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5 Essential Tips for Planning a Major Giving Initiative

5 min read
Jun 1, 2023 2:00:00 PM

At Generis, we often get the question, “When is the best time to launch a major giving initiative?” It's a great question that, even after more than thirty years of advising and working with churches, I can only answer with the opening line of Charles Dickens' classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities - "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." 

There is no perfect time. For almost every season over the last thirty years, I can cite why it might have been a good time for a major giving initiative. And why it might not have been a good time for a giving initiative.

Properly executing a major giving initiative takes time, planning, and organization. However, it's impossible to predict what the situation will be like when the initiative is actually launched. For example, the economic fallout in late 2008 caught many by surprise. The giving initiatives launched in that season were planned in early 2008, if not late 2007, before any hint of the economic crisis.

Think about churches that did major giving initiatives in 2007. They faced a different challenge. Their congregations made financial commitments when times were good. But during the two to three years of the giving fulfillment period, the economy got much worse, resulting in giving shortfalls on projects that had already been started. I saw that firsthand in a number of our churches.

When launching a major giving initiative, timing can be a tricky issue.

Even the best-laid plans can be derailed by unforeseen events such as natural disasters or economic downturns. However, there are certain things you can control when it comes to your major giving initiative.

  • You must have a compelling vision for your church. What is it that God is calling your church to do and to be? Not just now but five, ten, or more years into the future. Your vision should inspire and motivate people to want to give generously. It should be clear, concise, and actionable. Spend time crafting a vision statement that is compelling, inspiring, and easy to understand.
  • Your projects should align with your vision. Think of it this way. To be the church God is calling you to be, here are the things you need to take on right now. Your projects should be specific, measurable, and achievable. They should also have a clear timeline and budget. Communicate these projects to your congregation so they understand the impact of their giving and how it aligns with your vision.
  • You need to build consensus internally. Take it slow, getting buy-in to the vision so you can go fast in the execution of your giving initiative. This means involving key stakeholders in the planning process, including key staff, board members (or whatever your governance structure), and other decision-makers. Make sure everyone is on the same page before moving forward. By involving key stakeholders, you'll get buy-in and create momentum for your initiative to advance without unnecessary delays.
  • Make discipleship the primary goal. In a previous post, I wrote about giving and discipleship. While raising funds for the growth of your church is important, changing givers’ hearts should be the primary goal. Focus on discipling your people, not simply raising money. 
  • Finally, but most importantly, make prayer the top priority. First among your key staff. Then among your board or elders (or other form of governance). Prayer is not just a nice thing to do -- it's essential to the success of your giving initiative. Ask God to guide your plans and give you wisdom and discernment as you move forward. 

I like how Oswald Chambers says it in the October 17 reading from My Utmost For His Highest.

Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work. We think of prayer as a commonsense exercise of our higher powers in order to prepare us for God’s work. In the teaching of Jesus Christ, prayer is the working of the miracle of Redemption in me, which produces the miracle of Redemption in others by the power of God.”

Prayer IS the greater work. We are foolish to enter into a significant giving initiative without inviting God to speak into our process and decision making.

In conclusion, the best time for a major giving initiative is when you have a clear vision, aligned projects, internal consensus, a focus on discipleship, and a commitment to prayer. These factors are within your control and will help you navigate future uncertainties.

However, there are seasons when timing should be considered. For example, if your church is in the middle of a giving initiative or has just completed one, give careful thought to whether you should launch another one or not.

If you are wondering whether it is possible to do giving initiatives consecutively, the answer is yes. Many churches do that. Leaders wonder about giving fatigue. I’m not going to say it never happens. From my perspective, it is more about vision fatigue. In other words, the church leaders have not refreshed the vision to keep it alive and compelling. Churches that do that can do as many giving initiatives as are needed for their growth.

I know of one church that has had fourteen giving initiatives in its forty-five-year existence. The key is that the senior leader keeps a fresh, compelling vision before the people, always looking ahead to what needs to happen next and not dwelling on past successes. 

And one more thing before we wrap up.

Don’t let economic uncertainty get the best of you at a time when your church needs a major giving initiative to maintain its momentum. Some of the great giving testimonies in the Bible are set in challenging economic times. Consider the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8: 1-5a – “And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations…” What a testimony of their faith!

You see, it is easy to give when times are good. Even unbelievers do that. But it becomes more challenging spiritually for the Christ follower to give when times are lean. And what an opportunity for spiritual formation!

In conclusion, while timing is a factor, the success of your giving initiative depends more on other factors -- having a clear vision, aligned projects, internal consensus, making discipleship the primary goal, and a commitment to prayer. Remember these factors when planning your initiative, and trust that God will provide the right timing for your church.

As always, if you want to talk more about this topic, email me at jim@generis.com. 

God bless!


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