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12 Best Donor Management Software Comparison

To run a successful organization that depends on donations, it’s important that you have an excellent system to organize your work. You’ll need to manage a donor database, on-board new donors efficiently, store donation forms, run social media campaigns, and generally streamline your fundraiser processes. Without the right software and campaign management tools in the form of donor management software, this can be a challenging undertaking.

Donor management software is like customer relationship management (CRM) software; only it’s for non-profits. The software is essential for large and small not-for-profit businesses that want to run non-profit CRM, donor communication, event registration, outreach, and other fundraising efforts.

In this article, we look at the best donor management software on the market today. Keep reading to discover how you can use contemporary tools to manage your donor engagement and donor membership management. 

The Best Donor Management Software List

Below is our selection of the 12 best donor management software for fundraising campaigns, peer fundraising, managing direct mail with donors, storing donor information, and maintaining the donor base at the levels you want.

  1. Kindful
  2. Aplos
  3. Salesforce for Non-Profit
  4. Blackbaud
  5. Donorperfect
  6. Bloomerang
  7. Salsa Labs
  8. Little Green Light 
  9. Servant Keeper
  10. Donor Tools
  11. Church Community Builder
  12. Virtuous CRM

Donor Management Software FAQs

Before I look at the best donor management software in our list, let’s start by looking at some of the main questions I often encounter when talking about donor management tools that can help non-profit teams run some of the best fundraising events.

What is Donor Management Software?

Donor management software is a kind of computer program that assists teams in non-profit organizations involved in fundraising understand and take maximum advantage of their relationships with donors. These programs assist organizers in managing donor data and analyzing the data to ensure that donors keep funding projects.

Donor management software helps teams automate processes and manage workflows better. The technology ensures that processes that would take days when done by hand can be done in real-time in seconds. The software accomplishes this by providing user-friendly templates that can be customized for different campaigns.

Data gathered by these tools allows organizations to segment and sort both potential and current donors. This makes it possible to operate strategically and apply different approaches for diverse donors. This data includes donor behaviors and financial capacity, thus providing non-profit organizations with specific, actionable takeaways and fundraising strategies.

Why is Donation Management Software Important for NGO Teams?

Donor management software helps non-profit organizations run their processes more efficiently in a coordinated way. It makes tasks that would have taken hours, if not days, easily accomplished in minutes, if not seconds. It reduces the workload of staff members and frees up more time to concentrate on finding more donors.

The software helps organizations to put in place systems that improve relationships between the donor and the non-profit organization by building trust through secure transactions. The donation tool makes it possible for donors to share their personal and financial information without worrying that this will compromise their security. 

Analysis of the donor data acquired can be used to segment the donors. Based on their experiences, messaging and support can be personalized.

What Should Non-Profits Look for in a Donation Management Software Tool?

When you’ve decided on getting software for your non-profit, there are several elements you should consider: the capacity or member size the tool can handle, how easy the tool is to use, and the type of support you can expect from its developers or vendors. 

Find out the essential features that help you know who your donors are, how much they donate, the times they are likely to donate, and whether the donors have seen your correspondence. You also need to consider whether the software will assist you in monitoring donor retention.

The best way to get a grasp of each tool’s features is to ask for a demonstration. Check how many users can have accounts, as well as their access levels.

Testimonials are essential to the selection process. Reach out to the fundraising tool’s previous and current clientele to get real, unbiased, and independent user feedback.

Donation Management Software Comparison Criteria

To search for the best donation management software for non-profits, I use the following criteria: 

  1. User Interface (UI) and Functionality: Is it clean and attractive? Does the software solution come with more functionality than others? 
  2. Usability and Reliability: Is it easy to learn and master? Does the software offer good tech support, user support, tutorials, and training? Will it have mandatory upgrades to improve online fundraising processes and security?
  3. Integration with Other Tools: Does the software integrate with other tools, such as church management tools, non-profit management software, accounting software, and others?
  4. Efficiency: Does the software make teams more efficient through the consolidation of systems?
  5. Metrics and Analytics: Will the software assist the user in managing and analyzing donor data?
  6. Value for $: How appropriate is the price for the features, capabilities, and use cases? Is pricing clear, transparent, and flexible?

Donation Management Software Key Features

Below are some of the most critical features that software delivering donor management solutions should have:

Tracking Donation History

Donor management software should help teams track all volunteers, donors, and event attendees in one place. An important feature for monitoring fundraising campaigns and activities of the non-profit is the ability to provide a history of donors.  

Email Marketing

In donation management, communication is vital. Therefore, it is important that you consider if the fundraising software you want will allow for automated email marketing. This can help maintain and improve the donor list and donor retention because your projects remain in the donors’ minds. Also, donors want news about what their donations are being used for.

Reporting and Tracking

It is important to track all your activities to determine areas that are working and those that need improvement. Reports should tell you which campaigns are raising the most money, which campaigns lead to the most engagements, and which donors are donating to each campaign.

The ability to produce automated custom reports is also a feature that allows you to define the report you wish to have and when to get it for quick reviews of trends.

Process Automation

Process automation improves the efficiency of your organization. Some of the features you will find in the leading donation management software include creating personalized emails, receipts, and statements. All this can help to create a positive relationship with the donor community.

Online Donation Portal and Recurring Giving

Software Advice, an online resource for software buyers, carried out a study that showed that 20% of shoppers considered an online donation portal a “must-have” feature for organizations that want donations. Online donation portals allow donors to select how often they make donations and set recurring donations as well. They also allow donors to make donations as they make purchases. 

