Don’t Publish Bad News

I was a visitor at a worship service several months ago, and among the announcements in the bulletin was this line:

Received last week: $2,238.53
Needed each week: $2,750.00

After the service, I asked a member of the congregation if that deficit announcement was unusual.  She said, “No, we’re always behind.”

If you see this kind of announcement in your church bulletin, or even in the monthly newsletter, please try to get it eliminated. Why? It creates a negative image and does nothing to increase offerings.

Dividing the annual budget by 52 Sundays just gives inaccurate information, particularly during low attendance months. Neither income nor expenditures are exactly the same over the course of the year. Members wonder how they can see a deficit all year and then the deficit miraculously goes away at the beginning of the next year.

How, then, can we adequately report the financial status of a congregation? The amount received can be reported along with a sentence or two about a ministry that offerings help support. I also recommend giving updates in quarterly financial statements rather than bulletins or newsletters for the whole world to see. If I am looking for a new church home, I’m not going to be inclined to join a congregation that advertises it’s in debt.

Transparency is important, so financial statements prepared for council meetings can also be made available for those who are curious or have a need to know about the details of how the money comes and goes. I also recommend to finance committees who absolutely obsess about “being behind” to go to individuals and ask them to make up the perceived “deficit,” beginning with members of the finance committee. That usually gets them off that subject.

See the People

As a development officer for a private, Christian college, this phrase echoed through prospect meetings and team goals: See the people. As our society further embraces the convenience of social media, the ease of e-transactions, the impression of personalization to masses, it seems as though something important is missing.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m a proponent of social media. I’ve reconnected with old friends on Facebook and am building a professional network on LinkedIn. I appreciate the ease of online giving and emails. As a donor, I accept nothing less than personalization in correspondence, even though I know it may be a thinly veiled impression. But organizations that rely heavily on these tactics are missing a critical piece: the personal interaction.

Non-profit organizations are regularly seeking ways to set themselves apart from a host of charities vying for financial support, to show themselves—and their cause—worthy of funding. As other organizations continue to send flyers and mass emails, one of the most effective ways to set your organization apart is to “see the people.”

There is little substitute for sitting face-to-face with a current or prospective donor, sharing the life-changing work of your organization and the challenges it faces, answering questions and relieving concerns, reminiscing about their personal history with your work, and communicating the opportunity for them—specifically them—to make an impact in the organization’s future. Donors have a choice in allocating their resources. Make your organization rise above the others with personal attention.