How much love in that love offering

Commenter Bob writes:

I don’t understand, All three groups at a church for a L O. When I called to have just 1 group come to Ohio they want to charge $4 to $5K. How do you get all three to come for a LO.

[Am] I missing something ???

I can get 350 people to come, out but after I pay for printing, Building Exp., postage, tickets, Food, Gas to travel to drop off fliers, give-a-ways, Help and the Cost for the Group, I’m in the hole.

I suspect there were several reasons that top-tier groups would agree to sing for a love-offering. First, Gerald Wolfe and the Booth Brothers mentioned having personal connections to some of the senior pastoral staff. That’s probably not much of a deciding factor but it’s also at least worth mentioning. Second, and more important: big churches like FBC-Orlando typically have large promotional and special programming budgets so they can afford to front some kind of flat to get groups in the door. Third, and equally important, FBCO is big enough to have has its own built-in promotional network (the equivalent of a small public relations team) to promote the church and its ministries. When the pastor asked those in the crowd to raise their hands if they were FBC members, only about a third did so. That means that FBCO’s own promotions got the other 1,000 or more people in the door.

That achievement is all the more impressive given that there’s no sg radio to speak of in Orlando (which is the case in most metropolitan areas these days). The minister of music did spend some time trying to get the audience to fill out a contact card, which he vaguely suggested would be used in some way to try to help build sg radio in the area. My guess is the info was just plowed into the FBC-O media database but no matter, it speaks to the effectiveness of the church’s media capabilities. In other words, it’s one thing to agree to come for a love offering at the New Hope Free Will Baptist Church out on State Road 81 east of Boonville Nowhere. It’s quite another to agree to come to one of the largest and most powerful congregations in the Southern Baptist Convention (at least Orlando was last time I checked; someone correct me if I’m wrong here).

The FBC-O Concert is a good example of why outfits like the American Gospel Music are so eager to get into mainstream churches: because if you can plug into that network and earn some credibility there, it can be a guarantee solid earner for you. Even if there were only 1,500 people there (which would roughly split the difference between my guess and the usher’s), that’s still a far better gig than most sg groups get on a Sunday night in November.

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  1. RR wrote:

    Also, a large powerful church like that will take the risk. If the offering is not sufficient, often they will supplement.

  2. Blueboy wrote:

    With large church concerts like this it has been my experiance that groups sometimes feel it is better not to ask a church for a flat fee. Instead they will agree to come for a love offering and let the church “take care of them” to make up the difference. Most churches with experiance at booking groups know that you can book a lower tier pro group for about $1000 - $1500 and a higher tier group from $2500 to whatever the going rate is. So they take up the love offering and then make up the difference from the church checkbook. This kind of deal usually gets done when the church deals directly with the group. If they go through the group’s booking agency, they are probably going to be charged the flat fee. If the church doesn’t come through, then they will probably never get the groups back again. For the groups it is a bit like fishing a “honey hole,” most groups know who will take care of them and who won’t or can’t. Word does get around the grapevine.

  3. cdguy wrote:

    Doug, you’re absolutely right about the reasons megachurches can get top-tier groups for a love offering. And with as many people that were there (whichever estimate you use), I’m sure they sold a good amount at their product tables. Most Sunday night gigs are lucky to draw 200-300, let alone 800-1500 or more.

  4. BL wrote:

    I agree with all that’s been said, however one must also point out that just because the church doesn’t charge admission doesn’t necessarily mean the groups came for a love offering only. The church very well could have paid all three groups their flats or at least a reduced flat. A church that size normally has a fund set aside especially for concerts and speakers and such, and if that’s the case they paid the artists out of that. The love offering was probably either split between the artists as extra payment or it went back into the church’s fund.