Event Planning and Project Management

For most non-profit organizations, event management is an inevitable task. Therefore, the right software should allow non-profits and their teams to put their focus where it is required: attracting more donations. They can work with a greater number of donors across different fundraising campaigns and events.

The software should also allow teams to collaborate across campaigns and get an idea of what the workflow looks like. This will ensure that projects are completed within budget and planned timelines. The project management feature also allows team members to get an idea of where each campaign is in the pipeline. 

Overviews of the 10 Best Donor Management Software

Here’s a brief description of each of the donor management software on my list, showing what it does best, plus screenshots to showcase some of the features.

1. Kindful – Best donor management software for donor relationship building

Screenshot Of Kindful
Kindful keeps track of recent transactions and donations from donors.

Kindful is donor management software that focuses on building relationships with donors. It offers fundraising, donor management, and communication tools. The software also comes with tracking and reporting tools. 

Pricing for Kindful starts at $100 per month.

Pros

  • Excellent and timely customer service
  • Scalable and focuses on helping non-profits grow
  • Supports unlimited donation pages per account with numerous page designs and customization

Cons

  • Takes a while to learn and get around
  • Pricey for small non-profits with inconsistent income
  • Report design options are limited and lack customization

2. Aplos – Best software for donor management accounting 

Screenshot Of Aplos
Track cash balance and net income over time.

Aplos is a software that assists non-profits or churches in getting a grasp on their accounting. Other features provided by the software include donor or member management and communication, automatic tracking of gifts and recurring donations, fundraising tools, and much more.

Pricing for Aplos starts at $59 per month. 

Pros

  • Intuitive and easy to use
  • Specifically built to help non-profits or churches manage their accounting
  • Great all-round solutions for donor management

Cons

  • Facility management is not available
  • Uses Gusto, a third-party business, to maintain payroll
  • Not responsive on mobile devices

3. Salesforce for Non-Profit – Best donor management software for non-profits

Screenshot Of Salesforce For Non-Profit
Salesforce for Non-Profit offers a donations dashboard that breaks down donations by month, program, and other metrics.

Salesforce’s Non-Profit Cloud unites constituents and organizations. The software promises to help “build and maintain trusted and lasting relationships with supporters and beneficiaries by delivering the experiences they need in changing times.” 

Salesforce for Non-Profit is designed mainly to cater to the needs of non-profits, educational institutions, and foundations that provide grants. 

Salesforce for Non-Profit pricing starts at $48 per user per month.

Pros

  • Easy to use 
  • Great customer service 
  • Customizable reports that help filter out unwanted data

Cons

  • Too many functionalities make it challenging to get around in the beginning
  • Report generation can take a while
  • Poor integration with mobile platforms

4. Blackbaud – Best donor management software for data and analytics 

Screenshot Of Blackbaud
Record donor information, donation history, and transaction history.

Built by Microsoft Azure, Blackbaud is designed to meet the marketing and fundraising needs of non-profits. It provides excellent insight via its data intelligence.

Blackbaud pricing is available upon request.

Pros

  • Mobile responsive
  • Great with records generation
  • Comprehensive in terms of features

Cons

  • Takes a while to get accustomed to
  • Poor customer support
  • Expensive for small non-profits

5. Donorperfect – Best for donor segmentation and communication 

Screenshot Of DonorPerfect
Donorperfect’s organization dashboard allows users to view donation history, donation by region, donor retention, and more.

Donorperfect is a suitable fundraising solution for non-profits. It provides insight into the drivers of donations, donor segmentation, and communications via personalized emails. Event managers can use its auction management tools to manage silent, live, mobile, and online charity auctions.

Donorperfect pricing starts at $119 CAD per month.

Pros

  • Easy to use and intuitive
  • Allows for customization 
  • Great for tracking donors 

Cons

  • Lackluster report generation
  • Too many upgrades

6. Bloomerang – Best software for donor retention 

Screenshot Of Bloomerang
Bloomerang offers a donation dashboard as well as CRM features such as logging calls with donors.

Bloomerang focuses on retention and engagement solutions. It allows fund transactions and management to be carried out efficiently and on time.

Pricing for Bloomerang starts at $99 per month.

Pros

  • Great user interface
  • Great customer support
  • It is affordable for all sizes of startups and non-profits

Cons

  • Difficult to use when tracking grants from foundations
  • Report customization is limited
  • QuickBooks integration isn’t smooth

7. Salsa Labs – Best software for advocacy and event management 

Screenshot Of Salsa Labs
Get donation and fundraising insights broken down into relevant amounts of time.

Salsa Labs provides solutions for donor management, fundraising, advocacy, events, and marketing automation. Its primary focus is on providing intelligent insights and reports.

Salsa Labs pricing is available upon request.

Pros

  • Unlimited capabilities
  • Great customer support 
  • Relatively easy to learn and use

Cons

  • Scheduling in email setup needs improvement  
  • Easy to lose some contact names when importing contacts 

8. Little Green Light – Best software for simplifying processes

Screenshot Of Little Green Light
Easily search for donors and constituents, track volunteering hours, and measure fundraising totals.

Little Green Light describes itself as “your natural next step to simplify your donor management.” It promises, “With our intuitive fundraising platform, you can consolidate your spreadsheets, letting you see and analyze your data more clearly than ever before.” 

Little Green Light pricing starts at $39 per month.

Pros

  • Intuitive and easy-to-use interface
  • Seamless integration with third-party software
  • Mail and online support

Cons

  • Mobile support is lacking
  • Difficult to manage families 
  • Advanced analytics are complicated

9. Servant Keeper – Best church donor management system

Screenshot Of Servant Keeper
Servant Keeper allows users to track donations and income against monthly budgets.

