The New Currency of Giving: Join a Movement

 In Blog, Generosity

I’ve been going to church a long time. Have you ever felt like you’re having deja vu on Sunday morning? I know I have. Part of this is because there are important themes that repeat throughout scripture and areas where we are constantly needing to become more like Jesus. I can be hard-headed from time to time, so it’s a good thing for me to hear things more than once.

That being said, I think I have heard almost the exact same sermon on giving a half dozen times over the years. Obviously, the truths about giving found in scripture don’t change over time, but people and culture do change. Because of this, I think it’s time we start having a new conversation about giving in our faith communities.

There are a few factors that I think have affected how people think about giving:

Rise of Millennials

Millennials seem to be the favorite generational punching bag. They are often characterized as lazy, the “selfie” generation, and still living with their parents at age 35.  While others can debate the validity of these facts, millennials are one of the most generous demographics. According to a report on giving, 84% of millennials made charitable gifts in 2014 and of those only 22% said the donation was in response to a solicitation. There are some unique attitudes with this generation that also impact how we should be talking about giving, but more on that later.

Birth of Crowdfunding

In 2009, crowdfunding emerged as a major source of raising funds. Today, sites like Kickstarter, Gofundme, Rockethub, and Indiegogo raise over $34 billion for a variety of projects. This approach has catapulted organizations like Charity: Water to raising $43.4 million in 2014 to support the cause of making clean water available to everyone on the globe.

Longing for Belonging

As long as people have gathered into groups, there has been an innate desire to belong. This is hardwired into each of us and often drives much of how we relate to each other. If you question this, spend some time in a Jr. High cafeteria. Not only do we want to belong to a group, we want our group to be about something. We want to be a part of a movement. Here is a bit on what makes a movement:

So, if the motivation for what engages people’s hearts to give is shifting, how can our conversations about engaging financially adjust to the new perspective? Here are a few perspectives that should be included in a new conversation about giving. Our conversations about giving need to shift from a transactional mindset towards an invitation to join a movement.

A New Conversation

Permission Based

There was a time when giving was a mutually agreed on expectation between the church and the member. Those days are increasingly gone. The current generation of church goers have seen countless examples of charities and churches raising funds and then being exposed as corrupt. While this is a huge minority of churches, the impact on the general public’s psyche has been significant. Recently, I had a conversation with someone about giving that brought this point home to me. He told me that he would give to his church the same amount that it would cost to take his family to the movies. His perspective was that he knows it costs money to run a church, but he had no confidence in how the funds would be used other than to support the operation of the church. The sad fact is that he is a generous guy, giving lots of money away each year. He just doesn’t give to his church.

Our new conversations about giving need to be more permission based. The reality is that people can give to thousands of different causes. When people agree to have a conversation about financially engaging in the mission of our church, that is a privilege. This small change in attitude will have a huge impact in how that conversation goes. The reality is that the person that gives to your church is the one with power, not the person asking them to give. Recognizing that in how we talk about giving is important.

Partnership in a Cause

If you ask anyone in a non-profit what the hardest funds are to raise, I guarantee you the answer you will get is operating funds. That’s because nobody wants to pay for overhead. People want to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. I think of it as the Braveheart effect. When we think about our lives, we want to live a story that makes a difference. The worst thing that can happen isn’t death, it’s irrelevance. That’s why I would rather play a bit part alongside William Wallace charging the field than I would fade into oblivion. Instead of talking about giving, our conversations need to shift to focus on involvement, participation, and investment. Nobody wants to be an ATM to our ministries. But people are looking for a story that they can be a part of.

Radical Transparency

Transparency builds trust. When we keep our finances behind a curtain that only some are allowed to peek behind, we create a perception that there is something to hide. When people are brought into the mission of our ministries, they often have questions about the finances, outputs and outcomes. We often respond to those questions like they are accusations or doubts. Instead, they are often a sign of people’s commitment to the cause. Some of the most successful ministries are totally transparent with their finances and by doing that, they eliminate one of the barriers to giving.

Impact Driven

Does my gift make a difference? If people giving to your church have not asked this question out loud, it’s one that many have thought. One way that we as church leaders can be good stewards of other people’s financial investments is to ensure that their gift is making a difference. This is the first step. But unless you take the second step to tell them how it matters, they might never know. Better than telling them is helping them to experience the impact first hand. This again helps people feel like they are partners in the work and not donors.

Organic Engagement

If we make involvement difficult, people won’t do it. The same goes for giving. By providing simple ways to get involved, both physically and financially, you increase people’s willingness to engage. With technology, you can allow people to engage anytime and in ways that are convenient to them.

If we are going to adjust to how people perceive giving today, we need to turn the conversation from giving to engagement. Giving is a demonstrative expression of investment.

In what ways can your church change the conversation from giving to being engaged?