This is part 1 of 4 in a series called 4 Common (and False) Assumptions About Online Giving.. We examine some potentially harmful assumptions you might be making about your potential givers.
You can download a copy of the entire series for free and we’ll notify you as new information is published.
According to the well-known 80/20 rule, 20% of your members give the vast majority of your donations. So what do you know about the other 80% who give far less, or who do not give at all?
Naturally, you want to grow giving in all your members for both financial and spiritual reasons; it’s one reason you accept donations online. Focusing on those who don’t give seems like a good place to start. We agree, because giving benefits believers more than they can imagine. Growing that habit in all your members is important.
That’s actually a trick question. You can’t motivate them as a group. The 80/20 rule may lump them together, but they’re far from identical. They’re not even alike in how they do “not” give. Some don’t give at all, some may occasionally drop a few dollars in the offering plate, and others may give a generous gift on special occasions, such as Easter or at the end of the year (hint: tax savings).
And that’s just the beginning of their differences.
To illustrate the way you compare your givers, think about your closet. If the 80/20 rule holds true with your wardrobe, you wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time.
But if you consider each item’s usefulness, you’d discover that many items—like clothes for house painting, hunting, or holidays—can’t be compared “apples-to-apples” to what you wear to work every day or your favorite jeans. Specialty clothes aren’t valuable because of how often you wear them, but because of their unique purposes.
Similarly, your givers and guests have hugely diverse income potential, attitudes about money and church, circumstances in life, and many other criteria that affect their generosity. Some of their stories break your heart. And some of those who can’t give financially make up for it by engaging generously with their time, encouragement and spiritual gifts.
The 80/20 rule could be used to highlight the good that the 20% do, but more often what we focus on is what the 80% don’t do. Could this statistic make you subtly view your 80% as slackers rather than souls?
Maybe, considering that the 80/20 rule is also called The Law of the Vital Few.
If “lesser” givers aren’t part of the vital few, would you consider them the unimportant many? Of course not.
Theodore Roosevelt said that comparison is the thief of joy. It’s also a thief when it comes to growing generosity. Comparing your givers and slapping the 80% label on the majority of them can steal your ability to grow a giving spirit in them.
How? By causing you to assume you can treat them all alike and somehow motivate them.
Even if your giving trend falls roughly into an 80/20 pattern, you can’t motivate everyone with the same message or method. You know that, but does your current church online giving platform let you approach your members and givers that way?
Probably not. Most church giving software providers that claim to grow generosity use a cookie-cutter communication approach without taking into account givers’:
These things impact generosity. Just as with all spiritual disciplines, growing giving requires patience and teaching. It’s backed up by a variety of ministry opportunities that engage your church’s different ages, genders, interests and giftings. It’s inspired when givers see the impact they can have in the community.
Most of all, it requires a personal touch that allows your attendees to feel safe and known.
In person, you don’t see the 80% as a flock of identical sheep. You see individuals. But online, your hands are tied. Most online donation platforms don’t enable you to customize your giving experience. You can’t communicate uniquely and personally with your givers.
Instead, when people give online, your credit card processor sends them a thank you email that isn’t addressed to them by name or from your church’s email address.
Is that really a big deal? Yes! We hear about the calls church staff get from givers who wonder if they’ve just been scammed when they get a gift confirmation email from an organization they’ve never heard of. Imagine this happening to a first time giver who’s new to your church! That gift could be their last.
Does your current online tithing platform do this? Most likely it does, though many finance directors aren’t aware of it.
Online giving experiences can create the perfect opportunity to connect with your givers and strengthen their bond with the church — or it can do just the opposite.