Servant Keeper is a church management solution by Servant PC Resources. It caters to churches and other faith-based organizations by helping them manage and run their business operations, including tracking member attendance, skills, donations, and pledges.

Servant Keeper pricing starts at $299 for one-time license cost for a small church.

Pros

  • Great customer and technical support 
  • Great customization of reports
  • Seamless integrations with a variety of third-party software

Cons

  • Difficult to use 
  • Setting up groups is a bit taxing
  • Lots of learning material and resources to consume 

 10. Donor Tools – Best volunteer and donor management software 

Screenshot Of Donor Tools
Find and filter donors and volunteers.

Donor Tools offers solutions for donation tracking, massive spreadsheets, data entry, and high volunteer turnover. 

Pricing for Donor Tools starts at $39 per month.

Pros

  • Provides donor history as far back as several years
  • Affordable for small non-profits 
  • Intuitive and easy-to-use

Cons

  • Reports are standard and limited
  • Social integration is not fully supported
  • Email automation is limited

11. Church Community Builder – Best software for facilitating communication 

Screenshot Of Church Community Builder
Church Community Builder allows users to measure and analyze church attendance, donations, and servers.

Church Community Builder reinforces communications amongst church or faith-based organization members. There is a coach solution feature on the platform. 

Church Community Builder pricing starts at $90 per month.

Pros

  • Feature-rich software 
  • Seamless integration with various third-party software
  • Great customer support

Cons

  • Mobile responsiveness is still catching up
  • The learning period takes a while 
  • Recurring events are difficult to schedule

12. Virtuous CRM – Best software for mid-to-large organizations 

Screenshot Of Virtuous CRM
This donation management and CRM software provides users with an at-a-glance look at donor history, financial giving totals, and communication history.

Virtuous CRM is a software that works great for mid-sized to large non-profits. It is responsive on mobile phones, and focuses on building donor relationships. 

Pricing for Virtuous CRM starts at $350 per month.

Pros

  • Excellent customer support via chat and email
  • Finds duplicated data from imported contacts
  • The scoring of donors is based on several criteria

Cons

  • New contact profile creation is cumbersome
  • Difficult contact import tool 
  • Chat and phone support are not so great

Share Your Thoughts about Other Donor Management Software Comparison Options

If you’ve tried any of the above-listed software, please share your experiences and recommendations in the comments section. If your preferred software isn’t listed, please let us know in the comments section, as well as why you prefer it.

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Insights

What is Church Planting? (And Why it Matters in 2021)

There is no local or global disciple making without church planting. Period. The future of Christianity and of God’s mission rests on this practice.

In this post, we’re going to cover off some the biggest questions about church planting. Keep reading to find out:

What is church planting?

Simply put, church planting is starting a new church from an existing church.

Church planting fulfils the mission of God in every place, space and context in which we find ourselves. Its activity is rooted in Jesus’ instructions in the New Testament Bible.

In Discovering Church Planting, JD Payne reads this out of the Great Commission of Matthew 28. For Payne, church planting “tells us how to make disciples” and “offers a paradigm for reaching villages, tribes urban enclaves and entire cities with the gospel.” He is on-to something important here about scope and why to talk about it.

Church planting process from Missional Church Planting
Church planting process from: https://missionalchurchplanting.org/2013/11/06/cultivating-personal-discipleship/

If the church is understood as the people of God, then where on earth (or beyond) can people (boldly) go that the church cannot go? Where can nations exist without the people who establish its culture, laws and structures?

It follows that where the people are, there can be the church. Where the church is, there is Jesus Christ. If new churches are not reaching the unreached people of the future, then who will? What activity can?

What The Great Commission says about church planting

Church planting, then, is not just one of many different strategies and practices that respond to the Great Commission of Jesus. It is the best strategy and the best practice. Experienced church planters Roger McNamara & Ken Davis make this clear. In The Y-B-H Handbook of Church Planting, they suggest that:

“Church planting best fulfills the directives and goals of the Great Commission because as churches are planted in every nation, disciples are made in that nation just as Christ commanded should be done.”

Roger McNamara & Ken Davis

In the Bible these local, new churches are reproduced out of an existing church from somewhere else. The people of God in one place with one people group establish a community of the people of God in another place and another group.

Why church planting is important

It is that simple—in words. It is much more difficult when the rubber-hits-the-road. The lives of the twelve apostles, new believers, and the Apostle Paul in the Book of Acts reveal the stakes: church planting either costs or very nearly cost them their lives (c.f. Acts 7; 12; 27). 

How the Apostle Paul planted churches

The Apostle Paul’s theology and practice make church planting integral to God’s mission. The Jesus Film Project highlights in their blog how Paul’s missiology of church planting fuelled his missionary journeys. His training and appointing of local leadership in new churches filled with new believers reveals his desire to multiply the global through the local church. This emphasis is picked up by Chris Bowers and Scott Zeller in their blog too.

Dangerous as it might have been, church planting as a practice was not stopped because the future of Christianity was, for Paul, the greater cost. McNamara and Davis say that the Apostle Paul in particular “did many things, but he never neglected” the practice of “planting new churches.” In the end, Paul ran the race and fought the fight of church planting (c.f. 2 Tim 4:7)

This cursory review or preliminary Bible study on the topic strongly suggests that church planting should be at the tip of the missional spear. The Great Commission of Jesus, the Book of Acts, and the theology and practice of the Apostle Paul demand it. 

