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Full-service giving: more than a collection plate

SUMMARY: Your congregation may be missing the support of non-weekly churchgoers, participants in your ministries and those who might support specific needs. Offering a variety of opportunities to give will help those who want to do so to give heartily to bless others and to meet the needs of the church.

Create a financial impact statement that's more than numbers.
This guide should tell the stories of what the church does through volunteers and show who benefits from the ministries, community involvement and services. Include tangible information - how much the program costs and how many volunteer hours are donated. Distribute updated information at least annually to the community at large as well as to those involved with the activities. Share portions of these stories on your website, through Facebook and with mainstream media. Uniting numbers with words will boost giving. Always include details on how someone can donate.

Seek outside support from businesses and foundations.
If your congregation is planning a community event or a mission trip, consider seeking local business support. Develop a plan and identify businesses that fit well with your church's mission and may have a connection to your church (i.e. an employee who works there, a shared community group, etc.). Do your research upfront to ensure you're comfortable with your church's name being connected with the particular business. Before soliciting contributions, establish what recognition donors will receive.

Big corporations may be hesitant to support a specific congregation directly, but they may be open to supporting community-based programs. Don't forget to reach out to local foundations - they may also provide grants. The more specific the request (i.e. food pantry support rather than church's operational budget), the more likely the success.

First United Methodist Church in Winter Park, Fla., is successful in raising support for missions. See what fits with your congregation's needs in this guide.

Go small.
If you need gifts to support a particular outreach program, consider creating calling cards that express the need. Attach the cards to a small tabletop tree in a visible area and call it the giving tree. Encourage donations that are "extra mile" giving. Children and youth can also be "giving tree" participants. Have additional cards for guests and others who may want to give to the outreach ministries of the church. Include a tear-off portion on the card and invite donors to leave contact information with their gifts. Be sure to follow up with a note of appreciation.

Appreciate all donors.
Send a thank-you email or note. As appropriate, also acknowledge donations online through Facebook, Twitter and your website. Knowing who is supporting a cause or ministry will encourage other people to give.

Go electronic.
Some of your congregation may not attend weekly, thus missing the opportunity to give through the collection plate. Others who don't use checks would like to have their donations made through direct debit, so they have a record of their giving. Read this article for more information on electronic giving.

Think IRAs.
Congress has extended the IRA-donation option through the end of 2011. Make sure your congregation members who are 70½ and older know that your church will welcome a donation from their IRAs. People 70½ or older can donate up to $100,000 of their IRA to a charity or church and not pay tax on the money. (This may be of particular interest to older adults who are required to take their IRA minimum distribution, but don’t really need the money.) This article gives the highlights and provides links to other resources with more details. Don’t forget to give all IRA donors a letter acknowledging the value of the donation. They will need it when they complete their income-tax forms.