  5. auntiegem wrote:

    I went to a GV concert in Wenatchee, WA, this past July. The promotor/emcee indicated before taking the “love offering” that his cost for bringing GV in was about $8,500. It was my impression that figure included GV’s flat plus his costs for promotion, etc. Before the offering he basically said that he was just going to trust God that the $$$ would be provided to cover what he had spent. Even if everyone in attendance (about 1,000) gave $20-40, that would nowhere near cover it. The church it was held in was just a venue–not the promoter’s home church–making me wonder if he had to eat a bunch of the cost.

    And here I thought these groups just did it for the ticket money and/or the “love offering” . . . (wink).

  6. undercover wrote:

    off topic. BF&A are looking for a piano on the lookout for news soon. they are scouting other group’s pianoists at this time…

  7. Bob wrote:

    Re #5 - auntiegem, if everyone in attendance at the GV concert in Wenachee gave $20, wouldn’t $20 x 1,000 = $20,000? That would leave $11,500 left over.

    It looks to me that his break-even average offering would be $8.50.

    Of course, given what people typically put in the offering plate, he may very well had to ‘eat’ some of the costs…

  8. Doug Sword wrote:

    I am a member of a mega church, Prestonwood in Dallas. We had the last Texas appearence of the Cathedral during their farewell tour. It was a love offering concert, but we paid them their flat. Since there were 7000 people at the concert, I assume we more than broke even. However, had we not recovered cost, noone would have been greatly concerned.

    As has been said earlier, a love offering concert in a megachurch doesn’t necessarily mean that the artists aren’t paid a flat.

  9. Derek wrote:

    There are situations where a group will come to a church on a love offering basis, but I’ve found it usually is based on past experiences at that particular church. As someone else said, word travels through the grapevine amongst groups and booking agencies. If a group has been to a particular church and did well with the love offering and table sales, I’m sure others will call the church and make the same deal in hopes of the same results. If it works, they will come back. Of course, the size/seating capacity of the church also plays a major factor in this. There is a church in my area that seats around 1500 that has concerts quite often…but only on a love-offering basis. The McKameys are coming next week. But they’ve been at least twice before on a L-O basis and did well. In fact, Ruben told the pastor that if they could do that well all the time they wouldn’t have to charge a flat! Most folks know the average love offering is about $1 a head…so you do the math! Do we go to a church that seats 250 ($250 that probably won’t fill up the bus with fuel) or 1500+ ($1500+ we might be able to make payroll this week!)

  10. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    When it comes to mega-churches and artists, the quality issue works both ways.
    This discussion is an perfect example of why business matters like fees shouldn’t be subject of conversation in the mainstream of gospel music.
    It is called the comparison factor which is called, well, we will not there there today.

  11. Part-timer wrote:

    To Doug at Prestonwood — unless the Cats concert was billed as a church benefit, then the church should not have “more than broke even.” If a church takes in MORE than a group’s flat in the love offering, then the excess should go to the group — that’s whom the audience was “loving.” To do otherwise is to deceive the audience.

  12. DD wrote:

    Don’t forget about routing too. Groups may come for a “love offering” if the date is on the way to another date or a night off. I suspect Commenter Bob may have had a date in mind for a concert that would have required GV to take a different route and with fuel over $3 per gallon was probably justified in requesting that flat amount. It was not ignorance on Bob’s part or greed on GV’s, but common business sense!

  13. gospelartist wrote:

    As a full time southern gospel artist we have had the best and worst of the love offerings and we have had very few flats.

    We have been to a venue/church and the attendance was around 500 people. The love offering was taken and it was only $500. Countless people comment on how we touched them and the product sales were good so I dont think that our performance had anything to do with the love offering.

    On the other hand we have been to churches with 50 people and the offering was taken and it was $2,000. Again we message.

    In my experience some of the best love offerings have come in the smaller churches.