Why church planting matters in 2021

The activity and priority of planting churches in the Bible is a foundation for all disciples today, because the world still holds a very great many people who do not know or follow Jesus Christ. “Church planting is needed,” says James R. Nikkel, in Church Planting Road Map, “because new communities need to be reached for Christ.” 

This demands some understanding of the past and present of 2020 but much response of the future of 2021 and beyond. Starting with understanding the cultural moment now, Christopher James, in Church Planting in Post-Christian Soil, paints a detailed and methodical picture of the great expanse and rise of secularity in North America in the last 50 years. It seems apparent to James that in Western culture God is more fantasy than fact—believed in by the minority, not the majority of people.

Church planting is relevant

What does surprise about James’ work, however, is his analysis of the minority, Christian church. James says,

“Rather than demoralizing the faithful, the minority status of confessional Christians seems to counterintuitively contribute to the vitality of their religious identity and mission.”

Christopher James

In other words, he believes that the mission of God has never been more relevant. If the mission of God is in a context of vitality, then the same stands for planting churches. Though secularism may be dominant, James believes paradoxically it has “proved to be a rather fertile environment for fervent Christianity.” People are ready. The time for planting is now.

Church planting demands a response

But this comes down to how the church responds. The people of God today, like those of yesterday, need to establish communities of the people of God for tomorrow.

Planting churches, therefore, matters in 2021 not only because there will still be a majority of people who do not know Jesus. It matters because there will also be robust minority of Christians who can assess their role and calling in the outworking of the mission of God. 

This means that anyone, whether a follower of Jesus or not, should think in some way about how church planting impacts their personal and corporate future. Below or some areas for you to consider in this process of discernment.

5 church plants to look out for in 2021

Whether you live in the Vancouver B.C. area or not, this unique season of church online means that you can look out for a handful of new church plants that I can recommend from in my context in 2021.

  1. Tidal Church: located in North Vancouver, B.C. Tidal Church is led by John and Kate Payne, who are experienced church planters from the UK. This church emphasizes the gifts of the Holy Spirit, small groups and the word of God. While the soft launch with their core team is happening in 2020, they are looking to ramp up their gathering and online presence in 2021. Read about John and Kate here.
  2. The Way Church: located in Vancouver, B.C., The Way Church is led by Rachael and Jason Ballard, the latter of whom is a mainstay in the Youth Alpha Video Series, now showcased online. Jason’s leadership and experience with the Alpha is exceptionally relevant to this moment where digital and video is the predominant medium through which church members are reached, and the values of the Kingdom of God are on display to the world beyond Vancouver. Learn about The Way Church here.
  3. City Life Church: also located in Vancouver, B.C., City Life Church is led by Todd and Stephanie Lueck. It was recently planted by its mother church City Life Chilliwack, who believe that the mission field is not only global, but local in the city centres. Find out more about City Life Church here.
  4. C3 Manhattan: Planted out of the mega- influential mega-church of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (which has been led by Tim Keller) this C3 church is a great blend of young vibrancy and traditional orthodoxy. If you’re not based in New York City, no problem. Their online services are eclectic and Christ focused. Plus there are many different C3 church across North America, Europe and beyond. Check out C3 Manhattan here.
  5. Christ Church SF: Located in the heart of San Francisco, Christ Church SF was planted through the Acts 29 network, a church planting group led by Matt Chandler. Christ Church SF embraces the Father’s heart to see places of influence, like the city centre of SF, transformed for the glory of Jesus. Learn more about this church here.

Why should you join a church plant

If you are excited about Christian missions and you want to discover your life’s passion, then you should join a church plant in 2021. It is those who join-in and plant churches that are also the ones who establish the short- and long-term future of Christianity.

“We discovered that churches that have a DNA of reproduction are among the most effective churches at reaching the lost and unchurched across America.” 

Thom Rainer

Here, in the book Church Planting from the Ground Up, Rainer and other church planters suggest that there is no better context for fulfilling your passion in Jesus in reaching the world than in a church plant.

The passion of evangelism and multiplication naturally spills out of one new church plant and into another. It is like wild fire. David Garrison speaks as such in, Church Planting Movements. Whereas “church planters may start the first churches” he goes on to say that other “churches themselves get into the act” and the birth of a movement occurs. Local churches in these areas go the extra mile, not giving up on discipleship, spiritual development or worship.

Being part of a movement is special. For church planters and bloggers, like Steve Sjogren, it creates a momentum that should cause us to “rejoice, if you have it. The calling and passion is worth it!

Why church planting isn’t for everyone

Whereas church planting is a missional practice that every Christian should deeply consider, joining church plants as a church leader or committed member is not for everyone, and some new church plants can emphasize unhealthy long-term behaviour.

First, you should probably avoid a church plant if it is too focused on the numbers, that is, the quantity of members or attendees. John Jackson, in High Impact Church Planting, speaks plainly about the unique position church plants are in the missional lifecycle. He believes, “New churches must reach new people or they die!” If this is true, then new church plants might be tempted to over-emphasize the importance of numbers.

In an environment where numbers become the focus of growth, other elements of church planting, like spiritual and emotional growth, can be put to the wayside. Sadly, church leaders, like Karl Vaters, have gone through this experience. What you can do, however, is learn from his experience!

Further reading

If you found this interesting, check out this post Church Planting Advice from Hillsong’s Brian Houston. And if you’re starting a church, check out our list of the best church management software.

What do you think?

Are you interested in church planting? Been a part of a church plant? What was your experience? Have you discovered any church plants that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know if the comments below.

