7 Steps for Planning Year End Fundraising for Churches

Church, Intermediate

By Jeremy Reis

As the calendar year draws to a close, churches often turn their attention towards year-end fundraising. This crucial time offers an opportunity to not only meet budgetary needs but also engage the congregation in the church’s mission and vision.

However, organizing a successful year-end fundraising campaign requires a well-thought-out plan. In this article, we will guide you through seven key steps in planning your church’s year-end fundraising – from identifying your goals to following up on contributions. Whether you’re new to fundraising or looking to strengthen your existing strategy, these practical tips will help you maximize your efforts and end the year on a high note.

Some churches I’ve worked with don’t see the need for a specific year-end campaign believing that people will give on their own. Many will, but there’s a consideration: many of your church members are going to give somewhere at year-end, why not your church? Developing a year-end campaign will put you top of mind for your church members and a chance for those big year-end gifts.

Another consideration: I’ve worked with a number of churches concerned that a big year-end push will hurt January’s giving. When you look at the numbers, this doesn’t happen. Generosity often results in more generosity. In our own church, we started doing year-end campaigns five years ago and January giving has been strong for each of the last five years.

As the year draws to a close, it’s time for churches to turn their attention to year-end fundraising. This critical period offers an opportunity to not only meet budgetary needs but also engage the congregation in the church’s mission and vision. However, coordinating a successful year-end fundraising campaign requires careful planning and strategic thinking. In this article, we will walk you through seven key steps to plan your church’s year-end fundraising.

Table of Contents

1. Identifying Your Goals

Every great endeavor begins with a clear set of goals, and your year-end fundraising is no exception. Start by asking yourself what you hope to achieve with this campaign. Are you aiming to raise funds for a specific project? Perhaps you’re looking to bolster your general fund to ensure the smooth running of church operations in the coming year.

Your goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Specific goals are well-defined and clear, making it easier for everyone involved to understand what’s expected. Measurable goals allow you to track progress and stay on course. Achievable goals are realistic and within your capacity, considering your resources and constraints. Relevant goals align with your church’s overall mission and objectives. Lastly, time-bound goals have a deadline that creates urgency and prompts action.

For instance, instead of saying, “We want to raise as much money as possible,” a SMART goal would be, “We aim to raise $10,000 by December 31 to fund our community outreach program in the next year.” This goal is specific ($10,000 for the community outreach program), measurable (you can track how close you are to $10,000), achievable (based on previous donations), relevant (it supports your church’s mission of community service), and time-bound (to be achieved by December 31).

Identifying your goals gives your fundraising campaign direction and purpose. It provides a benchmark against which you can measure success and informs your strategy, messaging, and follow-up. It also helps inspire your congregation by showing them exactly what their donations will accomplish.

As church leaders, your role in setting these goals is critical. You have the vision for what your church can achieve and the understanding of its financial needs. Take the time to reflect on what you hope to achieve with this fundraising campaign, and communicate these goals clearly with your congregation. Your passion and commitment will be instrumental in rallying your members around these objectives.

Setting clear, SMART goals is the first step towards a successful year-end fundraising campaign. It provides a roadmap for your efforts and helps engage your congregation in a meaningful way. With your goals in place, you’re ready to take the next steps in planning your year-end fundraising – assessing your resources, developing a strategy, crafting your message, creating your assets, launching your campaign, and following up on contributions.

2. Assessing Your Resources

After setting your goals, the next step in planning your year-end fundraising is to assess your available resources. This process involves taking stock of everything at your disposal that could aid your fundraising efforts. It’s essential to understand what you’re working with so you can design a campaign that is both practical and successful.

Begin by examining your human resources. Who among your congregation can help drive this campaign? Remember, fundraising is not a solo act; it’s a team effort. You’ll need people to help plan, execute, and manage the campaign. This could include church staff, volunteers, or even members of your congregation who have specific skills or experiences relevant to fundraising.

Next, consider your financial resources. What budget do you have for your fundraising campaign? This could cover costs such as marketing materials, fundraising platforms, or events. It’s crucial to know upfront what funds are available to avoid overspending and ensure that the majority of what you raise goes directly towards your goals.

Time is another important resource to consider. When will your fundraising campaign start and end? How much time can your team commit to planning and running the campaign? Be realistic about your timelines. Remember, good planning takes time, and rushed campaigns rarely meet their goals.

Also, take into account any physical resources you might have. Do you have a space for hosting fundraising events? Can you leverage technology to facilitate online giving? Every resource, no matter how small, can play a part in the success of your fundraising campaign.

Understanding your resources also involves identifying any potential challenges or limitations you might face. For instance, if your congregation is smaller, you may not have as many volunteers to help with the campaign. Or if your budget is limited, you’ll need to be creative with your fundraising strategies. By identifying these challenges upfront, you can plan ways to overcome them.

Once you’ve assessed your resources, you can begin to shape your fundraising strategy. You’ll know what’s feasible, what might be a stretch, and where you need to focus your efforts. This will help you create a campaign that is not only ambitious but also achievable.

