How to Create Meaningful Annual Giving Statements
No one looks forward to putting together church annual giving statements. It’s one of those tasks we joylessly do every year to meet a government obligation. But maybe we have the wrong perspective. Just because this is a year-end responsibility doesn’t mean it has to be a sterile, boring financial report.
If you think about it, an annual giving statement is an opportunity for:
- Celebration. Whether someone’s given a little or a lot, they’re giving statement should be an opportunity to recognize the act of giving. At some point, this individual shared their resources with the kingdom of God—and that deserves to be recognized!
- Instruction. People tend to give throughout the year without any real thought or strategy. They open their wallets or get out their checkbooks when they feel the Spirit move them, and they typically think they give more than they do. Church annual giving statements reveal just how benevolent they’ve been throughout the year.
- Preparation. Once you’ve celebrated what you’ve been able to accomplish as a church, you have an incredible opportunity to set some goals for the coming year and to challenge everyone to give more sacrificially.
Let’s set aside the fact that the IRS requires churches to give out a yearly statement to everyone who has donated funds over the course of the year. This is still a significant report. In fact, the truth is that most elements of church life are full of significance—and church annual giving statements are no exception.
As church leaders, we’re responsible for the careful, thoughtful management of kingdom resources. We need to manage our facility, budget, staff, and time. Our regular givers are some of the most valuable resources our churches have. Their faithful giving empowers a lot of the kingdom work that we’re able to do.
This means that we also need to be good stewards of our donors—while we work on developing those who haven’t fully committed to the discipline of giving. Giving statements provide a fantastic opportunity to do both.
Instead of sending out a generic financial report, we can use giving statements as an opportunity to edify and encourage our congregations. As long as we instruct our congregation on how to read them, they can be encouraged and challenged by their report.
Financial Sermon Series
One of the best times of year for a sermon series on financial stewardship and giving is when your staff is preparing the annual giving statements. When you time it right, the giving statement can be a huge exclamation point at the end of a profound series about stewardship.
The Bible dedicates an enormous amount of real estate to instruction, narratives, and inspiration on how we should think about and use our resources. This isn’t by accident. No other area of our lives so readily reveals where our priorities actually lie. Our values and our possessions are inextricably tied to each other. It’s integral that your congregation understands how critical it is that they’re paying attention to how they have used their finances.
Preaching on financial responsibility during the annual giving statement season is not only a good idea because it links the two events together, but these statements tend to go out in January when your attendance is reasonably high—and that’s the best time to teach on responsible finances.
Starting Your Series before Reports Go Out
You want your sermon series to reinforce the Christian’s responsibility for wise financial stewardship and regular, sacrificial giving. Starting your series before the giving statements hit email accounts or mailboxes will encourage members to think a little more deeply when their statements arrive.
Once you have established the importance of Christians sharing their resources, you can talk about how important it is for people to make intentional decisions about how much they can (and are willing to) give. Then you can talk about how important it is to take a regular inventory of their giving to ensure that they’re meeting the goals they’ve set—and whether they’re ready to make a bigger commitment.
Once you’ve laid the groundwork, you’ll be able to say, “This week you’re going to be getting your church annual giving statements in the mail. It’s important to take some time to look them over and ask yourself:
- Did I give as much as I thought I did?
- Did I meet the goal that I intended to meet?
- How much of my income did I give to God’s work?”
If you use a mobile app, online giving solution, or church management system that allows church members to access their giving statement at any time, make sure they know how to use it. Encourage them to check it once a quarter and make sure that they’re monitoring their giving to ensure they’re meeting their goals.
What Should Be Included in Church Annual Giving Statements?
Reports can be emailed or sent by direct mail, but you’ll probably end up doing a mixture of both. Here’s a couple of different ways to handle each:
1. Direct mail giving statements
Quite a few of your giving statements are likely to be direct mail. That’s great. The right cover letter can help your statements hit the right note.
Remember: you want receiving this to be special. You don’t want to send out a blanket statement during the service for people to just stop by the office and pick up their giving statements. Spend the money and send these reports to people directly. In fact, send them first class.
Here are some things you want to make sure your cover letters include:
a. A specific greeting
It might be easy to throw together a generic cover letter that begins “Dear Real Life Community Church family members,” but does that set the right tone? A lot of church members will end up feeling like that’s impersonal—and probably won’t even read it.
Instead of a general greeting, why don’t you send each one out with a more personalized salutation? When Nancy opens up your letter and it begins with “Dear Ron and Nancy,” that’s going to feel like a letter she’d expect to get from her church family.
b. An overview of your mission
Right off the bat, you want to remind them why the church exists. This will help make the connection between your ideals and some of the year’s high points. But you want to keep it personal, so don’t just put down your boilerplate mission statement. Paint a picture of who you are and what you want to happen in your church and community.
c. Some of the year’s high points
This is where you lay out a couple of this year’s biggest accomplishments. Did you experience growth? Did any of your ministries grow? Did you pull off any amazing outreaches or community service projects? Provide a high-level look at what you’ve been able to do thanks to their contributions.