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How To

How To Become More Self-aware As a Pastor

Entrepreneur, author and social media icon Gary Vaynerchuk is one self-aware dude. He certainly talks about self-awareness enough. He even calls it your most important attribute. In seemingly everything he does, Vaynerchuk exudes a self-assured confidence.

“Self-awareness is being able to accept your weaknesses while focusing all of your attention on your strengths,” says Vaynerchuk, who has made millions off of successful businesses and investments.

Self-awareness is easier said than done. How do you become more self-aware? How do you discover your strengths to focus on? The path to self-realization is different for everyone (because everyone is different). But there are a few tips you can use to learn more about yourself.

Ask Yourself

The entire point of self-awareness is educating yourself about yourself. Most of us see this as an insurmountable challenge.

But odds are, you know yourself better than you think. You just need to unlock that hidden knowledge. Open up to you. Here’s how.

  • Be honest with yourself. Lying to other people is bad. Lying to yourself is worse.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror. What do you see? What’s your perception of yourself? Try singing some Michael Jackson to yourself.
  • Talk to yourself alone. Start a conversation with you. It may appear crazy, but it’s a healthy way to talk through issues and verbalize your own thoughts. I do it all the time.
  • Keep a journal. Or a diary, if you prefer. Write down your thoughts. Get it on paper. Create a record of your mind that you can review later.
  • Write a page-long autobiography. We write short bios for each social media account. Expand that to a page. What do you say about yourself?

Ask Others

Ironically, it’s sometimes others who know us better than ourselves. They can see things about our personality and character that escapes our notice.

Take the time to ask these people how they would describe you. What are your strengths? Weaknesses? What could you do better? There are dozens of people you can ask.

  • Family. Your spouse. Your parents. Your siblings. Uncle Bob.
  • Friends. Childhood pals. College roommate. Neighbors.
  • Coworkers. Your boss. Your employees. Your clients.
  • Mentors. People who you trust and admire.
  • Strangers. Just kidding.

The most important thing you need to do here is listen. Create a space where these people can be honest with you. Don’t get defensive. Don’t try to justify actions or behavior. Don’t take it personal.

Listen and observe. Find patterns in what people think about you. If there’s something you don’t like about this description of you, find a way to change it. Be a better you.

Ask the Experts

These days, personality tests are a dime a dozen. Buzzfeed will serve up endless quizzes so you can learn what kind of sandwich you are or which piece of IKEA furniture you most closely resemble.

There are a few more serious self-assessments you can take. Even these popular personality tests cannot fully capture your dynamic character. But they can give you a better sense of how you think and how you relate to others

  • Myers-Briggs
  • DiSC Profile
  • Right Path
  • Strengths Finder

I’ve even printed out some of my own test results and posted them in my office. This helps serve as a regular reminder who I am. At the very least, it’s a reminder to be more self-aware.

Ask God

Regardless of what you or anyone else thinks about you, know that God loves you. God loves everyone—self-aware or not. And there are certain truths that God says about each of us.

  • There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. —Romans 8:1
  • In all things, God works for the good of those who love him. —Romans 8:28
  • Nothing can ever separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. —Romans 8:38-39
  • God is for me! Who can be against me? —Romans 8:31
  • But the one united with the Lord is one spirit with him. —1 Corinthians 6:17
  • Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? —1 Corinthians 6:19

Self-awareness is not about determining self-worth. Our self-worth was set for us by God. Being more self-aware allows us to better succeed in this world. But never let self-awareness jade you.

Always love yourself. Because God does. And he knows you better than anyone.

Categories
How To

How To Communicate With Your Congregation

Every week you probably have a staff meeting at your church. You go over your wins and losses from Sunday, you plan for next week. Maybe you even discuss what other churches are doing and what you can learn from them.

But its always the same old discussion.

There’s never any support for communications and marketing. It always comes back to “there isn’t budget for that,” or “that’s not as important as this.” or “we just can’t afford to hire more people.”

As the Communications person, how are you going to convince this group that your church needs to step up its digital communications strategy, or get more involved in social media?

How are you going to ever get a budget for such things?

I’ve come across it a million times. I encountered it at Mars Hill when I first started. I hear it every day from colleagues and clients. Even the big churches with a lot of followers struggle to put the resources and time and bodies that are needed to have a solid, and effective communications strategy.

So how do you get around this? How do we educate pastors and train up volunteers on the importance of church communications? How do we convince senior leadership to give us the budget we need to promote and grow the church?

When I encounter leaders who don’t want to support church communications, there are two common obstacles I run into the most:

1. We Can’t Measure ROI.

The most common thing I run into is the misconception that it’s hard to measure the return on investment when it comes to church communications efforts, particularly social media.

Leaders at the top are typically focused on results and return. That’s not a bad thing — they’re responsible for a lot of people and a lot of money, millions of dollars in most cases. And for a church, that’s tithe money from your donors and members.Stewarding that well means not wasting it on things that aren’t making a difference. And when you ask for $10,000 to run a Facebook ads campaign, or a billboard, or for new email marketing software, or even an Apple Watch… they don’t immediately see how that’s going to turn into more donors, more people being saved, more seats being filled.

Below I share some tips on how to define your purpose, as well as how to properly use data to help measure ROI.

2. Leaders with Little Digital Experience

The second most common obstacle I’ve encountered is leaders at that level are generally inexperienced with newer technologies and trends.

You’re probably a tech savvy millennial who grew up on Facebook, and now you’re trying to pitch your 60 year old senior pastor on why he should be more engaged on Twitter, how your church needs to reach the kids via SnapChat, or why you need to hire a social media manager and 3 interns to live tweet this Sunday’s sermon.