    The sad thing is that our nation has an abundance of churches both big and small but only a small percentage of those teach or preach the basic principle of giving. Also many of the pastors/music ministers don’t understand the financial needs of the groups that travel full time. For some they won’t even have you if you have a set flat. This makes it very hard to get started as young artist

    I have talked with many of the established artist and most everyone of them have told me the same thing. You have to pay your dues to get a leg up in this industry. I guess that means you have to travel on a love offering basis and sing whenever and however you can… do whateer it takes just to be heard!

  14. wackythinker wrote:

    #12 DD: common business sense? That may be an oxymoron in the Christian realm. Sense is not always all that common. ;-) Especially “business sense”.

    I’ve seen WAY too many Christians in “Christian business” who had no business being in business. But because “God called them”, they have to do it. But God doesn’t call a person, IMO, to do something without the skills and/or talen to do that work.

    Just some thoughts.

  15. AggiebassinTx wrote:

    I’m going back about 22 years, but it’s an example of a smaller church giving a nice offering (for the time anyway). The Masters V came and sang for us on a November Friday night in 1985. Our church in NE Texas seats about 350 including the balcony. Their offering for the evening was over $3,000. This all went to the group and there was no flat involved. They also sold lots of product, so they were happy. (Ok,no comments about James plugging the offering, he really didn’t). So, sometimes it really is the smaller churches who give more. As I’ve heard some groups say about “love offerings”…a lot of love and not much offering. Glad this wasn’t the case.

  16. art wrote:

    Somewhat off topic, but this thread reminded me that I have occasionally toyed with the notion of organizing an SG concert or concert series. Not many SG artists come to my northern state, and the concert series I have attended over the years seems to be going downhill in terms of the artists they invite.

    Any idea how I would pick up some knowledge about this without just diving in and learning from my mistakes? I don’t want to take a financial bath.

  17. David in Florida wrote:

    I am currently in the process of putting together a multi artist concert for late Spring 2008. I have been debating on making this a ticketed event or a love offering event. I have noticed a few “promoters” in the area charging a donation at the door and then passing the plate for a love offering. That makes me uncomfortable in that it seems to be double dipping. I am talking to two major groups and I have my price. I just think if you are presenting a concert and are paying the artists, it is probably a good idea to have the financing taken care of before the night of the show.
    We are paying a reduced flat because both groups are going to be near enough that they can both be here on the Saturday night we need. We are near Orlando in Winter Haven and it is true we have no Southern Gospel radio in the area, with the exception of a “classic southern gospel station” owned by a church near here. They will not play any current SGM and they have told me they would not be interested in helping promote our concert in any way.

  18. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    Poster number 17,
    Check out post number 10.

  19. Chris Henry wrote:

    In CA, big churches don’t want SG music. It’s called the Rick Warren Factor. His brand of churches (Mega- and Medium-) don’t allow “old” music. So big churches don’t really promote out here. We have to rent these large churches, then pay the group(s) a flat, pay for advertising, and then pray that we have more than 300 @ $10/head so we don’t lose money again. With the exception of Legacy5, we lose on every concert of the year. That’s anywhere from 10-15 concerts yearly. Love offering in this case would be a death sentence to the concerts here.

    The truth is, there used to be a large base of SG fans here. 500-800 each concert in 1990s. But it seems they have either died, moved away, or stopped coming. You should feel fortunate if you have 500+ at your concerts. We see that once a year for Legacy5. Most people don’t go to “small” concerts. They only go to giant conventions and Gaither events. 1 or 2 groups typically attracts 100-200 people. On the left coast, SG has a deadly disease with no known cure.

  20. thom wrote:

    to #17 David in Florida - many promoters, myself included, have gone to the “suggested donation” at the door plus a love offering in order to get the “per head” amount up.

    It is embarrassing to invite a group to come on a love offering basis and then have the average given per person to only be $2 - $3 each. Ridiculous. Some people will give as little as possible - I’ve seen some wad up a $1 bill and toss it in the offering plate then get in their new Town Car to drive home. Some SG fans are just that cheap. I think we have to raise our expectations of people and ask them to give more.

