Economic Impact on Ministries Survey
In December 2009 we asked members of ECCU’s Ministry Advisory Panel (MAP) to help us understand how influential certain variables were to their perception of a financial institution’s customer service. Not surprisingly, we discovered that relationship/account managers can play just as large a role as customer service representatives in influencing customer service perceptions. We also asked about budget, revenue, and attendance trends, which yielded some encouraging results.
**The MAP is composed of ECCU member and non-member evangelical ministry staff and leaders representing churches, Christian schools, and other evangelical ministries. This report was produced by ECCU’s research department.
CUSTOMER SERVICE VARIABLES
How do different areas of your financial institution influence your perception of that institutions’ overall customer service? Responses to this question revealed that:
- Relationship/account managers influence customer service perceptions just as much as customer service representatives do. Both had a mean score of 4.58
- Convenience variables—such as office/call center hours and location—scored third and fourth respectively.
- Ministries do not seem to expect customer service from credit/collections personnel. This could be because a ministry experiencing credit problems feels they have forfeited the right to receive quality customer service. Another possible explanation is that our panelists have had limited interaction with credit/collections personnel and therefore are unable to quantify their impact on the customer service they’ve received.
Location, office/call center hours, loan processing personnel, and tellers (physical touch points) all registered slightly higher as influencers of customer service perception than a website. As technology progresses and ministry needs become more complex, we expect to see an increase in ministries’ valuation of web presence for customer service needs. We also expect online tools/features for fraud prevention, compliance assessment, and performance trending to generate a growing customer service expectation.
BUDGETING: 2010 VS. 2009
When we asked ministries to compare their budget goals for 2010 to their 2009 budgets, a very balanced picture emerged:
- Slightly more than one third of panelists (36.2%) are budgeting the same for 2010 as they did for 2009.
- Almost two thirds of panelists (63.9%) are maintaining their 2010 budget goals within 5% of their 2009 budgets.
- Overall, 34.1% of panelists are increasing their budgets, while 29.8% are reducing them.
- Only 8.5% of panelists are planning for a large change—increase or decrease—of 20% or more in their 2010 budgets.
Recently, The Barna Group and LifeWay Research released their own findings on church revenue/budget trends for 2010. Their study produced findings very similar to this ECCU survey. However, ECCU’s advisory panel is composed not only of staff from evangelical churches, but also from Christian schools, mission sending agencies, and parachurch organizations. Approximately 40% of our panelists, in fact, lead non-church ministries. This means that the MAP gives ECCU a broader view of the evangelical landscape.
Both studies confirm that a greater number of ministries are experiencing growth than are declining, and that the number of churches experiencing challenges remains steady.
CHANGE IN REVENUE: Q3 2008–Q3 2009
When asked to compare year-over-year revenue between the third quarters of 2008 and 2009, panelists’ responses indicated a positive trend. While 87% of ministries experienced either positive or negative change, more ministries’ revenue increased:
- Almost half (47.8%) of panelists reported increased revenues
- 39.2% of panelists reported lower revenues
- Only 13% of panelists said their revenue remained flat
These numbers are remarkably consistent with what we learned in September about second quarter revenue from 2009 compared to the same quarter in 2008 (48% reported an increase, 38% reported a decrease, and 13% remained flat). This is an encouraging sign, as 2009 appears to have had two consecutive quarters of more ministries experiencing increasing revenues than decreasing revenues. However, a large number of ministries still continue to struggle.
CHANGE IN REVENUE: Q2 2009-Q3 2009
This survey also identified the following seasonal changes over consecutive quarters in 2009:
- 30.5% of panelists reported an increase in revenues
- 52.2% of panelists reported a decrease in revenues.
- Approximately one quarter of panelists (26.1%) reported large changes in revenues.
- 73.9% of panelists reported that differences from second quarter to third quarter fell in the moderate to no change range.
Church attendance for 2009 compared to 2008 revealed an exciting trend:
- Over half of all churches surveyed (51.6%) claimed growth in their average adult worship attendance.
- Only 12.9% of ministries surveyed reported a decline.
One possible reason for these encouraging numbers could be the economy. With record unemployment rates and other economic issues, it’s plausible that more people are turning to the church for help. LifeWay’s research found that “Seventy percent of the pastors said they were receiving more requests for financial assistance from people outside the congregation.” This represents a unique opportunity for the church to point the world to Christ.
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