What is Donor Engagement?
In a church, at its most organic, donor engagement describes a relationship: Keeping your givers connected to the Body. Ideally, this would simply be the natural exchange of teaching, worship, attendance, volunteering, giving, service, and deep ministry to one another. A family, as it were, giving and receiving from one another.
But modern usage of the term donor engagement describes something that doesn’t just happen or that givers necessarily would do on their own. It’s you asking your givers what matters most to them. It’s including them in those initiatives. Because their money will follow their passion. Where they feel included, appreciated, and engaged, they will invest their efforts and resources.
Understanding the Giver’s Journey
Donor engagement starts with a basic picture of the ideal maturation of your givers, called the Giver’s Journey.
Believers are called to generosity. This is usually a lifelong growth track that often starts small and inconsistent. Hopefully it becomes more consistent and rises to at least the level of a tithe.
Eventually, some givers will become major givers, going far beyond 10% and even becoming legacy donors (bequeathing their estates to the church). Not everyone will reach this level of giving.
Keeping an eye on giving is vital because giving patterns can be a factor in spiritual maturity. (This can include but isn’t necessarily defined by gift amounts. (See Luke 21:1-4)
The typical phases of the Giver’s Journey include:
- First time givers
- Inconsistent givers or holiday givers
- Consistent givers
- Extravagant/major givers
- Legacy givers
- Holiday givers
- Lapsed givers
Churches can create their own Giver’s Journey phases, setting the parameters of what defines each step along the way.
Understanding Your Giver’s “Profile”
Now, to understand the form of a donor engagement strategy, some further define the concept as “a measure of all of the things that make up a complete giver profile.” (Source)
A giver’s profile starts with a person’s giving history and, perhaps, basic demographic information about them (age, gender, length of time at your church). It also includes where they are in the Giver’s Journey.
Launching a Donor Engagement Strategy
Once you’ve formed your Giver’s Journey and profiles, you can begin using this information to communicate with people personally. For example, you can automate your giving system to send a “Welcome” email to first time givers. Or you can pull a report on lapsed givers to see if there are ministry needs for these individuals. If someone gave regularly for a long time and now doesn’t give at all, something may be wrong that needs your attention.
We call this approach to using giving data A Ministry-First Approach to Generosity. Your giving system collects giving history data anyway … this is the most ethical use of that data.
This is simply the starting point of donor engagement. Dive deeper with related resources on this important concept:
How to Keep Donors Engaged
Nurturing Generosity in a New Digital World
What Does Donor Stewardship Mean?