Beyond the Walls: A Winning Funding Strategy for Your Church


High net worth people have an incredible role to fill in the local church, but why can’t they see it? It’s time to go beyond the walls so you can attract the major gifts that can transform your local church.

The Financial Leaders in Your Church

Every Sunday you see her in the pew in front of you: The church member whose high net worth could literally change the life of your church in one single gift.

She’s generous, consistent, and loyal to your congregation. But there are some big needs the church is facing, that she could uniquely solve.

And she has yet to speak to you about her estate plan or a major gift to your local church.

You fight to keep your emotions in check, because you know she gives to other charities, and you know that is a good thing.

You don’t know amounts — but when you hear her name on community centers and college buildings you know she’s giving significantly large gifts. So why not your church?

Does she see the needs of your church? You are confident that she has the means to solve the problem. But, does she know that she could save millions in taxes by giving to charity?

Honestly and humbly, I’d like to suggest that perhaps the problem doesn’t lie with her.

If she’s a generous person and faithful member of your congregation, then I have no doubt that she would be willing to give a major gift or make your church a beneficiary to her estate to make a difference in the Kingdom of God.

So what, then, is the problem?

The Loss Caused by Assuming

Really, there are several things at play here that is keeping your high net worth congregant from talking to you. But let’s start with the first major obstacle that I see between good churches and major or planned gifts.

Too many times, pastors assume that legal or financial counselors are guiding their high net worth congregants to give to their local house of worship or put their church into their estate plan. This is simply not the case.

The main goal of the legal and financial planning industry for years has been to transfer the wealth of their clients to their heirs in the most efficient means possible.

It’s really important that you understand this…

Legal & financial counselors don't often consider non-financial factors, like the client's legacy goal in plans. Share on X

Their number one concern is getting the estate assets into the hands of the heirs as quickly and as tax-free as possible after your congregant passes on.

Which means your church, as well as other vital ministries are glaringly left out of the conversation when your congregant plans their estate.

And because your church isn’t in the conversation, it’s very likely that your high net worth congregant has not once considered your church as a possible beneficiary of their estate.

But there’s also another likely reason why your high net worth congregant isn’t talking to you about a major or planned gift.

Creating Possibilities for Transformation

The most likely reason your high net worth congregants are not considering your church in their estate plan or philanthropic goals is that they don’t see how their money will directly expand the Kingdom of God.

This does not mean they doubt you or your ministry’s commitment to the Kingdom.

It just means they don’t see practically how a major gift from them will make a difference in the world for the Kingdom of God.

It's your job to help your church members see how they can directly cause Kingdom transformation. Share on X

In practical terms, you must create a menu of giving opportunities that offer a compelling vision for your major givers to get excited about.

Transformational Gift Opportunities that Move Church Givers

You must create a series of giving projects or goals which are dedicated to funding certain aspects of Kingdom work that are much larger than your annual operating budget.

It's important that your church's vision exceed the simple scope of the church operating budget. Share on X

Transformational gifts cover a wide variety of gift types including asset gifts (like real estate, vehicles, and stocks), planned gifts (like bequests or charitable annuities), major (high amount) gifts, or endowments.

Your high net worth congregant needs to see a compelling vision with an impact that goes far beyond the walls of your church that stirs them to give — and they must see a practical use for their gift in making the vision a reality.

I recommend two major categories of transformational gifts for every church:

  1. Transformational gifts that meet the needs of your local church like future capital expansion or church planting, and
  2. Transformational gifts that meet needs beyond the walls of your local church such as Benevolence in the community, foreign missions, mission trips for folks in church, scholarships for young people who want to attend seminary, etc.

Transformational Gift Opportunities for Your Local Church

Under the Church Needs transformational gift category, I recommend creating funds that contribute to…

Transformational Gift Opportunity 1: Church Capital Needs

Major gifts or planned gifts that help fund major capital projects which keep your local church running on all eight cylinders. Large expenses such as new facility construction, parking lot renovations, roof replacements, or major equipment purchases can all be funded through these endowments, planned gifts, or other types of transformational gifts. This category goes well beyond your annual operations, providing for extensive capital projects that expand your church’s capacity to change lives in your community.

