ECFA Vice President Warren Bird Shares Insights and Research to Equip Leaders During COVID-19

Warren BirdOn Tuesday, Nov. 17, NRB hosted a NRB Live webinar event with Warren Bird, Vice President of Research and Equipping at the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

In this livestreamed event led by Daniel Darling, Senior VP of Communications at NRB, Bird shared new research to equip viewers to lead their organizations well through challenging circumstances. Bird highlighted several pieces of recent research and helped leaders understand what it could mean for them and their organization.

The first insights that Bird presented came from a recently released report titled “Megachurch 2020.” This research concluded just before the pandemic hit, giving leaders a comparison to healthy churches pre-pandemic. This ended up being the nation’s largest study of large churches, which were defined as churches with attendance of 2,000 or greater.

Bird shared an observation about this report from Tony Morgan from The Unstuck Group. “Healthy, thriving organizations change before they need to change, and other organizations—non-growing organizations—avoid it until they’re forced to change, and even then they don’t change,” Morgan said.

This research found that 74% of megachurches are growing, often at fast rates. According to this report, healthy small groups are a good indicator of overall church growth. The more members in a small group, the greater the church’s growth.

Bird told leaders that churches that figured out how to do small groups well during the pandemic will emerge healthy from the pandemic.

This report is available to download for free at ECFA.church/surveys.

The next report that Bird previewed was a yearly report from ECFA titled “ECFA State of Giving 2020.” This report will officially be released on Dec. 3. Bird reported a positive momentum in giving over the past 10 years.

“God knows what’s ahead. God is the provider of us, but God is not thrown by pandemics,” Bird said. “They are not new to him. He has navigated his people through them many times in the past, often with the gospel spread.”

Looking at three different surveys conducted this year, Bird said that optimism about total cash gifts or donations has increased among nonprofits and decreased slightly among churches

“We have seen an optimism level throughout the year, checked in quarterly, that at least for non-profits, has increased, which is really powerful,” Bird explained.

These surveys showed that the optimism in media ministries is even higher than in non-profits.

Bird went on to preview ECFA’s latest COVID financial impact report, “Defying the Odds: Giving Grows Despite the Pandemic.” This report will also officially release on Dec. 3.

The report shows that almost two-thirds of nonprofits and churches say 2020 giving-to-date is the “same or higher” than 2019’s. Specifically of media ministries, 87% said that 2020 giving-to-date is the “same or higher” than in 2019.

Of the organizations that said that giving-to-date is lower than in 2019, the vast majority reported that this is a decrease of less than 20%.

When looking at revenue other than cash giving, almost half on non-profits and churches say that 2020-to-date revenue is the “same or higher” than 2019’s.

Finally, Bird highlighted a few other recent non-profit and church financial trends as reported from other organizations.

“Donors to religious organizations are more consistent compared to others more impacted by the stock market and other events. Several studies in 2019 supported the idea that membership and engagement level are closely linked to giving behavior,” according to GivingUSA.

Bird found this connection between membership and engagement levels and giving behavior particularly interesting.

“This ties back to what I said earlier about churches and small groups and the connection that’s strong. And the relationship level there tends to translate into giving,” said Bird. “And likewise for non-profits, the more the relationship is there with the donors and participants, the more the donations and other support come.”

Bird also looked at giving trends across other recessions in the United States.

“The track record is that giving does come back,” Bird said. “And non-profits do continue to thrive and stay on mission.”

Bird and Michael Martin, President of ECFA, will be presenting a report on “2020 State of Giving, Including COVID-19 Updates” during a free webinar event on Dec. 3. You can register or sign up for the recording at ECFA.org/events.

Following Bird’s presentation, Darling and Bird entered into a Q&A session. During this time, Bird discussed three best practices for leaders during this time.

First, Bird stressed the importance of being prayer-based and grounded in Scripture.

“Don’t do anything else if that’s not a solid piece in your ministry,” Bird said.

Bird also reminded leaders to over-communicate.

“So many times you just assume that everyone knows how we’re doing or hurting,” he said. “If you think you’re communicating just about enough, you’re probably not communicating enough.”

If your organization is struggling, you don’t want the news of having to close down to come as a surprise to your stakeholders.

Finally, Bird encouraged leaders to develop multiple budget scenarios.

“If giving continues at our present level, what would we do?” Bird said. “If giving increases, what would we do? What if giving decreases?”

To hear more about this research and insights for leaders, watch this webinar event with Bird on Facebook or YouTube.

For more encouragement and guidance for leadership at your organization, join us at NRB 2021 in Grapevine, Texas, March 15-18. At the convention you will have opportunities to hear from speakers like Paula Faris and Will Graham, attend workshops, and network with influential Christian communicators. This year, there will be specific programming designed to help leaders strengthen their church media.

Register now to receive up to $200 off the onsite rate (prices increase after January 1, 2021). NRB members also receive an additional $250 discount off the price of a full registration or Expo Plus pass. In addition, discounts are available for international registrants and eligible students and faculty.

For questions related to registration, contact Monica Palmer at registration@nrb.org, or 202-849-8444.

Click here to register!

By NRB

Published: November 19, 2020

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