In 1896, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. That observation became known as the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule. Since then, its principles have been observed in many different areas.
It’s even been applied to the church: 80% of the work is done by 20% of the members, 80% of the giving comes from 20% of the givers, and so on.
It’s easy to accept this idea at face value, but should we?
Let’s explore four assumptions you might be making when applying the 80/20 rule to your givers.
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Let’s say it’s true that 80% of your offering really does come from 20% of your givers.
Does your 80% group of “nongivers” consist of virtually identical people who can be motivated to increase their giving with any one message or method? Are their giving habits the same? What about their maturity and their motives … how long they’ve been believers … how long they’ve been members? How about their income, expenses and debt levels?
When it comes to the subject of generosity, churches cannot use a cookie-cutter communication approach for educating, encouraging or expressing gratitude.
Every touchpoint in the giving experience must take into consideration the unique needs of givers, including:
Givers want to feel good about the impact their gifts will have. They are more likely to get involved when they can browse through vivid imagery and descriptions to choose where they want to apply their gifts.
Does your current software enable this kind of visualization?
Recurring giving is a powerful way for givers to become more consistent. It’s a convenience that regular tithers want.
But if your software’s giving frequency options don’t work for them, they won’t choose an automatic tithing schedule. Customizable giving schedules provide the flexibility to set it and forget it—in a way that fits each giver’s life, even if they want to divide their gift among different ministries using different payment methods.
The security badge on your giving page won’t overcome givers’ worries about safety when they’re redirected to a third-party page to complete their gift. Or required to create an account in order to give.
Givers are accustomed to extraordinary personalization in their interactions with online brands. If their giving experience ends with a generic Do Not Reply thank you email from your credit card processor, they can feel confused, alarmed and unappreciated.
Online tithing can be an ideal time to turn giving into greater connection with the church, even more so than in-person giving … if your software allows you to customize the experience, that is.
By now, you’ve probably learned that cash-strapped Millennials often fall into your 80% group of non-givers. But are you still basing your hopes on this generation?
Yes, it’s vitally important to teach young people about the importance of giving. Even just a small amount given on a regular basis can help establish generosity as a habit. You could spend 80% of your time trying to convince them to give more, and more regularly, but it’s unlikely to grow your bottom line significantly.
Maybe it’s time to reconsider the characteristics of your 20% as a potential source of greater generosity. The majority of the 20% are Baby Boomers, and they currently control 70% of the disposable income in the US. Offering Boomers opportunities to give in a simple, safe and secure way is essential to maximizing their potential.
What’s their attitude about charitable giving? Besides the fact that 52% of them believe giving financially is the best way to have an impact on the causes they care about (Source), they are also:
But because Boomers are more cautious online than younger people, it’s imperative that churches take care when choosing an online giving platform. Seniors have greater concerns about security and privacy than younger cohorts. Add to that their potential for being somewhat less tech-savvy, and they’re more likely to be confused by being redirected to a third-party site to finalize their gift or by receiving a thank you confirmation email from an organization they don’t know.
Like Millennials, older givers have little patience with frustrating forms. And if anyone is going to be affected by the limitation of large giving amounts, it will most likely be a Baby Boomer, your wealthiest generation.
Who are you focusing on to grow generosity in your church? Your 20% could be a source of even greater generosity, but there’s also a new possibility: Your 80% may include a new group of Boomers with the same resources, but a different set of expectations.
Instead, they share stories about the IMPACT the church is making in their own lives and in the community.
They explain how the church was there for them when they lost a job or faced a heartbreaking loss. How the church is serving the world, digging wells, rebuilding homes after disasters, feeding the homeless or getting teens off the street. These are the things that inspire generosity.
Perhaps you’ve added a church app plus mobile giving to reach digitally connected Millennials without seeing the lift in giving you’d hoped for. That’s because another app is simply not enough to motivate them to give.
A 10-year Case Foundation study on how Millennials feel about supporting causes summarizes a key finding that churches need to know:
“This [Millennial] generation does not prize being a financial donor above being a volunteer, or activating their peer network as more valuable than signing a petition. When they are inspired to do something, they see their behavior (no matter what it is) as significant support.”
The report also reveals that 90% of millennials are motivated to give by a compelling mission, not an organization, and 90% will stop giving if they don’t trust an organization.
Given these sentiments, even if you’re teaching stewardship and generosity to Millennials, they may put them into practice in different ways than you expect. Having a church app and options such as text-to-give are great but they’re simply not enough to move the needle.
The most effective way to engage Millennials—whose mission is to have an impact in the world—is to clearly demonstrate the impact of their gifts right on your giving form. Over time, this may result in greater connection to your church and healthier giving habits.
So how can an online giving software provider really do anything to help your church? Can it make people give more? And if so, how?
Ultimately, generosity is an inside job, but a platform created FOR the church—like Vision2—influences greater giving by:
If a platform doesn’t do these things, how exactly is it helping the church?
As we’ve seen, statistics can be deceiving. So can other criteria you depend on for making technology decisions.
For example, can you trust a giving platform just because it comes from the statistically largest online giving software provider or credit card processor? Even popular applications can break virtually every rule for removing friction for the giver. They can impose multiple limits on your givers (AND on your church). They can prevent you from showing a gift’s impact or from personalizing your communication to givers.
The reality is that no one knows the secret for how to consistently shift the giving distribution in your church, least of all your credit card payment processor that doesn’t differentiate your legacy members from your guests. It doesn’t know why they give or don’t, what their relationship is to the church, whether a gift is their first or their 50th, or whether they even have a job.
You wouldn’t go to a lawyer for medical advice, would you? So why would you turn over a golden opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your givers to a credit card payment processor …
Is it time to ask your current platform how it’s serving the church beyond simply processing transactions?
With our team’s deep experience in church finance and technology for both churches and nonprofits, we’re familiar with the assumptions church leaders can be lead to make about their givers.
We’re familiar with the gaps in current solutions that keep churches constantly seeking a better way to manage online giving and grow generosity among their members.
Vision2 went back to the drawing board to close these gaps, challenging all our assumptions about what was possible. Our innovative approach was designed with the features you need … and without the usual limitations you don’t need … to advance your vision to improve more lives.
Your mission to grow generosity is simple. At its core, it’s really just about meeting givers where they are and telling them your story of impact in the kingdom.
Offering them a frictionless giving process that helps them feel good about the experience of supporting your good work?
That’s our mission.
How many donations are you missing from potential givers? Take our quick Online Giving quiz and get customized advice that will show you how to increase your donations almost immediately.