Do You Know How To Treat Your Major Donors?
Discipleship is at the heart of the church. It’s all about helping people take steps towards God, and those include financial steps. Part of leading a financially healthy church is first leading your people to be financially healthy—even your biggest givers and wealthiest families.
If you’re like most pastors, there’s a part of reaching out to your biggest givers that sounds a little uncomfortable. Perhaps you have concerns because you don’t want to treat people differently based on what they have or what they can do for your church. And if we’re being honest, that’s probably a good thing! It means that your motives are in the right place. It means that you don’t want to take advantage of people and use them to fund your dreams. It means that you care about pastoring people more than you care about taking their money.
Keeping your motives in check is important. It’s something you must continually address. You have to guard your heart, especially when it comes to developing high-potential givers.
The truth is, when it comes to big givers you usually have about three options:
1. Ignore them.
A lot of pastors do this because they’re afraid to treat people differently based on their financial position. They don’t want a church where favoritism is shown and people with more wealth are given better opportunities. Some pastors, in fact, choose to not know what people give so they don’t think of them in a different light. All of that is based on the right motivation. And while it’s admirable and acceptable, it may not always be wise. You end up worrying so much about not showing favor to those big givers that you inadvertently end up showing them no attention at all.
2. Use them.
The flipside of ignoring people is using them. Some people who maximize high-capacity givers only develop relationships with them because of their money. They become a means to an end. If you had to choose one of the top two options, it’s better to ignore them than use them. High-capacity givers are human beings, not pieces of paper. Using people to accomplish your own purpose is never a good thing.
3. Develop them.
This is the option we like best. Just like you’d develop someone with the gift of leadership. Just like you’d help a young person cultivate his or her talent. Just like you’d provide opportunities for volunteers who are good with children or teenagers, you have the same ability to nurture someone who has the capacity to give generously.
Developing people is about relationships. Your mission should be to add value to their lives. It’s an issue of discipleship—helping them follow Jesus with their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Developing high-capacity givers is also a stewardship issue. As a leader, you’ve been entrusted with a group of people to pastor. You’ve been called to shepherd a flock. Developing individuals is a big part of that—engaging their talents, gifts, passions, and personality. That is spiritual leadership.
Just like you’d create a specific path for someone who wanted to learn about Jesus, get baptized, join a Bible study, or become a member, you should have a specific plan for developing high-capacity donors.
Why? Because like everyone in your church these people need shepherding. When you understand a little more about what makes them tick, you’ll be in a better position to pastor them.
High-capacity givers are often lonely. Having money isn't the same as having friends. Some of the loneliest people in the world have a lot of money. Just because someone holds a lot of financial responsibility doesn’t mean they have a lot of relational success. As a pastor, you have the opportunity to be a friend, which is something these people desperately need. Find ways to develop authentic connections with your high-capacity givers so that you can lead them just as you would other members of your church.
High-capacity givers are often feel used for their money. Remember the story of The Prodigal Son? When he received his inheritance and ran away, he was suddenly surrounded by a new group of "friends." But when the money ran out, so did his friends. People with money often feel appreciated solely because of what they can do or buy. They feel used because they usually are used.
As a pastor, you have the opportunity to love people for who they are, not what they have. You can tell these people that they’re worth something because of who they are in Christ, not because of what they have in the bank. And that’s something everyone needs to hear!
High-capacity givers don't trust people easily. Because people with money often feel like means to an end, they’re naturally suspicious. When they meet people, they wonder about their motives. They often put up walls and remain guarded. This same lack of trust is extended to the church, which is why so many wealthy people are skeptical of organized religion. In the same way that friends and family members have sought their money, so has the church. And often, not trusting the church equals not trusting God.
You have the unique opportunity as a pastor to show your biggest givers that you as a church leader are trustworthy. The way you model what authentic Christianity looks like for them will help break down barriers of distrust that may have been built towards the church in the past.
Developing donors isn’t a sin. In fact, it’s a form of discipleship. It’s often the thing that helps churches—and wealthy individuals—go to the next level. Take time this week to find new ways to reach out to, get to know, and develop your biggest donors. It will be an investment worth making!