3 Simple Donor Development Strategies for Busy Church Staff

3 Simple Donor Development Strategies for Busy Church Staff

Donor development is vital to your church’s growth and sustainability. For most churches, if the biggest donors suddenly stopped giving, it could financially cripple the entire ministry. 

You need these people to keep giving. And when big projects come up, they’ll likely be the first people you turn to for extra support—because they’ve proven your church can count on them. But you just can’t take their generosity for granted.

Donor development is undeniably important, but it’s also a big staff commitment. Since it involves discussing how people use their money—and how they should use it—every donor’s journey is unique, and your staff often has to be very intentional about how they communicate with each donor if you want to maximize their giving potential.

So what do you do if your staff is already stretched thin, and you don’t have time each week to dedicate to donor development? Here are three simple donor development strategies for busy staff.

1. Get donors involved

Every church has people who demonstrate their willingness to go above and beyond in investing in the church’s goals. And while you don’t want to give them preference over others or show them extreme deference, you do want to honor their inclination to give. 

This means finding ways to make them feel like their input is appreciated and necessary. Are you raising a large sum for a youth mission trip? Sit down with these donors and talk about what the youth hope to accomplish and how their giving will grow the kingdom and meet specific church goals. If you’re putting together a building project, consider finding ways for donors to serve and weigh in on the process. 

It’s critical that churches are very careful here, however. The New Testament is very clear about showing preference to the wealthy (James 2:1–13). So while you want to communicate your appreciation for donor giving and allow donors to speak into the projects they’re carrying financially, it should never be at the expense of others who can’t afford to give more. 

2. Automate donor development

If you don’t have a lot of time, the biggest way to save time is through automated communications. That doesn’t have to mean you sacrifice your personal touch or make people feel like they’re just a number. (Good automated emails, for example, should still feel personal.) In fact, automating communications can help ensure every donor, member, and church visitor feels valued by your church—not just the ones you remember to communicate with personally.

One of the easiest methods for automating communication is through email campaigns. It takes time upfront to set up an email campaign, but once you create one, you can keep it running indefinitely. They’re easy to scale, and the upfront time investment continues to pay dividends long into the future.

For starters, you should have automated follow-up campaigns for church visitors who give you their email addresses, and automated thank you messages for new givers. You obviously don’t want to immediately ask visitors to start giving, but getting more of them to come back is a crucial step toward cultivating new donors and continuing to grow as a church.

Once someone gives, you should reinforce the value of their gift. This is an opportunity to show them why what they did matters, and what you’re accomplishing through their generosity—so they feel compelled to give again.

Additionally, if you support online giving, it’s worth including a link to give at the bottom of your general communications with church members, too. This is an unobtrusive way to remind people that your church depends on their generosity and that giving to your church is as simple as any other transaction they make regularly.

3. Leverage your ministry leaders

People want to know that giving to your church is going to do something. Their gift isn’t going to see a clear financial return on investment. But with the help of your ministry leaders, you can show potential donors and regular givers specific things your church is accomplishing as a result of your congregation’s generosity.

Each ministry has its own metrics, but your ministry leaders will also be able to identify some of your church’s most powerful stories. The lives that have been changed forever by the gospel. The impact your ministries have had on your community. 

These are the things that encourage people that your church is worth investing in. And your ministry leaders are already aware of their ministry’s biggest successes. You can incorporate these stories into your email campaigns, blog posts, and content cards and impact cards in the Pushpay app.

Additionally, since Pushpay lets you create specific funds your congregation can give to, your ministry leaders can help build relationships with key donors who may be more interested in supporting their specific ministry.

Donor development doesn’t have to be difficult

Church staff are often in the difficult—and draining—position of being responsible for multiple roles, which could each be a full-time job. Donor development is one of those roles. But just because you can’t give donor development your full attention doesn’t mean you can’t do it. 

Even with a small team and limited time, your church can work donor development into the things you’re already doing. You’re already building relationships with people at your church. You can incorporate it into your other communications. And you can lean on your ministry leaders to find compelling stories to inspire giving.

Donor development is important. And with the right strategies, it doesn’t have to feel impossible.

To learn about donor development strategies that can help your church nurture greater and deeper generosity, talk to one of our experts today!

Ryan Nelson

Ryan was a volunteer youth leader with Young Life for eight years. Now he teaches people about the Bible on OverviewBible.com. He lives in Bellingham, Washington with his wife and three sons.