Money is needed if churches are going to carry out their ministries, but continually asking for money and encouraging reluctant donors to give can become tiresome.
Why do some people give willingly while others don't? Why does a person give one day and not another?
Don't mention money up front
Obviously, it's important to use Biblical teachings to prepare congregants to give, but there's another type of preparation that you can do in order to increase giving in your church.
Believe it or not, you may need to help your potential givers not think about money. While that sounds counterproductive, studies have shown that when people are primed to think about money, they are actually less likely to give.
This means there is a benefit to first asking someone for something else.
There are a couple of reasons why this is a good idea. First, when people are asked outright for a donation, they are more likely to begin analyzing the pros and cons of giving.
However, when you ask them to do something (like volunteer), they will start thinking about something else (such as their time). This type of thinking leads to more emotional decision-making, which tends to lead people to give, and to give more.
Research shows that givers are more generous to individuals than groups. While this may seem like bad news for your church, it's not.
When asking for a gift, the key is to concentrate on what your church is doing for individuals. The story of an individual has more emotional appeal and motivates people to give.
Remember, while your church helps many people, givers connect and sympathize more with a single person.
This involves more than just citing your position at the church. Think about it: If someone is seeking donations for cancer research, which person would you be more willing to listen to: a woman whose husband died from cancer or the man who quotes statistics about how many people are diagnosed with the illness each year?
Plan giving campaigns that require a little skin in the game
It sounds crazy, but it's true. People tend to be more willing to give money when there is a little work involved. Consider some of the more popular types of giving campaigns — the Ice Bucket Challenge, mud runs, carnivals, bake sales, marathons, etc. These types of events involve an element of fun and can create a more joyful giving experience, but the psychology of their success goes much deeper. People like to work for what they are giving.
When you need more money for a specific ministry within your church, you may want to consider one of these types of fundraisers. But, remember, they also come with certain expenses. Make sure to count the cost as well as the potential gain to determine if it's worth it.
Understanding the psychology of giving isn't about manipulating your congregation; it is about helping present the needs of your ministry in the most effective manner. Keep these suggestions in mind and perhaps it will increase the chances that today will be the day givers say "yes."
Tricia Brown, freelance writer and editor, United Methodist Communications
United Methodist Church Giving is about people working together to accomplish something bigger than themselves. In so doing, we effect change around the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ. To read stories about the generosity of United Methodists click here.