trends from National Survey (Post 2)

Give 3d Words Background Generosity and ContributionThis is my second post regarding some important findings as a summary of applications for the local church from the recent research project, “Connected to Give.” If you missed my first post, please check out this link: http://auxa.no/generositytrends. This study reflects upon the national data that was gathered in calendar year 2012 of those giving to religious and charitable institutions. A qualified gift included cash, assets, or property/goods. The study reflects organizations that helped with spiritual development and/or basic human needs, as well as giving patterns to religious organizations like congregations and non-profits with similar motivations. This report is especially unique, because until now “the connections between donors’ orientations, the types of religious and charitable organizations support, and the ultimate purpose of their contributions have not been fully visible.”

Finding #4: The more important one’s faith is the more generous they are.

Research showed that 74% of those who say religion is important to them give. Only 60% of those who say it is somewhat important to them give, while 52% give saying religion is not important to them. Clearly the more growth a believer is experiencing in their faith, the more generous they become.

The research went on to note that 75% of frequent attenders are generous opposed to 26% of infrequent attenders. One might conclude that just getting people to come to church more is enough to produce higher levels of generosity. However, I believe this is only part of the truth. Reality is the more one comes, the more they give, because the opportunity to participate in the offering is a reminder. When people do not attend a given service they typically do not make up their missed contribution in the future. Additionally, attendance is the fruit of discipleship and enjoyment. The more one grows in their faith, the more they enjoy their worshipping environment and the more engaged they become. These fruits are stronger than simply focusing on increased attendance.

Here are a few applications:
1. Create an engaging vision-based culture that people do not want to miss.
2. Make distance giving easy in the digital space especially from mobile devices.
3. Create a discipleship strategy that grows the characteristics of a generous disciple. 4. Increase engagement and relational connections throughout your ministry structure.

As an added bonus frequent attenders also give larger dollar amounts. (I will create another post in the near future on key donor discipleship.)

Finding #5: Donors are motivated to give, because they believe they can make an impact for good.

Too many pastors have experienced a donor seeking to control a gift or use a gift to fulfill an agenda. There are also the scenarios where someone might use the church for business or political reasons. Unfortunately, this is a sad reality and hopefully it is becoming less and less true. I hope you are not wrestling with these ulterior motivations.

The research project did measure peoples motivations to be generous. And social expectations did register. They registered in terms of people asking me to give or how it will help in my work life. Fortunately, the top motivating factors were more altruistic. People want to improve their world, meet a need, and give back. It is a result of their faith commitment, driven to improve their community and world. The vast majority are motivated by moral and religious reasons and not social expectation.

This creates an interesting bottom line for the church. We can’t just ask people to give and expect them to do so because of social pressure to conform to a previous church pattern. I am grateful for committed institutionally supportive donors who give come sink or swim. However, the majority of today’s Americans need a stronger faith and desire to live a bigger life. They don’t naturally believe institutions are good and trustworthy.

Your generosity conversation may need to begin with all the safe measures your church takes to insure the privacy, security, and proper use of funds. However, you should quickly move to telling the story of how the gospel is going forward through your partnership with their generosity. You may need to spend some time deconstructing your program offerings, so you can learn to tell your story via names, faces, places, and partnerships.

Here is one last encouraging fact. The deck is stacked in your favor. God created his people in his image. God is a generous God and his creation longs for and enjoys generosity. They also strive to give predominantly to religious organizations. What if your church members are actually longing to give more and simply need to be led more clearly?

To view the full report, visit faithcommunities.connectedtogive.org. Melanie A. McKitrick, J. Shawn Landres, Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm, and Amir D. Hayat. 2013. Connected to Give: Faith Communities. Los Angeles: Jumpstart.