It’s the last thing on his mind because he doesn’t know what the heck you are talking about.

It’s on you to find a way to educate them. Below I’m going to walk you through five tips that will help you better educate with your pastors about the value of church communications.

5 Tips to Help You Better Communicate the Value of Church Communications

1. Have a strategy and a focus.

Know what you are doing, and cast the vision for why you are doing it. This may seem obvious, but it’s so important.

When you’re pitching someone who doesn’t know a lot about what you are talking about, you’ve got to be able to speak with confidence to earn their trust. Every decision they make is prioritized, and all this cool internet mumbo jumbo just sounds like a waste.

If you’re just wanting to do what every other church is doing because it’s cool, that’s not going to fly well. So get down to the heart of it. Know why you do what you do and how that aligns with the bigger picture.

How are your church communications strategies going to fill seats, get more donors, sell out an event, sell books, and ultimately bring people closer to the Lord? Make sure these align with the goals and vision of the church in general. If you’re all about church planting, then how is your proposed Facebook plan going to plant more churches? Are you going to target church planters via Facebook ads and then engage with them and build relationships with them so you can turn them on to your church and your mission? Layout how you are going to do that.

Using social media as an example. If your senior leaders don’t see the value in it, then find out what they do value and show them how social media can enhance that.

If they value people — loving people well, teaching people about Jesus — then how is your social media strategy going to love people well? Who cares how many followers you have or promise to get, if you don’t know those people and don’t have a plan to engage with them.

Show your pastors that you care about the same vision, you’re just going to use more modern tools to reach them. The people on social media are real people who need Jesus, and the church is in a unique position to learn how to be the best at reaching them.

Show your senior leaders how your church can’t just ignore these people, no more than you can ignore people walking in your front door.

2. Start small and slow, and do it well.

Don’t bombard senior leaders with requests to get on SnapChat, when you aren’t even using Facebook and Twitter well. Focus your strategy like a sniper rifle not a shotgun. Take on one thing at a time and do it well, showing your results before asking for more.

One thing you may want to try is doing a pilot with one ministry or event. It’s usually easier to get in on a ministry or event budget, than it is to get your own line item on the budget for a social media or digital communications.

3. Use Data.

This goes back to the ROI question. Using data is going to help you show that an investment in better church communications is going to pay off. It can also validate and backup what you are talking about.

Using social media as an example again, many of the experts will tell you that social media is still new and we’re still figuring it out. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Your senior pastor may even bring it up when you try to pitch him on the idea of spending more resources on it.

The idea that social media is too new, it’s only kinda true. I’ve found the people who say that are the people who are trying to get social media to do something that maybe it shouldn’t be doing. They’re using it wrong.

We actually know quite a bit about social media. You should know these stats:

  • Facebook has 1.44 billion users. That’s basically everyone.
  • Adults spend about 2.5 hours on social media every day. Every single day.
  • 56% of all American’s have a profile on a social networking site.
  • 31% of seniors use Facebook regularly.
  • 53% of young adults use Instagram and check it daily.
  • 42% of all online women use Pinterest.

These numbers go up every year. To not include social media in your marketing or communications strategy is foolish. What might be even more foolish is to jump in without a strategy or plan behind it.

Think of it this way. Chances are your church is trying to figure out better ways to engage in deeper relationships with the people who walk through your doors. As the communications person, it’s your job to figure out how digital and social strategies can help meet that need. You’ve only got people’s attention on Sunday for about an hour or so. If they’re in a small group, maybe another hour during the week. Well guess what, they’re on Facebook and Twitter almost 3 hours a day! Show your pastors how you can deepen those relationships by interacting with people where they already are. Start by sharing this data with them.

Now here’s the caveat. You’ve probably already bombarded your senior pastor with stats and spreadsheets. Maybe that’s why he’s turned you down. Is he a stats and spreadsheets kinda guy? Probably not. More often than not, preaching pastors are visual and conversational. They aren’t going to read a report or click on the links you send them. Try a different way to reach them. Draw a picture, create a video, demand an in person meeting rather than sending emails.

You also need to look at what are other churches doing and show examples. Use the churches that your senior pastor likes and that are like you. Keep in mind that chances are the bigger churches have a graphics team and content writers coming up with that stuff, so unless you have a team like that don’t compare your church to something you’re not going to be able to do.

Also, don’t just show screenshots of what others are posting to Facebook. Call up the church, ask to speak to the people who run the social media accounts. Take them out for coffee or invite them over to your church. Learn from them and ask how they do what they do and why. Collaborate together and bring what you learn to your leadership team. When you show a screenshot of another church’s Facebook page, you’ll then be able to share the story of how they posted what they did and why, and hopefully the results they saw from it.

Next, find your congregation online and show them off. Another objection you might here is that “relationships happen in person” or “our congregation isn’t online.” It’s 2015. 1.44 billion people are on Facebook. Even your mom tweets.

Take your top donors, your most faithful people who serve, the well known people in your congregation, and find them online. Search for them on Facebook and Twitter and put together a little presentation showing their photo and their posts, proving that these people are online, and that they are sharing more about themselves and their struggles and wins, than they ever would in person.

Like I said, Social Media is a tool to engage real people. It’s not a matter of if people are online, we will be. They are online, you have to be able to show that. Show your leaders that by not being online they aren’t staying relevant, they aren’t doing their best to engage and love on people. The question isn’t if we should be doing this, its how are we going to make it work so that we can.

Going back to our first point though, when you share data you’ve got to have a reason for it and you’ve got to be able to show why the data matters.

