What kinds of contributors do you have?

I’ve been thinking more about what I wrote in my last entry–why do people give to your ministry?  I view it as an important question to ask in order to understand how to approach them when it comes to raising funds.  But I want to look at the income picture in a different way this time around.  But I want to preface what I’m going to say by first explaining what we want to do and then provide a caveat.

What we ultimately want to do from a financial perspective is to group donors into pools that allow us to budget how much giving is coming in.  I know this sounds impersonal, but I believe God gave us minds for applying wisdom, and being able to estimate how much income we’ll have based on givers and typical giving is part of the game.  So this is why we want to do this exercise.

But I also urge caution when discussing people and money.  It’s so easy to make assumptions about how much people have, what their circumstances are, and what they should or should not be giving.  Money and identity are loaded topics, and I don’t want myself or anyone else caught in a trap of setting expectations for what a person should or should not be giving.  It’s ultimately up to God to judge where each person’s heart is regarding their material gifts.

It is with this background that I’m going to suggest that there are three types of givers.

First, we have the investors.  These are people who give because they see special opportunity in the ministry and want to advance it.   These might be people inside or outside the church.  Whatever it is, they give a significant amount of money, and possibly even discuss how it should be used.

Second, we have the sustainers.  These are people who give regularly in large enough amounts to carry the ministry.  In some ways these are the financial backbone of the ministry, because the ministry can depend on their gifts to support it as long as the individual or family is associated with the ministry.

Finally, we have the tippers.  These are people who give token amounts of money to the ministry.  Now, I’m going to suggest that not everyone who gives a small amount of money to the ministry is a tipper.  The lesson of the widow’s mite tells us that there will be people giving as much as they can, but it will be small.  They will be small sustainers.  And conversely there may be very wealthy people giving a small fraction of their income that are tipping.  But for purposes of budgeting we’ll have to lump small givers together, regardless of their generousity.

With these categories, we can do some basic income budgeting:
1 investory @ $100,000 / year
5 investors @ $25,000 / year = $125,000
100 sustainers averaging $7,500 / year = $750,000
100 tippers averaging $100 / year = 10,000
Total = $985,000

I should mention, in wrapping up, that there are other options for budgeting too: getting more granular by looking at individual donors or looking at trends come to mind.  From a back-of-the-envelope viewpoint though, this is a great way to get started.

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