Tips for Helping Major Donors Give Generously in Your Church

What does this mean for you, Pastor, as the chief fundraiser in your church? (Pixabay)

Have you ever put yourself in the shoes of the big givers in your church?

What's it like for them?

I came across an interesting statistic the other day that shows the importance of major donors. In organizations, 80 percent of charitable giving is done by 20 percent of people. It edges up even higher: 90 percent is given by 10 percent.

What does that mean for you, Pastor, as the chief fundraiser in your church?

Well, I think it means that you need to stand alongside the big givers—the major donors—as they deploy the resources God has given them. They need friendship and wisdom to live out their spiritual gift of giving and to use their resources to honor God.

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And you need major donors to stand alongside you to provide resources your church needs to be light and salt in your community.

You may be feeling all kinds of uncomfortable about pursuing relationships with major donors in your church.

You may be thinking:

  • That's God's job.
  • I shouldn't play favorites.
  • I don't even like to talk about money because people leave the church when I do.
  • What people give isn't my business.

Right. Right. And not so right.

Yes, your church's finances are God's responsibility, not your worry. And you should not show favor to the big givers. You know what James says about favoritism in the first half of James 2.

But you need to talk about money—even if you don't like to—if you want your church to have the resources it needs to function. And what people give is your business because it reveals their growing maturity in Christ and their commitment to your church.

Everyone in your church needs the discipleship that comes from giving and to step up to the spiritual discipline of tithing.

Major Donors Need More

For some, though, it's bigger. Giving is their spiritual gift. And God has given them money to meaningfully share with others.

You know Romans 12—different gifts, different ministry:

"We have diverse gifts according to the grace that is given to us: if prophecy, according to the proportion of faith; if service, in serving; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with generosity; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness" (Rom. 12:6-8).

Don't show favoritism when you work with major donors. Just help them live out their spiritual gifts by giving generously to accomplish the ministry that God intends in your church.

Don't be afraid of showing favoritism. Don't be afraid of being criticized for being friends with people who are major donors.

Just watch your motives. Just help them grow.

4 Steps to Major Donor Giving

Major donors are important players in the kingdom ministry God intends to do through your church.

Master these four steps to become good at partnering with major donors. You'll succeed in your job as the chief fundraiser and get that financial monkey off your back.

  • Identify the major donors in your church.
  • Cast vision with them for what God can do through them.
  • Ask them to participate significantly in your church's ministry.
  • Show appreciation and cultivate ongoing generosity.

Simple, right?

1. Have a vision for ministry.

Your vision for ministry at your church and in your community is a prerequisite for gifts from major donors. People who have enough money to be major donors spend their money wisely. They expect a purpose and a plan that is solid.

Here are some questions to ask as you consider if your vision for ministry is enough to attract gifts from major donors:

  • How will we expand ministry? What will we do that is new?
  • How will we preach the gospel and lead people to Jesus?
  • How will we reach into our community in more effective ways?

You want to attract major donors who are looking to give to evangelism and outreach, so be sure you have plans for reaching out, serving others and sharing the gospel in your budget.

Major donors also like to give to facilities and to jump-start new staff.

We're doing a project right now to build a play structure inside our building. We decided not to have another capital campaign but instead to develop some streams of income from our building. I'm working with major donors to fund the purchase and installation of the play structure. I'm hoping to see the revenue generated by the play structure go into our general budget from Day One.

2. Identify major donors in your church.

Here's a few questions to get you started as you think about potential major donors in your church:

  • What's a major financial gift in your mind?
  • Who in your church gives major gifts regularly?
  • Who has given a major gift once?
  • Who do you know who owns a business, has property or is a professional?

You may want to assume that the family in the new neighborhood of mini-mansions has money, and they may, or they may be living at the edge of their means and have more debt than disposable income.

You may overlook the farmer in the old Chevy, but he might be the millionaire next door, particularly if new development has edged up to his farm.

Also consider major donors who have moved away. They still may be interested in building up their former church.

Do your research, then make a list of your top 10 donors and the next 25.

3. Ask them to participate significantly in your church's ministry.

More often than you would want to know, major donors tip their churches and give their significant gifts to para-church organizations. They give a fraction of what they are able to give to their church because they don't have a reason to give more. And they haven't been asked.

Patrick McLaughlin is the founder and president of The Timothy Group, a development group for Christian organizations. I recommend his book, Major Donor Game Plan.

Here's how Pat says to ask major donors to participate in a project:

  • Call to make an appointment. Don't ask for their gift over the phone. Don't send a letter in the mail. And certainly don't just make asks from the pulpit. Direct mail has a 1-5% response rate; a phone call is 30%. A personal ask has a 75% success rate.
  • Set up a time when both spouses can be present. Find a time that is convenient for them.
  • No surprises, let them know that you are coming to talk about the project, who is coming with you and how long you will stay.
  • If they invite you into the living room to sit on their soft couches, ask if you can sit at the kitchen or dining room table instead.
  • Tell them about the need, it's importance and your plan for using the money.
  • Show that you value their time by presenting the information about the giving opportunity in 30 minutes.
  •  Be friendly, polite and trust them to make the right decision with their money. Ask yourself how you would like to be asked for a gift and do that.
  • After the presentation is done, you can stay if they invite you. Otherwise, thank them for their time and confirm when you'll follow up with them.
  • Follow up with them at the agreed time to hear their commitment decision.

4. Show your appreciation, stay in community and continue to build your relationship.

Start by saying thank you. And then say thank you a few more times.

  • Thank them when they tell you about the gift.
  • Send a thank you note.
  • Thank them later, by having someone directly affected by the donation send a thank you note.
  • Forward the email story you get that came as a result of their donation.
  • Later, in person, tell them what was accomplished through their gift.

Have their cell number in your phone and use it. Do life together as fellow servants of God.

Give them more opportunities to fund ministry through your church. One donation is not the end of it. You should have an ongoing relationship where the generous giver is pleased to support the ministry of your church.

What's Next?

  1. Get Patrick McLaughlin's book Major Donor Game Plan. Get copies for others, too.
  2. Get the free download so it's easy to remember how to ask major donors to give.
  3. Ask Jesus how He wants you to apply what you've just learned.

Hal Seed is the founding and lead pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. He mentors pastors who want to lead healthy, growing churches with resources at

This article originally appeared at

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