Facebook and Twitter have built in analytics that can give you a ton of useful info like followers, likes, comments, reach, etc. There’s a handful of other tools that you can get too. Your website has Google Analytics.

But if your pitch is “give me XX amount of dollars and I’ll increase our Twitter followers from 5000 to 10,000.” Who cares? What good does another 5000 Twitter followers do you if you don’t also follow up with a plan to engage those people and get to know them? Give me a week and I can increase your Twitter followers just by doing some searches and following like minded people. It doesn’t mean I’ll be able to actually communicate well with those people or convert them to church goers or donors. The data is useless without a plan for what to do with it.

4. Utilize and train up volunteers.

Chances are budgets are tight whether your department is getting some of that money or not. In the grand scheme of things, Twitter and billboards, and fun stuff just aren’t going to get the bucks if you don’t have them. There probably aren’t funds to hire some more people. That’s why taking the time to invest in your volunteers is crucial for any size team. If you can show you already have a team in place to help manage things, then you might have a better chance at getting approval for the things you want to try.

Don’t just assign tasks to volunteers. Train them in the same way you’re trying to train your senior leaders and pastors. Convince them of the vision and reason behind what you’re doing. If they can get excited about what they are doing, they’ll be better volunteers.

5. Share stories

People online are real people. Real people have stories. If you’re just pushing out content, you’re advertising. Which is fine, but that means you’re not going to be able to reach people well and build relationships with a strategy that’s only advertisements and promo.

If you’ve got a plan that actually aligns with your church’s plan to love on people well, and bring them closer to Jesus, then you’re going to hear stories. Stories of how unchurched people came to church. Stories of how Jesus is changing lives through your communications.

Share those stories with your senior leadership. Show them its working. Show them stories from other churches who are doing it well. And show your volunteers the results as well. Let them know who they are reaching and how it is making a difference.

Bonus Tip: Get outside help.

An outside consultant can sometimes have better credibility than you with your senior leadership, even if they’re saying the same thing you’ve been saying all along. Someone on the outside can validate what you’ve been saying all along.

Now I know what you’re saying, chances are you’ll never get approval for a consultant if you’re whole goal is getting approval for a communications budget. So tell them your struggles and a good consultant can help you calculate the ROI and will help you show senior leaders how they’ll pay for themselves with the work they provide.

I’ll close with this…

When it comes down to it, you’ve got to convince others that you’re working on the same team as them, not against them, but you’re working for the same goals.

You aren’t competing with other ministries for budget or time and resources, you’re creating new ways to reach new people and engage better with the people you already have so you can love them well and lead more people to Jesus.

The communications managers I talk to who are failing at getting what they need to do their jobs well, are the ones who don’t have a clear vision for why they do what they do, and a clear plan to do it.

The key to convincing leaders to support your church communications plan is aligning it with the church’s vision.

If you can dial that in and convince your pastors and volunteers of it, you’ll get the resources and budget you need.

Reposted from http://www.ministrycommunicators.com/

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Church Planting Advice: 10 Tips From Hillsong’s Brian Houston

If you’re a church planter, or a lead pastor starting a new church plant and looking for church planting advice, make sure you check out these ten tips from Pastor Brian Houston, from Hillsong. He’s the pastor of Hillsong, a network of established churches across the world, with stacks of experience of the challenges facing lead pastors and Christians when starting a new church. 

Even if you’re a Senior Pastor, or church leader of an established church you’ll find this post contains some thought provoking principles for expanding and growing your 

In summary – here’s what this article on church planting advice covers:

  1. You must recognize your grace zone
  2. Cherish the baby steps of the new church plant 
  3. Determine to be ethical and true to yourself
  4. Expand from a position of strength
  5. Be sure you have counted the cost
  6. Pray for the right people, in the right place, at the right time
  7. Not just easy places or nice places, but right places
  8. Avoid the perils of shortcuts, or individuals who promise the world
  9. Value connection and relationships
  10. Church planting can be part of the answer or part of the problem

It was in 1999 when Bobbie and I were given the opportunity to do something — which for us at that time was a bold and innovative step. We were asked to take on the leadership of my parents’ inner-city church in ADDITION to the church we were already pastoring in the Northwest of Sydney — Hillsong Church.

Bold and innovative because although today in 2013 there are countless models of incredible multi-site churches, back in 1999 it was totally new territory in which we knew of few, if any, role models to look to for guidance.

Fourteen years on, our City Campus is an established church, a thriving and integral part of Hillsong Church and along the way we have learned a great deal about multi-site expansion and global evangelism and  church planting; as Hillsong has spread to some of the worlds most influential cities. I am not called to plant churches everywhere, but where we do, my hope and prayer is that we can build significant churches whose impact for the Cause of Jesus Christ spreads far beyond their own walls. When we started Hillsong London many years ago, impact and influence seemed like a far away fantasy –and yet that is exactly what has and is unfolding through a healthy local church congregation in that city.

I’m no expert, but I have been asked many times what are some of the keys to successful expansion, and so here are ten principles for church planting that I have learned on our own journey:

Church planting advice for church leaders

1. You must recognize your grace zone

Church planting is a GRACE and if you stay “within the sphere of the grace God has given you,” His holy spirit, favor and blessing will be on your endeavors. Not every opportunity is a GOD opportunity and I find that people struggle when they don’t recognize this. It is important to stay in your lane and run your own race.

