Has your regular giving become stuck?

Progressively bigger stacks of coins grow plant shoots.
 on March 1, 2020

I set out with a twenty-dollar bill in my pocket.

Attending the Christmas Lessons and Carols service at a nearby parish on the last Sunday of Advent is a tradition my daughters and I have had for many years. This year, as always, I made sure I set out with my offering ready to be put on the plate.

But as we walked to the church, I realized that, for many of those years, my offering had been the same: twenty dollars. There is inflation every year and my income had increased, but I was still “stuck” on twenty dollars. One crisp bill. Simple. Straightforward. Convenient.

On our way, we passed a bank machine. I decided to stop and withdraw some cash. And when it came time for passing the plate, I offered more than my usual amount. My annual Lessons and Carols offering had become “unstuck.”

“Sticky numbers” is the topic of this guest column on stewardship – the suggestion being that sometimes in our charitable donations we get “stuck” at a certain amount, even when our circumstances have changed.

Cash donations are prone to getting stuck. Whether it’s a ten, a twenty, a fifty or even a hundred- dollar bill, it is easy to get into the habit or not to go to the trouble of adding a second bill, or some loonies and toonies. For years, I gave twenty dollars at Lessons and Carols. Period. But the Bank of Inflation calculator (a very useful website!) tells me that, with inflation, that twenty dollars should be more like twenty-five dollars now.

And the same holds true for pre-authorized givings. Most parishes encourage their donors to use pre-authorized giving because it is more convenient and efficient, and also because it assures a steady stream of income, even when folks are not in the pews. This is all well and good. But it is easy for the amount of our monthly donation to get stuck and not take into account inflation or any change in our circumstances.

Even a “status quo” parish budget is going to increase year over year. The Diocese of Toronto encourages parishes, as good employers, to increase compensation for clergy and lay employees each year by at least the cost of living. Utility bills, maintenance costs, repairs – all these costs creep up, and if our offerings to support our parish’s ministries get “stuck,” it becomes harder for parishes to make ends meet. And if a parish is looking to step up its ministry, “stuck” givings make it even more of a challenge.

How can we “unstick” our givings?

Awareness is the first step – asking ourselves if we have reconsidered our charitable-giving level recently and adjusted it according to changes in our income. (And, yes, there are times when income may decrease, and we need to consider reducing our givings.)

For parishes that use pre-authorized giving (which is, hopefully, every parish!), making it easy and efficient for donors to change their givings is key. Why not send out an email with a link to a form every December or in early January? The more complicated the process of changing the monthly amount, the less likely it is that a donor will respond. Similarly, a thank-you letter to donors who use envelopes and an invitation for them to consider their pledge for the upcoming year is a way to discourage sticky numbers.

And cash. We increasingly live in a cashless society. Visitors, prospective newcomers and occasional parishioners are less and less likely to carry cash with them when they come to church. Some parishes are now offering alternatives – the capacity for on-site credit card donations, a link to Canada Helps, even a custom-designed app for giving. All these strategies make it easier for donors to choose the appropriate amount of a gift.

I’m glad there was a bank machine between my house and those lessons and carols. It felt good to get “unstuck.”


The Rev. Canon David Harrison was invited to write this column by The Steward’s regular columnist, Peter Misiaszek, the diocese’s director of Stewardship Development.


Keep on reading

Skip to content