Has Your Church Made the Shift?
Last Tuesday, June 21, I sat through a webinar presenting some of the highlights from Giving USA 2022, which is the most comprehensive report on charitable giving in the U.S. and will be released to the public next month. Many previous trends that have emerged over the years continued in 2021. Five interrelated trends are very important for us:
- The philanthropy field, including religious fundraising, continues to be extremely competitive;
- Donors are increasingly sophisticated and discriminating about where they direct their contributions;
- People continue to direct their hard earned and often shrinking discretionary dollars to organizations where they perceive they will have the greatest impact;
- Donors are human. Hence, they still tend to make contributions as much, if not more, on what they feel in their heart rather than what they think in their head;
- People continue to be generous and will give, especially when moved by points 3 and 4.
What this means for us, in a nutshell, is that churches using a narrative budget in addition to, if not as a replacement for, a ‘numbers only’ budget are in a much better position to successfully raise funds to accomplish the mission God has called them to than churches that do not.
The data support this, as it shows that churches using a narrative budget consistently report that making the shift from exclusively using a ‘numbers only’ budget to a narrative budget has had a positive effect on their fund raising.
As its name implies, a narrative budget tells a story. “The story is the congregation’s story of mission and service and how the varying components of the budget contribute to that specific community of faith being able to live into its God given vision. It connects every aspect of the budget to ministry. It links every dollar to mission and every gift to faithful expression of the joy of giving and generosity of our God. Narrative budgets inspire, interpret, encourage, challenge, and inform donors about why their gift matters.”1
Narrative budgets do more than explain the numbers budget. They touch the heart. They move people. They tell people how your church is making an impact; how it is transforming lives; how it is making a difference. They are inspirational and aspirational.
I encourage all who haven’t yet shifted to using a narrative budget as a component of their stewardship, generosity, and fundraising strategy to do so in order to give their church the best possible chance to successfully raising funds in our current culture and society.
That said, let me be very clear, sustaining our churches and/or the institutional Church is not an end in itself. God and Christ Jesus are not calling us to raise funds simply to sustain our churches. Yet, the continued existence of the Church in some form is essential to sustaining the powerful, transformative, life-giving, reconciling, healing, and loving message of the Gospel. Christ brought the Church into existence to serve the purpose of proclaiming and manifesting the Gospel, and as such, it is both a vehicle through which God’s mission of transformation is accomplished and an object in which it is accomplished.
Thank you for your generous financial support of the SNEUCC and national setting through your gifts to Proportional Giving to Our Church’s Wider Mission. It is most gratefully received and never taken for granted. May God continue to bless you and your faith community in all your ministries!
The following resources for writing a narrative budget and their use are available on our Annual Giving – Stewardship Campaigns webpage, but their links are given below for your convenience:
1 Center for Faith & Giving, https://centerforfaithandgiving.org/2016/01/building-a-narrative-budget/
Rev. Dr. David Cleaver-Bartholomew is the Director of Stewardship and Donor Relations for the SNEUCC.