By Gina Calvert

Beyond Paperclips and Salaries: Demonstrating the “Ministry” in Your General Fund

The “General Fund” is a great catch-call for organizing your giving funds and expenditures.

Problem is, some people, especially younger generations, don’t like giving to the General Fund or to Tithes and Offerings. They…

  • Don’t want to help pay for ambiguous “operational” expenses
  • Want to give to projects and ministries that impact the community
  • Want to see how their hard-earned donation dollars are making a difference

While that can be frustrating, this donation scrutiny actually provides a great opportunity for churches to draw members and givers more deeply into the church’s mission. Here’s how:

Recognize That People Don’t Understand the Costs of Ministry

When givers see facilities that stand empty most days of the week, they think about waste and misspent budgetary allocations.

What they don’t always do is connect the dots from facilities, utilities, salaries, supplies, etc. to making an impact in the community. They don’t realize these expenses are HOW the church provides resources to members (themselves included) and the community.

For example, they may see a food drive consisting of donated items managed by volunteers and think it was free for the church. They don’t know what goes on behind the scenes and how many hours staff spent planning; purchasing; accepting, organizing and packaging donations at the church building; requesting and coordinating volunteers; sign-making; map printing; pickups and deliveries; overseeing the event; cleaning up; managing record-keeping for all expenses and recipients; and any follow up required later. In reality, there was a significant “cost” to the church for providing donated food items to the community.

Or take worship services that comfort and encourage members and connect them to God and each other. (Or Sunday School and youth programs.) While many have grown frustrated with elaborate, expensive facilities, everyone wants a comfortable worship space. That means seating, AC and heating, lighting, audio and visual equipment. They don’t see the cost of staff hours spent preparing, staying connected with members, providing resources, or tech tools like a church app, streaming services, online giving, payroll for salaries, background checks for staff and volunteers, and staff and member communication platforms.

They don’t think about the weekly cleaning service for every space in the building – sanctuary, restrooms, classrooms, offices, children’s areas, landscaping and external upkeep, systems that need repair and upkeep, or carpet, furniture, signage, etc. that have worn out or gotten damaged. They may remark on uncleanliness, be critical when the AC is out, and leave if a child is molested by a volunteer, but their shortsightedness doesn’t always connect the prevention of these problems to the GENERAL FUND.

So what can churches do to help connect the dots? You can publicize the “ministry” in your General Fund and Tithes giving “buckets.”

In Today’s Culture, Churches Must Demonstrate Impact

Today’s givers don’t give out of obligation, they give to make an impact. That is a major reason that nonprofits and service organizations are seeing giving increases, while churches decline. Unfortunately, most giving software limits the way you can present giving options to your givers. There’s a drop-down list with a few ministry names, usually including General Fund/Tithes, Mission Trips, and Building Fund. If there are additional funds listed, members may know what “Loaves and Fishes” is, but newcomers will not. Neither group will really know the impacts any of your ministries have.

Vision2 set out to solve this problem by developing our unique visual ministry designations. There’s nothing out there like it and we invite you to check out a few of our clients’ giving pages where you’ll be able to see at a glance the power of this feature:

As you can see, the church may still offer a General Fund/Tithes category, but they also elaborate on what else is going on with images and descriptions. In Vision2, you can have as many of these designations as you like. And our content team is available to help you populate them.

Why Your “General Fund/Tithes” Needs a Makeover

Some church leaders worry that givers will choose more “exciting” ministries and neglect the basic costs of the church existing. That’s why reframing your general fund designation makes sense. We need to connect the dots for givers from the fund name … NOT to the COSTS of ministry as detailed above, but to the IMPACT of those costs…

  • Lives changed
  • Marriages saved
  • People brought to Christ
  • Youth who are becoming leaders
  • Financial legacies transformed
  • Spiritual growth
  • Addictions brought under control
  • Ways you’re pouring into your congregation and community that don’t have their own fund name (i.e individual and group counseling or benevolence)

In Vision2, you can demonstrate these impacts individually just like you might do with a mission trip. Create designations that describe the impacts of your worship services, your youth group, small groups, your Celebrate Recovery group, etc. Donations to those designations can still funnel into your general fund to cover the cost of salaries and facilities usage incurred by those events. But now givers feel connected to those line items because they understand the impact.

Just another reason to explore how Vision2 provides a digital gift lift of 23% in the first 12 months of using it. Reach out to learn more.