2. Cherish the baby steps of the new church plant

Christian church planting is PIONEERING and that means you have to recognize the old adage that “you can’t run be before you can walk”. The first time I was at one of our ‘Heart and Soul’ nights at Hillsong New York City, the worship team had a mid-song train crash. Perhaps I made them nervous, as apparently it had never happened before, but we had to start the song all over again. That is just one of the examples from some of the great memories that just two years on, we can all look back on and laugh about. 

Since then, the worship team in New York City has taken giant strides forward and even in those early days the services were electric. But just like when your baby starts to walk, those ‘crashes’ are the precious memories in pioneering that we should always cherish, learn from and laugh about.

Even when Hillsong churches have started with great crowds (such as in Cape Town and New York City), it has taken time for leadership to emerge — to find out who really is ‘in it for the long haul’ and for the crowd to become a family who carry the heart and vision of our church.

3. Determine to be ethical and true to yourself

Church planting must be INTEGROUS and though we might all have varying ethics and values, it is important to be true to God, true to ourselves and considerate of others in our approach to church planting. It really is a case of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

For example, when expanding Hillsong Church Australia into Brisbane and Melbourne, we have been very deliberate in our early communications and gatherings, to encourage those from other congregations to stay in their own local church. We gave people opportunity to register their interest in being part of our church online and we have limited our communications to that group of people. The foundations on which we start our churches are critical if we intend to establish healthy and life-giving campuses long-term.

4. Expand from a position of strength

Church planting is CHALLENGING, in fact sometimes starting something new is the easy part. Building and progress depends on momentum. Planting or expanding is an exciting idea, but don’t underestimate the challenge of planting well AND keeping home strong. The extra pressure on your greatest resource can be underestimated and your greatest resource is not facilities or finances — it’s PEOPLE.

Starting another service, opening another campus, or planting another church will test the quantity and quality of your leadership in most areas of church life. Don’t weaken your home base by expanding too quickly. Because weakening your base is not a momentum builder — it’s a momentum stopper. Lost momentum is very difficult to regain and wise church planting is not done prematurely.

5. Be sure you have counted the cost

Church planting is COSTLY and can be very difficult if you are unable to invest sacrificially into the work you are starting. Faith is essential in any new venture and there is no doubt that dependence on God and His miraculous supply is part of the adventure. However, many years of pain and heartache can be avoided if you have counted the cost and sacrificially invested into the new ground you are claiming.

6. Pray for the right people, in the right place, at the right time

Church planting involves LEADERSHIP and it will be more successful when you sow some of your best people into your launch team core group. If you are solving a problem by repositioning someone who is causing frustration, you are only transferring the problem. It is when you give your best that you can expect the best outcome — which is again why planting or expanding should be done from a position of strength and not vulnerability.

7. Not just easy places or nice places, but right places

Church planting is STRATEGIC and for Hillsong that has rarely meant going to the ‘easy’ places. We have prospered by planting in Europe — a continent steeped in church history yet in many respects, so Godless.

When I first spoke at Hillsong Paris, I remembered numbers of conversations where people simply couldn’t get their heads around us preaching about Jesus as someone other than just a historical figure. Today, I love seeing so many young churches beginning to flourish in various European cities. Its easy to think that perhaps ‘Bible belt cities’ would be easier than the heart of Manhattan; but with the right people, in the right place, at the right time, it’s amazing what God can do!

Likewise, when my parents started their ministry in the city of Sydney, it was regarded by some people as a ‘preachers graveyard.’ But that ‘preachers graveyard’ has become home to Hillsong Church — Hillsong College -Conferences and Music; influencing more people than we could have ever have imagined over the last three decades. God is faithful and I believe that the best is still yet to come!

8. Avoid the perils of shortcuts, or individuals who promise the world

Church planting is TEAMWORK, which means building a leadership team and core group who are there for the long haul. My experience is that often the people who promise the most, don’t always come through with the most. Great churches are built with a core group of people who are faithful in the little things. I’d take a group of ordinary people devoted to an extraordinary God, over a charismatic someone that talks a big game, but hasn’t proven faithful in the ‘day of small beginnings’.

We have had some amazing miracles with land and buildings in our history, but we have also said no to numbers of opportunities and partnerships because there were ‘strings attached’. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

9. Value connection and relationships

Church planting is LONELY, and many a church planter has perished through isolation.

Proverbs 18:1 says, “The man who isolates himself is not wise” and if you disregard your friendships and relationships when planting churches, your world can get small very quickly. Perhaps you can start churches anywhere, but wisdom is sensitive to relationships — while still refusing to be ruled by the insecurities of others.

Our mandate is “to champion the cause of local churches everywhere”, and the greatest way we can do that is exemplifying what God can do, by partnering and being in good relationship with other churches in our city, and without building on other people’s foundations.

10. Church planting can be part of the answer or part of the problem

Church planting is TRENDY and in the twenty first century, technology and opportunity enable us to expand in ways that were unthinkable to generations past. Does the world need more churches? The short answer is yes, but the world doesn’t need more mediocre churches. The world needs healthy and vibrant churches that are genuinely fulfilling the Great Commission in their cities, towns, villages and nations. Churches that are filled with life, worship, biblical teaching and healthy, accepting community — churches that point people to JESUS. Evangelism, and discipleship matters as we fulfill the Great Comission.

I pray that together, we can ‘champion the cause of local churches everywhere,’ and stay committed to the building of what Jesus Christ said He would build — His Church!

This post was originally posted on Medium: https://medium.com/the-mission/10-principles-of-planting-and-expanding-through-the-lens-of-a-pastor-66edd39e8f03

What do you think?

What church planting advice do you have? What’s worked for you, and what hasn’t? Let us know if the comments below, and come and join our Lead Pastor Community to lead, and help others lead better.