Remember, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it?” (Luke 14:28). In the same way, understanding your resources is crucial to planning a successful year-end fundraising campaign.

Assessing your resources is a vital step in planning your year-end fundraising. It gives you a clear picture of what’s possible and helps ensure that your campaign is grounded in reality. With this knowledge, you’re ready to move on to the next steps in your fundraising journey – developing a strategy, crafting your message, creating your assets, launching your campaign, and following up on contributions.

3. Developing A Strategy

Having set your goals and assessed your resources, the next step in planning your year-end fundraising is to develop a strategy. This is where you decide how you’re going to reach your goals with the resources you have. A well-thought-out strategy serves as a roadmap for your campaign, guiding your actions and helping ensure that your efforts are coordinated and effective.

Firstly, create a timeline for your campaign. Decide when you will launch your campaign and when it will end. Remember that timing can significantly impact your campaign’s success. For instance, many people are more inclined to give towards the end of the year due to the holiday spirit and tax deductions. Therefore, launching your campaign in early November and running it through the end of December could be optimal.

Next, delegate tasks and assign roles. Fundraising involves numerous tasks, from managing donations and handling promotions to coordinating volunteers and communicating with donors. Clearly defining who is responsible for what will help ensure your campaign runs smoothly.

Here’s an example of some roles you might need:

  • Campaign Manager: This person oversees the entire campaign. They coordinate the team, keep track of progress, and make sure everyone is staying on task.
  • Donations Manager: This person manages the financial aspect of the campaign. They handle incoming donations, keep records, and ensure funds are allocated correctly.
  • Promotions Manager: This person handles all promotional activities. They create and distribute marketing materials, manage social media posts, and get the word out about the campaign.
  • Volunteer Coordinator: This person manages all volunteers. They organize schedules, assign tasks, and ensure volunteers have everything they need.
  • Communications Manager: This person handles all communication related to the campaign. They send out updates, respond to queries, and keep donors informed about the campaign’s progress.

Assigning these roles according to individuals’ skills and experiences will help ensure that each task is handled efficiently and effectively.

In addition to delegating tasks, your strategy should also include a plan for engaging with your congregation and community. How will you inspire them to donate? What messages will you share? How will you thank your donors and show them the impact of their donations?

Finally, your strategy should include a contingency plan. What will you do if you’re not reaching your goals? Having a backup plan in place will help you adapt and keep moving forward even when things don’t go as planned.

Developing a strategy is a critical step in planning your year-end fundraising. It provides a clear plan of action, helping ensure that everyone knows what they’re doing and when they’re doing it. With your strategy in place, you’re ready to move on to the next steps in your fundraising journey – crafting your message, creating your assets, launching your campaign, and following up on contributions.

4. Crafting The Message

With your goals, resources, and strategy in place, the next step in planning your year-end fundraising is crafting your campaign message. This is a crucial step as your campaign message serves as the narrative thread that ties everything together. It’s what informs, inspires, and motivates your congregation to donate.

Your campaign message should reflect your church’s mission statement and articulate why your fundraising effort is important. It’s not just about asking for money; it’s about sharing your vision, telling your story, and explaining how their donations will make a difference.

Here are some key elements to consider when crafting your campaign message:

  • Connection to the Church’s Mission: Your campaign message should align with your church’s mission. If your church’s mission is to serve the local community, then your fundraising message could be about how the funds raised will help expand your community service programs.
  • Clarity and Specificity: Be clear and specific about what you’re raising funds for. If it’s for a building renovation, explain why this renovation is necessary and how it will benefit the congregation and community.
  • Impact: Show your potential donors the impact of their donations. If someone gives $50, what will that provide? This could be anything from buying supplies for Sunday school to supporting a family in need.
  • Urgency: Create a sense of urgency. Remind your congregation that the need is now, and their timely contributions can make a significant difference.
  • Inspiration: Inspire your congregation. Share success stories from past fundraisers or testimonies from people who have been helped by your church’s programs.

Remember, people give to causes they resonate with. Therefore, ensure your message connects emotionally with your congregation. Use stories, images, and videos to bring your message to life and make it more relatable.

Crafting your message also involves deciding on the tone and style of your communication. Should it be formal or informal? Will it be written, or will it include videos and images? Consistency in tone and style across all communication channels helps build recognition and trust.

Finally, keep your message simple and straightforward. Your congregation should easily understand what you’re asking for and why. Avoid jargon or complex language that might confuse your audience.

As Paul writes, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Let this guide your messaging. Encourage your congregation to give joyfully and willingly, knowing that their contributions are making a difference.

Crafting a compelling campaign message is a critical step in planning your year-end fundraising. It informs, inspires, and motivates your congregation to donate. With your message ready, you’re set to move on to the next steps in your fundraising journey – creating your assets, launching your campaign, and following up on contributions.

5. Creating Your Assets

Once you’ve crafted your campaign message, the next step in planning your year-end fundraising is creating your assets. These are all the materials and resources you’ll need to communicate your message and run your campaign. By preparing these assets before launching your campaign, you can ensure a smooth and successful rollout.

