How Healthy Is Your Generosity Culture?
5 Uncommon Giving Metrics That Reveal A Deeper Story
How healthy is your giving culture… really? If your church is like most churches, you probably think your giving culture is pretty healthy as long as income is stable or growing, expenses are less than income, and the bills are being paid on time.
But let’s make a quick distinction: Having a healthy culture of giving and generosity is more than just being financially stable.
Here’s how you know this. There are people who attend your church every week who are financially stable, but not living generous lives. You’re probably thinking of a specific person right now. Doesn’t this frustrate you, pastor? If we are frustrated with congregants who are not cultivating generosity in their personal lives, then why do we settle for doing the same in the churches we lead? Even more, while the outward signs of the church's finances may be positive (income is growing), if there are deeper unhealthy issues that are never addressed, eventually they will come to the surface, resulting in decreased mission impact.
So then, is your giving culture truly healthy and thriving? Or are you just financially stable? The answer to that question often lies in what you choose to measure.
What you measure matters because you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Understanding key metrics helps you assess where you are and develop strategies to improve. It’s hard to know how to grow if you don’t know what the actual problem is!
So if measuring income and expenses alone is not enough, what giving metrics should churches be measuring?
Here are 5 uncommon metrics that reveal a deeper story about your culture of generosity.
Almost every church counts the number of guests that walk through the doors each year. Beyond that, many churches spend a significant amount of time, energy, and resources helping to assimilate new people into the life of their church. Yet when it comes to those who give to the church for the first time, few churches count the number of new givers they have each year.
How many new givers did your church have last year? What about the year before? More importantly, how did you help disciple them into their giving journey?
For example, when someone gives to your church for the first time, what happens? In most cases, the answer is either a) nothing, or b) they are emailed a document that looks like a transaction receipt that was automatically generated. This does nothing to account for the significant step the giver has taken to give for the first time! Tracking new givers and building systems to disciple them is paramount to a healthy culture of generosity.
- Second Time Givers:
Measuring first-time givers is a great first step. It’s one that many church giving platforms are even doing automatically for you now. Even better is to monitor second-time givers. There are 2 reasons for this:
- You may receive a gift from someone “passing through” (a family member of a congregant attends the church on a holiday, an out-of-town vacationer visits once in the summer, etc.). If you only count new givers, you may not have an accurate picture of how many people are actually beginning their generosity journey at your church.
- Tracking second-time givers helps you measure the effectiveness of your first-time giver systems. Do givers feel appreciated by your follow-up from their first gift? Do they understand the impact their gift is making in your ministry? Were givers given a clear next step on their generosity journey after they gave for the first time? Are people giving out of a one-time emotional response, or are they beginning to understand true stewardship and generosity? Measuring second-time givers helps you answer these questions accurately.
A second gift often indicates an intention of establishing roots at the church. They are deepening their relationship with your church. They are connecting with your mission and vision. This is a great opportunity to connect them to your Groups pastor. Introduce them to different serving opportunities if they aren’t already plugged in.
How many first-time givers became second-time givers last year? Are your first-time giver systems truly effective at helping people make a second gift?
- Lapsed Givers:
What is a lapsed giver? A lapsed giver is someone who previously gave consistently but has recently stopped giving. Measuring lapsed givers often reveals underlying personal issues going on in their lives that create a pastoral opportunity for the church. They may be experiencing stress in their marriage. They may have just received a significant health diagnosis. They may have recently been hurt or become dissatisfied with the church. Measuring lapsed givers can reveal some incredible pastoral opportunities.
So what does your church do if a consistent giver suddenly stops or significantly changes their giving amount or frequency? Identifying the reason they’ve stopped giving is crucial. *HINT - This is not a conversation about their giving*. This is an opportunity to shepherd your people. Even better, developing a system to identify a giver at risk for lapsing can help to retain givers you might lose otherwise.
So, how many lapsed givers did you have last year? What about the year before? What steps might you take when a lapsing giver appears on your radar? (We can help with that last one!)
- New Givers vs Lapsed Givers:
This metric helps you forecast if the number of total givers in your church will grow or shrink in the future. The calculation here is simple. Did you have more new givers than lapsed givers last year? What about dollar amounts- Did you have more income from new givers than you lost from lapsed givers? Typically it takes 1.5 - 2 new givers to account for 1 lapsed giver.
It’s not uncommon to see a church’s total income grow year over year while simultaneously seeing the total number of givers decrease. In fact, this is a common reality from the past two years. For many churches, income remained stable or even grew during the pandemic. Yet most churches have fewer total givers now than in 2019. This is, in many ways, a result of the great church reshuffle, but what if this trend continues? Church leaders may fall prey to the trap of paying attention only to the bottom line of income, while their giving base slowly declines year over year.
- Giving Bands/Giving Concentration:
One of the problems with only measuring bottom-line dollars is that it neglects the most important responsibility of the church when it comes to their people and finances - Discipleship! Are people growing in their giving and generosity journey? How can you tell? One way is by measuring giving bands. A giving band is simply identifying a segment of givers within a certain dollar amount given per year. Ex) Total number of families that gave less than $500/year.
The goal here is to see where your giving actually comes from, and what opportunities for discipleship exist. For example, a common finding from studying church’s giving bands is that half of giving units in the church typically contribute more than $500/annually, while the other half of giving units contribute less than $500/annually. This does not even account for those who attend the church, but gives nothing at all. I think we’d all agree that if 50% of the families that give in our church are contributing less than $500/annually, there is likely an opportunity for discipleship and increased funding!
At Generis, we believe a change in giving is often a spiritual change. Are you discipling people to grow in their giving?
A healthy culture of giving and generosity not only funds the vision, but it also disciples people in their giving journey. It invites everyone to consider their next step on the giving journey, whether that step is to begin giving for the first time or to give more than they’ve ever given before. A healthy culture of generosity stewards current givers well by inspiring, caring, thanking, and pastoring them. Measuring income and expenses alone does not tell the whole story.
If you’ve never accounted for these metrics before, it’s not too late to start. Begin by measuring these metrics to establish benchmarks, and compare next year’s results to this year. Did you show improvement or did you regress? If you grew, what worked well? If you regressed, what needs to change in order to grow?
If you would like to gain clarity on your church’s giving health right now, Generis has created the Generosity Pulse Report just for that purpose. The Generosity Pulse Report will take your giving data and create clarity around your current culture of giving, reveal trends in giving over the past three years, and identify opportunities to grow your people that will fully fund your vision in greater ways. Click here for a complimentary Generosity Pulse Report for your church.