The differences between managing finances and managing donors


Many churches struggle when it comes to effectively cultivating a relationship with givers. While some rely on a biblical mandate, others simply don’t have the training or experience to create a system for cultivating generosity within their church. Over past few years, we’ve started to see the impact that’s being made by a church’s inability to manage donors effectively.

Before joining Church Community Builder, I worked in the ‘donor management’ world. By working with nonprofits across the country, I quickly learned that the successful ones had created a system for managing their finances and their donors separately.

Realizing that donors represented their lifeblood, these nonprofits would have entire development departments that would spend valuable time and resources learning about their donors, taking care of them, and communicating with them in relevant ways. At the same time, they would let CPAs manage the finances.

This is where churches differ from other nonprofits. The typical church only emphasizes the financial aspect of their church giving efforts and forgets about the ‘donor’ angle. Here are a few examples:

  • Churches pay thousands of dollars to have their finances managed, but don’t invest a single penny in engaging members to give more.
  • Every conversation revolves around meeting the budget rather than cultivating generosity.
  • The church stewardship committee spends 100 percent of their time crunching numbers rather than taking time to cultivate stories that will inspire people to give.
  • Churches have CPAs make decisions about church management systems based on whether accounting tools are included rather than whether the system will help the church steward the donor.
  • The person who manages the bills and payroll also manages the donor records.

Keeping finances and donor management separate gives churches accountability for managing their finances. Creating a separation between managing finances and managing donors not only provides accountability, it also helps the church care for the donor better. And that, by the way, impacts the finances. Most churches absorb ‘donor management’ into the role of the financial manager, but if there’s one thing we can learn from other nonprofits achieving success, it’s that they need to be separate.

How do you separate financial management and donor management? How has it paid off in your church’s financial success?

Topics: This entry was posted in Leadership Roles, This entry was posted in Administrative Support, This entry was posted in Blog, This entry was posted in Executive Pastor, This entry was posted in Finance & Generosity

Posted by Steve Caton on May 29, 2013