Transformational Gift Opportunity 2: Missions

Does your church support full-time missionaries in the field? Do you have a heart for urban missions in your local area? Set up an transformational gift opportunity for your congregants that maintains and perhaps expands your missions work at home and abroad.

Transformational Gift Opportunity 3: Mercy

Caring for the widows, orphans, and the poor is an essential part of being the body of Christ, but to do so is costly. A transformational gift opportunity dedicated to mercy ministries allows your church to finance the needs of the poor in your community without diminishing your general funds. As this is a common vision for many high net individuals wishing to give back, a church transformational gift opportunity devoted to this great need can spark great interest in your high capacity givers.

Transformational Gift Opportunity 4: Scholarships

When your high net worth congregant looks around on Sunday, they see the promising futures of your youth. They care about the challenges facing your young people, and they want to help. I recommend creating a transformational gift opportunity that provides scholarships for the youth in your church and/or community to help them go to college, Bible school, or vocational school. This is a vision greater than your average general fund, but it still touches your local community deeply.

Transformational Gifts that Go Beyond the Walls of Your Church

There’s one more kind of transformational gift opportunity you should consider creating for your local church. This one is different… and really exciting.

This transformational gift opportunity goes beyond the walls of your local church, allowing your church members to make a profound impact in the world without leaving your ministry.

Chances are, there are causes your church cares about that other ministries or charities are solving in a way your church could never hope to reach.

In most cases, it would be unwise to try to create a program from scratch when another ministry has already set up a proven, scalable way to fill that need.

A wiser use of Kingdom resources would be to set up a transformational gift opportunity that funds initiatives beyond the walls of your church which are consistent with your church values, proven to be fruitful, scalable, and sufficiently accountable.

A wise use of resources would be to partner with existing organizations that align with your church’s mission. Share on X

For example, instead of creating a child sponsorship program in your church, why not use an endowment to sponsor children through Compassion International? Or, instead of starting your own hunger initiative, why not contribute to Food for the Hungry through your church endowment?

Want to impact future leaders in foreign countries? Young Life International is having amazing results around the world! Apparently, kids world wide want to hear about Jesus in a “kid friendly” setting.

Ministries like the ones I’ve mentioned here have a proven track record for results, a pre-existing infrastructure, and year’s worth of knowledge in their field.

By partnering with proven ministries with your church’s “Beyond the Walls” transformational gift opportunity, you are leveraging their expertise, gifting, and infrastructure to create a deeper impact than you could through your local church resources.

Now that’s a vision that will excite almost any high net worth individual!

An Incredible Discipleship Opportunity

Taking this “Beyond the Walls” approach when creating transformational gift opportunities for your church members also provides a beautiful discipleship opportunity.

While investigating the ministries your church endowment will fund, I highly encourage you to schedule trips onsite so you can see these ministries in operation. And take your high net worth congregants with you, if at all possible.

This does several beautiful things…

  1. It allows you to vet potential beneficiaries for your transformational gift opportunity, making sure that they’re worthy of your church’s support.
  2. It gives you personal time with your church members to continue pastoral care.
  3. It provides an out-of-the-box experience for your congregants that stimulate spiritual growth and maturity.
  4. It helps your high net worth church members to get a heart for the mission you’re supporting, thus preparing the way for major gifts in the future.

This is one of the most beneficial long-term fundraising strategies for any church, and frankly, it enables you to take discipleship to a whole new level.

I challenge you to go beyond the walls of your annual budget and of your church building in order to inspire your high net worth church members to radical generosity.

  1. Don’t assume your high net worth congregants are thinking of the church in their estate planning.
  2. Create a menu of transformational gift opportunity that inspire givers.
  3. Partner with scalable, proven ministries through your transformational gift opportunities so that your church can have the greatest Kingdom impact possible.

By going beyond the walls of your church in your fundraising, you’ll find all the provision necessary for the needs inside the walls of your church.

Need some help?

At The Giving Crowd, our fundraising and church leadership professionals have been helping donors fund the ministries they care about for over 30 years. If you’d like a little help getting started with your church endowment program, let’s talk.

The call’s free. And there’s no obligation.