Today and the next couple of days I'm attending a conference on fund raising. The presenter shared some very interesting statistics today. In 1970 72% of all charitable giving went to religious organizations, including churches. In 1990 that number dropped to 49%, and by 2010 it had furthered dropped to 35%. Many churches have seen their financial support decrease in recent years. Part of that may be due to a decline in church attendance, and some of it can be contributed to the current economic situation we've been in for the past few years. However, another reason is that the number of 501 (c) (3) organizations have increased from around 800,000 in 2001 to about 1.2 million in 2010. This means there is more competition for charitable gifts. Your church is competing with many organizations for the financial gifts of persons who want to support ministries and other charitable organizations.
The Builder generation (pre WW-II) continues to support organizations such as churches and denominations. Later generations, including those of us who are Baby Boomers, are less likely to contribute to organizations out of loyality to the organization. These generations give to organizations and causes that we believe in. These organizations often do a great job of presenting their work in a positive light, and they are not afraid to invite people to support them. For many of us in pastoral ministry, we are fearful of saying too much about finances out of fear of offending people. We pass the collection plate and invite people to give without really explaining why they should.
I'm not going to try to go through the entire workshop I sat through today, but I do want to share one piece that I think might prove helpful to you and your church. People today are much less interested in giving their money to maintain an organization unless they can see examples of what that organization is doing with that money. They are not going to give just to keep the utilities turned on. They are going to support organizations that are making a difference in people's lives. It is very important today that you tell the stories of what your church is doing ministry-wise that is having an impact on people. These stories provide you with a compelling reason why people should support the ministry of your church instead of giving their money to some other organization. A question that you must answer is why should people give to your church rather than giving their money to another ministry, and if you can't answer that question you can expect to see a decline in your financial support.
One thing you don't want to do is to fall into the trap of thinking there is a scarcity of money available to churches and other ministries. Our God still owns the cattle on a thousand hills. We need to maintain an abundance mentality. There continues to be an abundance of resources available to every ministry, but only those who can offer a compelling reason why people should support them will see much of that abundance. I challenge you to sit down with your leadership and begin to formulate the story of how your church is impacting the people in your community and around the world. With such stories your church should see an increased level of support that will make even more ministry possible in the future.