by Jac La Tour
If you’re like me, you may feel like department stores jump the gun with all the Christmas carols and poinsettias appearing long before we carve the Thanksgiving turkey. In ministry, though, you know that preparing for the Christmas season starts long before December. And as you plan your pageants and programs, there’s one more good reason to think about December now: year-end giving.
Along with mistletoe and glad tidings, the end of the year typically brings a pretty significant increase in giving. In fact, a recent ECCU survey revealed that over 63 percent of ministries receive between 25 and 35 percent of their total annual donations in the month of December.
While many ministries simply hope for such a jump in giving, a little planning can actually help your ministry meet its year-end giving goals.
I asked Christopher Hernandez, an ECCU ministry solutions consultant, for his input on how you can prepare for year-end giving. His number one recommendation? Communicate.
“The more donors hear from ministry leadership, the better,” Hernandez says. “If your church is ten percent behind budget, notify your congregation now and allow church members to plan ahead. Many people make plans for their tax write-offs now; make sure they have an accurate picture of the needs in your ministry.”
Hernandez also advises ministries to remember that past performance is not always indicative of future results. If tithing was down (or up) last year, it may not be an accurate reflection of what will happen this year, which is one more reason to communicate with your donors.
So, you’ve communicated the need. Now what? “Consider opening an account specifically for the surplus received at year-end giving,” Hernandez suggests. Most ministries use that surplus to play catch-up for the year and pay down debt. A better approach is to evaluate your budget, make the necessary changes, and use year-end giving to meet the following year’s expenses. Opening an account designated for year-end giving can help you use these funds for future planning rather than playing catch-up.
“ECCU’s Year-End Giving Maximizer account allows ministries to deposit funds in the months when surplus is coming in and withdraw when they experience downfalls in giving—like during the summer,” says Hernandez.
So, enjoy your holiday planning. Prepare for year-end giving by communicating needs and opening a specific account for those funds. And, just maybe, start humming a Christmas carol or two.