June 23, 2014

5 New Generosity Trends from National Survey

Give 3d Words Background Generosity and ContributionI would like to present some important findings as a summary of applications for the local church from the recent research project, “Connected to Give.” This study reflects upon the national data that was gathered in calendar year 2012 of those giving to religious and charitable institutions. A qualified gift included cash, assets, or property/goods. The study reflects organizations that helped with spiritual development and/or basic human needs, as well as giving patterns to religious organizations like congregations and non-profits with similar motivations. This report is especially unique, because until now “the connections between donors’ orientations, the types of religious and charitable organizations support, and the ultimate purpose of their contributions have not been fully visible.”

Finding #1: Faith plays a significant part in charitable giving.

The study found that 73% of charitable giving goes to clearly identified religious groups – 41% to local congregations and 32% to faith-based organizations. This means that a smaller percentage of charitable giving goes to non-religious identified organizations. One’s faith makes a difference in why they give, what they give, and where they give.

Good news church leader, you are in the faith business and are a faith-based organization. You offer faith, teach faith, grow faith, and live faith. Therefore, you stand in line to be considered for the vast majority of giving dollars in your city. The competing news would say you are not the only one in your city standing in the line.

In years past, it would not have been uncommon for a local evangelical church to side strongly on the side of the gospel, but weak on the side of justice or physical needs. Suffering could have been seen as a natural result of choices or even deserved. Physical help could have been seen as incomplete help and not the most important kind of help. Thankfully, today that conversation is changing, and physical help is often seen as a first step toward faith. Americans desire that their religious life be reflected in meeting both spiritual and physical needs. The local church needs to re-think its position, message, and commitments if it wants to better engage people who are already willing to be generous. If not, they will look elsewhere to funnel their passions. Proof, those donors who give to local congregations give 48% to their congregation and 32% to religious identified organizations.

Finding #2: While the majority of giving dollars go to religious based organizations, the majority of Americans give to non-religious based organizations.

This finding relates to the quantity of people verses the quantity of dollars being donated. Fewer Americans give more dollars to religious institutions, but more Americans give to non-religious institutions. This means in part that people are really generous by nature and that they are motivated by causes whether the cause is faith-based or not. Americans tend to give to both religious and non-religious groups that are multi-purpose and meet basic human needs locally or abroad, like healthcare, education, youth/family, and environment.

There are several implications a local church should consider.
• People enjoy giving to causes, so make sure you have clear and compelling causes throughout the year.
• People are more trusting to give to organizations they feel have specific impact. So, share specifically about your success.
• Develop partnerships with local organizations that are cause oriented and align well with your mission.
• Learn your ROI, return on investment. You are in a competitive market for giving dollars. Most non-profits tell a better story of impact, involvement, and investment than the local church. Your message is most likely easily overwhelmed.

Finding #3: Impact and outcome (what a gift accomplishes thru an organization) go hand in hand with how (organizational strategy) and why (organizational motives).

This is important to understand in terms of building a generous culture. When a church typically discusses money it is in terms of budget obligations, building needs, or a funding crisis. Then, if one of these isn’t the topic there is often silence. Of course, the media fills the airwaves with true stories of churches financial and moral failures. So, you are losing on every front.

The odds are that your church is deeply committed to the greatest cause on planet earth, that you passionately care for hurting people, that you long for people to be engaged in the mission, and you have never mishandled a donor’s gift. Still, I bet you are not telling this story in a clear, compelling, catalytic, concise, and contextual way. At Auxano we have found it to be absolutely true, that vision work is generosity work. You have to put in the hard time to learn your story and translate it into culture building language.

Because we know that Americans enjoy generosity, we must conclude that if your church is batting below average it has to do more with the organization than we like to think. The strategic alignment of vision, values, and strategy are critical. This should focus your staff, resources, and ministry. When your church is operating in one powerfully defined direction you will see more results, more generosity, and more anticipation of the next opportunity. It’s not just about marketing your story; it is passionately living your story throughout every aspect of your organization.

To view the last two findings, please see my next post here http://auxa.no/generositytrendspost2.

To view the full report, visit faithcommunities.connectedtogive.org. Melanie A. McKitrick, J. Shawn Landres, Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm, and Amir D. Hayat. 2013. Connected to Give: Faith Communities. Los Angeles: Jumpstart.