When it comes to being fully funded, your 4th quarter will determine if you win or lose.  As we approach the start of another season of football we will once again see the importance of the fourth quarter.  How many games were won and lost in the 4th quarter last year?  If you are an Alabama fan or an Atlanta Falcon fan you know the impact of a bad fourth quarter.  Often a game is lost in the last 2 minutes.  Just as a football team can lose the game in the final quarter and seconds your church can miss making budget with a bad fourth quarter.

Successful teams operate an effective 2 minute drill practicing it over and over again and again until they have a clear plan of action.  Most churches lose the budget battle in the fourth quarter as a result of poor planning or no planning at all!

Here is my advice about how to plan out an effective fourth quarter raising your possibility of being fully funded this year.

First, start by ending the third quarter on a high note.  You build a good plan for the fourth quarter upon the platform you have built with the three quarters before.  To win a team cannot be so far behind that the players are discouraged.  If you find yourself behind budget coming out of summer you need to work on closing that gap now.  Don’t wait until December.  You might find yourself too far back to ever close the gap.

Next, start thinking and planning for the fourth quarter and end of year giving NOW!  Churches are terrible at planning ahead.  Pastors get caught up in the Tyranny of the Urgent.  Stewardship planning gets pushed to the back burner.  Like a college term paper, the more time you give to putting it together the easier it is.

Need drives ask.  That is one of my principle rules of thumb when it comes to end of year giving.  Let me illustrate.  A current client of mine is in the final year of a capital campaign.  Recently as we reviewed their midyear giving we determined that giving to the operating budget was ahead of last year.  At the same time the capital campaign giving was falling a bit behind.  Thus our end of year plan is to focus upon the capital campaign.  So, the greatest need gets the ask.  As you move into the last quarter of the year you need to determine what area needs more dollars and thus more attention.

Vision driven asks gain more dollars.  “Hey, help us make up our budget deficit,” is not a vision ask.  “I cannot let that woman die… So, let’s give to build birthing centers to save them.”  That is an appealing appeal.  You need to start now creating the vision behind your end of year appeal.  Even if you are asking to close the budget gap make it about people not about reaching a dollar amount.  Vision drives dollars!

Put a face on the vision.  Go look at various charities websites.  They are filled with pictures that tell a story of need.  You have amazing pictures of changed lives.  Use those to tell a story of need thus giving you a more personalized appeal.

Specific asks gets more dollars than general asks.  Giving people four or five things to give to waters down the appeal.  Asking for one specific thing is the best way to generate dollars.  The exception is if you are taking up one Christmas offering but dividing up where the money goes.  It is one offering supporting many ministries but still one specific ask.

Get a plan and work your plan.  The best end of year strategies are planned out.  You need to think of your end of year giving appeals as a small mini campaign.  My, “The Two Minute Drill: A Winning Plan of Action for End of Year Giving,” gives you all the plans and materials you need.  I will be updating it for 2017 soon and will make it available at our “store,” or you can sign up for Giving365 and get it free.

The more time you give to the process the better the results.  That is why I want you to start thinking about end of year giving now.

Ask, then ask again.  Then keep asking!  End of year giving plans are not simply about one letter, one email and one offering.  You need to continually make your appeal and ask over time and through multiple channels.  Fund raisers will tell you that it takes several touches to gain a donation.  So, don’t think this is a one off type of approach IF you really want to raise maximum dollars.  My end of year giving plans start the first of November and run through December 31st!

Get started NOW putting together your two minute drill and fourth quarter plans!  Remember, I can help you with that!

Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach