How to Increase Donations from New or First Time Donors


We are rapidly advancing in this digital age. Mobile phones have replaced landlines. Credit cards have replaced cash. Email has replaced the Postal Service.

And we’ll continue to change. Changes in culture lead to changes in the church. Lyrics on a screen have replaced a hymnal in a pew. The weekly email has replaced the monthly newsletter. Giving kiosks are replacing passing the plate.

But slow down. Not so fast.

A friend of ours recently conducted an informal poll in his church. Turns out that 90% of those who responded to the question interacted with God’s Word via a traditional Bible instead of an e-reader or website. When it comes to The Good Book, the old school page was more popular than the app.

A lot of people may download a Bible reader on their smartphone, but the leather-bound version is still popular.

In your quest to modernize, don’t leave behind people who haven’t embraced technology. Yes, you can intentionally move people to online, recurring giving. Yes, you should give people the convenience of donating via credit or debit cards. But in your journey towards better efficiency aided by technology, you must not leave behind the majority of your people.

People still give when the buckets are passed in church. In fact, personal donations through a passed plate are still the #1 source of income for churches in the United States.

While online giving is becoming more and more popular, and kiosk giving is a great option, passing the plate is still the most popular way churches connect with donors.

Offering envelopes can take what’s already working in your church and make it more effective. It’s smart to emphasize online giving. (We put together a resource to help you do it.) It’s wise to consider adding a giving kiosk to your facility. (Yep, there’s a resource for that, too.) But maybe you need to go old school and use offering envelopes. (You’re reading the resource on this!)

1. They will help you collect information from first time givers.

Many first time gifts are cash donations, and when they give cash via an offering envelope, you’ll have opportunity to follow up. Cash might not be a significant percentage of your total offer-ing, but guests and new attendees often give cash donations. You can’t follow up with people if you don’t know who they are. Offering envelopes are a great way to obtain name and address information from first time givers, so you can say thanks.

2. They provide privacy to the donors.

Envelopes provide the opportunity for peo-ple to give their donation privately. They can enclose a check or some cash and drop it in the plate without worrying about their neighbor looking over their shoulder to see how much they give.

3. An offering sets an expectation.

It’s a call to action. In fact, it’s a very clear call to action. It may sound graceful to tell guests who attend your service you don’t want them to give, but this isn’t honest. You DO want people to give. You might not want them to feel guilt or obligation, but you DO want them to participate in the offering. Many people won’t give until they are asked to give. If you want people to support the mission and vision of your church, ask them and give them an opportunity.

4. Major non-profit organizations like World Vision, Compassion, Samaritans Purse and The Salvation Army use offering envelopes.

These organizations depend on private donations to operate. We’re not suggesting that you copy any and all effective tactics, but it’s wise to learn from those who are successful in similar areas. There’s a reason large non-profits like these send envelopes along with their update letters. You might think offering envelopes are old school, but old school can be effective. Just because First United Baptist Church of Your Childhood abused the system and sent numbered envelopes to everyone who attended a Christmas candlelight service doesn’t mean envelopes are inherently evil. There’s a wrong way and a right way to use offering envelopes.

Ever thought about the best way to THANK, and therefore encourage new donors to keep on giving? In, hopefully, a recurring way? Well, this is a great idea.