Great Expectations: Jumpstart Stewardship, Planned Giving

Date Posted: 3/9/2017

Heartspring offers tips to boost charitable giving that will fuel the future of the church.
Many churches struggle with proper stewardship education, including discussions about planned giving and other ways to support the church. Talking about money can be hard. However, with the United Methodist Church in decline, and the number of baby boomers on the rise, it has never been more important to talk about planned giving than right now.
More eligible donors: Older donors tend to give more and the average age of the United Methodist increases year over year. Clayton Smith, author of Propel: Good Stewardship, Greater Generosity and executive pastor of generosity at Church of the Resurrection in Kansas, says his church membership has seen a 400 percent increase in the number of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) in the last 10 years.
“Great wealth transfer”: The largest transfer of wealth in history is happening right now. An estimated $59 trillion is currently being passed from one generation to the next. How much is your church slated to receive?
Tough competition: According to Smith’s book: “Annual giving to religious causes has declined from 52 percent of the charitable dollar to 31 percent while giving to nonprofit organizations has increased every year.” American philanthropy is a highly competitive arena. Universities, hospitals and countless other nonprofits, including local churches, compete daily for the charitable dollar.
So, why is it that churches are receiving less of the charitable dollar than other nonprofits? According to Heartspring Vice President of Development Mark Woodward, it’s simple: “We’re not asking for it.”
Limited expectations: Due to the decline of the mainline church as a whole, and decreasing loyalty to a particular denomination, many churches have tempered expectations for members. Clif Christopher, president of Horizons Stewardship Company, speaks often about the difference between low-expectation churches and high-expectation churches. High-expectation churches create a culture of extravagant generosity and expect their members to give regularly.
What can you do to improve the conversation in your church about the future? A few essential concepts are outlined below to help you get started:

  • Create a culture of high expectations
    • Create a development plan and work it diligently
    • Develop/revamp your new members class to include education on giving
    • Make “the ask” regularly and incorporate it into every-day conversation
    • Hold regular estate planning seminars for all adult Sunday school classes
  • Create compelling call to action
    • Define/promote purpose of planned giving
    • Focus on ministry impact
    • Set tangible, measurable metrics for goals
  • Have personal conversations regularly with key donors
    • Start with at least 15 to 20 top donors
    • Have at least one meeting per month for two years
  • Tell success stories often
    • Recognize legacy givers
    • Share testimonies during church services and in communications
    • Talk about how endowment funds are being used for ministry
  • Personalize stewardship/planned giving sermons
    • Draft or find sermons related to planned giving/stewardship and deliver at least monthly
    • Share planned giving tidbits regularly with the congregation
  • Begin/develop & promote legacy society for key donors
    • Recognize key givers with annual dinner or celebration event
    • Capture each person’s giving story and share it often
    • Get them involved with promoting planned giving
  • Hold networking/accountability meetings with other churches of similar size
    • Meet twice a year to discuss six-month plan
    • Hold each other accountable for measurable goals
Heartspring is ready to help with free estate planning seminars, stewardship education, charitable giving vehicles, and other tools and resources to help take your congregation to the next level. For more information, contact us at 713-533-3780, 800-521-9617 or