Assets for your fundraising campaign might include:

  • Fundraising Letters: These are letters sent to your congregation and potential donors asking for donations. The letters should clearly communicate your campaign message and explain how to donate.
  • Follow-up Communications: These are emails, letters, or phone calls made after the initial ask to remind people about the campaign and encourage them to donate if they haven’t already.
  • Videos: Videos can be a powerful way to communicate your campaign message. They could be testimonies from people who have benefited from your church’s programs, updates on the campaign’s progress, or messages from church leaders.
  • On-stage Messaging: These are announcements made during church services about the campaign. They’re an opportunity to remind your congregation about the campaign, share updates, and inspire them to donate. Remember: most pastors aren’t professional fundraisers, create a compelling script for them as a guideline for appeals.
  • Social Media Posts: Social media can be an effective way to reach more people with your campaign message. You could create posts about the campaign for your church’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.
  • Website Updates: Update your church’s website with information about the campaign. This could be a dedicated campaign page with details about the campaign, updates on progress, and a link to donate.

Creating compelling and consistent assets is key to reinforcing your message and driving engagement. Ensure that all your assets align with your campaign message and reflect your church’s mission and values. Use compelling visuals, inspirational stories, and clear calls-to-action to make your assets more engaging.

Creating your assets is a crucial step in planning your year-end fundraising. These assets will help communicate your message, engage your congregation, and drive donations. With your assets ready, you’re set to move on to the next steps in your fundraising journey – launching your campaign and following up on contributions.

6. Launching Your Campaign

With your goals set, strategy developed, message crafted, and assets created, you are now ready to launch your year-end fundraising campaign. This is the moment where all your planning and preparation come into play. It’s time to share your vision with your congregation and invite them to be a part of it.

Start by announcing the campaign to your congregation. This could be done during a church service, through a special event, or via a letter or email. Clearly communicate what the campaign is about, why it’s important, and how they can contribute.

Next, utilize all available channels to spread your message. Here are some channels you might consider:

  • Social Media: Share your campaign on your church’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Regularly post updates, stories, and calls-to-action to keep the campaign at the forefront of your followers’ minds.
  • Newsletters: Include information about your campaign in your church’s newsletters. This could be a feature article about the campaign, updates on progress, or testimonies from people who have already donated.
  • Church Bulletins: Use your weekly church bulletins to remind your congregation about the campaign. You could include a section dedicated to the campaign, featuring updates, donation instructions, and inspiring quotes or scriptures.
  • Website: Update your church’s website with a dedicated campaign page. This page should provide comprehensive information about the campaign, including progress updates, donation instructions, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Remember, consistency is key. Ensure your campaign message is consistent across all channels. This not only reinforces your message but also builds trust with your congregation.

Encourage your congregation to share the campaign with their networks. Word-of-mouth is one of the most effective forms of marketing. By sharing the campaign with their friends, family, and social networks, your congregation can significantly increase its reach.

Launching your campaign is an exciting step in your year-end fundraising journey. It’s when you share your vision with your congregation and invite them to join in. With your campaign launched, you’re ready for the final step in your fundraising journey – following up on contributions.

7. Following Up On Contributions

The final step in planning your year-end fundraising campaign is following up on contributions. This is an often overlooked but crucial part of the process. When you follow up, you show your donors that you appreciate their support and keep them engaged with your church’s mission.

Here are some key things to consider when following up on contributions:

  • Timely Thank Yous: As soon as someone makes a donation, thank them. This could be a simple thank you email, a letter, or a phone call. The sooner you express gratitude, the more appreciated your donors will feel.
  • Donation Receipts: Provide your donors with receipts for their donations. This not only serves as a record of their contribution but also helps them with tax deductions if applicable.
  • Updates on Use of Funds: Regularly provide updates on how the funds raised are being used. Show your donors the difference their donations are making. This could be through newsletters, social media posts, or special events.
  • Future Engagement: Encourage your donors to stay involved with your church. Invite them to church events, volunteer opportunities, or other ways they can continue supporting your mission beyond their financial donation.

Remember, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25). When you show gratitude to your donors and keep them informed about the impact of their donations, you not only honor their generosity but also encourage them to continue supporting your church in the future.

Following up on contributions is a critical step in your year-end fundraising journey. It’s about showing gratitude, keeping your donors engaged, and building lasting relationships with them. With this, you’ve successfully completed your year-end fundraising planning. Now it’s time to put your plan into action and see the fruits of your labor.

Year-end fundraising is a vital part of any church’s financial planning. With clear goals, careful resource assessment, a well-crafted strategy, compelling messaging, prepared assets, an impactful launch, and thoughtful follow-up, your church can maximize its fundraising potential.

Remember, the key to a successful campaign lies not just in the funds raised, but in the engagement and connection it fosters within your congregation. So as you embark on this year-end fundraising journey, remember to keep your mission at the heart of your efforts, and watch the spirit of giving flourish in your community. Here’s to a fruitful year-end fundraising season!


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