d. A particular story or testimony
Now that you’ve given an overview of the year’s high points, it’s time to focus in on one specific and impactful story or person. Maybe that’s someone your church has helped financially or a dollar amount you were able to raise for a missionary or charity. Whatever it is, you want to highlight a story that helps readers see how their financial cooperation helps meet real needs and fulfill your church’s mission.
e. Big plans for next year
Hopefully, you’ve got them excited about what you’ve been able to do over the course of the year, and now they’re ready to look ahead to next year. What are some specific goals your church has for the coming year that require their financial investment and partnership? Do you have goals to improve your facility? A new community outreach? Improvements on some existing ministry? Tell them about it.
f. A thank you and a challenge
You want to acknowledge their giving with sincere gratitude, and then issue a simple challenge to join you in making the next year better than ever. The challenge doesn’t have to be elaborate. You just want to invite them to join you on giving sacrificially in the coming year.
g. Information about their giving statement
Let them know that their annual giving statement is enclosed. If you’re in the middle of a sermon series on finances, you can address that here. But if you’re not, you should let them know why their giving statement is important. Not only can they claim their giving on their taxes, but it’s also a record of their financial sacrifice over the last year.
h. The senior pastor’s signature
This is important. People need to see this as a direct communication from the leader of their church. It loses some of the impact if it comes from the treasurer, head deacon, or even the executive pastor. This needs to originate from the desk of the senior pastor.
i. An invitation to learn more about giving on the website
Maybe someone has been coming to your church for a long time and they’re still giving via check but you’d like them to give electronically. Include an easy-to-remember URL to an information page on your site where they can learn to give faster and easier. This web page should include detailed information about ways that people can give.
Don’t forget to include an invitation for them to sign up for recurring giving!
An Example of a Cover Letter
To help you see how all of these pieces come together, check out this example cover letter:
Dear Ron and Nancy,
We’ve had quite a year at Real Life Community Church, and I’m so glad that you’ve been part of it.
As you know, we’re passionate about touching our world, impacting our community, and bringing people into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. To that end, we were able to go on a short-term work and witness trip to Puerto Rico where we helped repair a church and share Jesus’ message of grace with many of the locals. We also served Thanksgiving meals to over 30 low-income families in our city. But what I’m most excited about is that we had more than 40 baptisms this year!
When David Park suggested that we use our kitchen to serve community meals, we had no idea that this would lead to such an important ministry—and then to a Thanksgiving meal with such a huge turnout.
Have you met Summer and Daniel Walters yet? They started attending Real Life because of one of those community meals. In March, Daniel had lost his sheetrocking job, and he hasn’t found work that pays as well. Summer says that the church has been a real blessing to them as they’ve struggled to get through this challenging year.
These are the kind of stories that make me excited about what we’re doing. And frankly, we wouldn’t be able to do it without your sacrificial giving. Thank you so much for your faithful involvement.
We’re looking forward to hitting the ground running next year. As we’ve communicated recently, we’d like to expand the community center and make room to feed more people! Not only that, but we’re looking into the possibility of renting a storefront where we could open a little thrift store. This will help us provide low-cost clothing to our community and provide jobs to some of the people who’ve been coming to our community dinners.
As you know, an ambitious vision like this is going to require all hands on deck! Please commit to joining us next year with your prayers, time, and financial contributions. We think God has big things in store for us.
Included in this envelope is your annual giving statement. Not only does this report allow you to claim all giving in your taxes, but it’s also a testimony to the giving you’ve done this year. As we’ve been talking about in church the last few Sundays, this can be an important time to evaluate the giving you did last year and prayerfully set goals for next year.
It’s been an honor to serve as your pastor this year and I’m excited for what God has planned for the future. Thanks again for your faithful giving.
P.S. If you’re interested in learning about other ways you can give (many of them faster and easier than writing a check), please visit reallifechurch.org/giving
2. Emailed giving statements
If you plan on emailing your giving statements to your congregation, you can include a video greeting instead of a cover letter. Many of the same elements that you would include in your cover letter can be used in your video. You just want to make sure it’s engaging and personal.
If you have a church management system or app where givers can log in and see their giving statement, make sure to include a link in the email.
The nice thing about putting together a video is that you can also use it on your social media accounts or during your services, too.
Talk about It from the Pulpit
Whether you preach a sermon series on Christian finances that coincides with church annual giving statements or not, consider spending a service talking about the impact your church had last year, what you’re hoping to see this year, and any increases to the budget.
I know that this is typically stuff that’s discussed in a church business meeting, but it’s hard to get a good turnout for those. You want to offer a truncated, exciting version of the same information to your regular attendees. It can be a celebratory service to remember what you’ve done, and to dedicate prayer for what you’d like to accomplish.
This service should include reports, testimonies, pictures, and videos. Make it a multi-media extravaganza. You want to find as many ways to touch people with the mission of the church as possible.
If you can’t dedicate an entire church service to a report like this, then cater a lunch after church (get pizzas if you have to) and encourage everyone to stick around after church to talk about what your church has done.
People are so uncomfortable talking about finances in church, and regular discussions like this can help normalize it. Church members need to see a clear link between their personal giving, their spiritual commitment, and what the church can accomplish.
If you frame it right, church annual giving statements can help your congregants make the connection between what they give and how the kingdom moves forward.