HOW TO: Analyze Giving Patterns
Social Enterprise Resource Bank - November 15, 2016
One of the hardest things a church, religious organization, or nonprofit has to do in its administrative care-taking is accurately projecting and communicating income (aka gifts) to the ministry. Being in the volatile world of nonprofit income, most organizations' major form of income is in the form of donations and gifts. While some communities shy away from a deep analytical look at giving trends, it can be widely beneficial when being transparent and open with your community about financial needs.
So, where do you start?
- Do some digging – I would urge you to get as many years of giving data as you can. When analyzing giving trends for the first time, I encourage you to have five years of data. More would be a great, but can be overwhelming at the start. So try to dig up five years of information on the following: number of giving units, total dollars given by week or month, total expenditures by category by week or month, and special events/programs in that time period that would influence giving (Easter, Anniversary Sunday, Special Events, etc.)
- Chart it out – Start simple and do a week-to-week comparison of the data. This might take you a while to chart, so use a template to make it easy. (Get our template here.) Be sure you are comparing apples to apples.
- Look for outliers – In every group there is going to be one that is way different from the others. Highlight it and go research the events surrounding that event. Did a new minister come or a tenured minister retire? Was there a weather event? Was there a special call to give or a special project doing fundraising? Sometimes history can tell you more about the data than the data can.
- Trendy or not? – Now look for trends, simple trends. Sure, you can do more in-depth analysis if you like, but do the big picture work first. Are there seasons where giving is always up? Are there seasons where giving is always down? What might you do or communicate differently during these times to be a better steward of the resources you have? If these trends happen regularly and consistently, how can you plan for them so that your ministry and service will be well sustained through these periods?
Analyzing giving trends is fruitful, when you do it consistently and with the eye of steward. Good luck, and happy data crunching!
Rev. Micah James is an ordained minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Micah serves as Associate Minister of Faith Formation at First Christian Church of Edmond, OK. In February 2015, Micah and her father, Rev. Mike Hunter, launched AdminIsMinistry, a free resource on church administration topics that helps better equip smaller congregations to do the ministry of Jesus Christ.
The NBA incubates new ministries, supporting social entrepreneurs of faith who are serving their communities in a variety of innovative ways and empowering these Disciples-led health and social service projects to focus on growth, impact, and sustainability. Learn more at nbacares.org/incubate or by contacting Rev. Ayanna Johnson Watkins, Director of the NBA Incubate Initiative.