    So, what I started doing is asking for a $5 “suggested donation” at the door plus I let them know up front that we will also collect an offering. My regular concert goers are not at all offended by this since many of them were giving $15-$20 anyway. I don’t believe asking for the $5 at the door has hurt our attendance , rather, I think it has raised the perceived value of the music in some people’s minds.

    The first time I ran a newspaper ad and included the phrase “$5 suggested donation at the door plus a love offering” I received a call from a “lady” who proceeded to bless me out for “charging people to go to church.” She said “how dare you make somebody pay to get into a church.” As far as I know she had never been to any event at our church - before or since. I explained to her that anyone who could not afford to make the $5 donation was still welcome to come PLUS I pointed out to her that our church offers 3 opportunities every week for people to attend without being asked for a donation - Sunday AM, Sunday PM, and Wednesday PM. The concert was on a Thursday night!

    I don’t mind telling people that we are looking for an average of $10 per person. Some will only give the $5, some will give $20 or more. I had one guy that dropped in a check for $400, and it is not that unusual to see a couple of $50 bills and an occasional $100 bill given as well.

    Every concert is different and not every artist is going to draw a full house and some artists receive better offerings than others simply because people like them better. I always remind the audience that if they want us to continue to host major groups in our area they must continue to give good offerings.

    As someone else mentioned - if you don’t take care of the groups when they come the word will soon get out amongst the booking agencies and the groups and after a while you won’t be able to get anyone to come except for a guaranteed amount. But, if you have good attendance and good offerings, it will make good business sense for the groups to come sing for you.

  21. JD wrote:

    RE Post #19. The more I hear about the ‘Rick Warren factor’, the I sicker I get. Our church is going that way with a new younger pastor and the music stinks. The ’senior’ Pastor who is in his thirties and knows it all, and his side-kick ‘music mininster’ in his sixties are SO against good gospel music or anything really worshipful, it is disgusting. They barred a gospel concert in their church even though it would have been run by all volunteers and cost the church nothing at all, saying they were ‘too busy’. I later heard that they don’t like that music. Another local church opened their doors happily and we had a great night. Is Rick Warren the one who promotes the term, ’safe place’ for the church? That’s what our new pastor keeps saying, ‘it’s a safe place’. Rick Warren indeed.

  22. TM wrote:

    Post # 11

    It really depends on how the church books the group. If the group was booked for a flat, then the extra should go to the church to further their ministries, sort of like a fundraiser. If the group goes for a love offering, then all the offering should go to the group. In the first situation (a flat), the church is obligated to pay that flat no matter the amount of an offering. If a church agrees to a flat and takes an offering to cover it, what happens when the offering is not enough. The money comes out of the churches budget. In my opinion, any group that sets a flat for a “mega-church” like Prestonwood is shooting theirselves in the foot. Just my humble opinion.

  23. wackythinker wrote:

    Shooting themselves in the foot? Maybe not. “A bird in the hand….” Not all mega-churches receive maga-offerings in a concert situation. And besides, if the group is satisfied with their flat, and the offering was more than the flat, most groups should not mind the church recouping some of their expenses (advertising, heat/air conditioning, lights, etc).

  24. David in Florida wrote:

    Re post #20 Thom: Thanks for the honesty! I was talking to an agent a couple of days ago and the conversation stumbled into the the “love offering” deal. I regularly attend “Saturday Nights in Lakeland” and they seem to do a great job. They don’t have a suggested donation at the door, but they do take up an offering. The Pastor of the church talks about the travel of the groups and the fact they do not ask for anything at the door. He does, however, make it very clear that he puts in a check for $30 each week for he and his wife ($15 each). I always put in at least $15 in a love offering. I do that because if we were talking about a ticketed concert the ticket prices would probably be in the $15 range. If there are multiple groups, then I adjust that offering. Back to the agent. She told me that the going average for love offerings is between $2 and $3 per person. I think this is a sad commentary on SGM concert goers. I guarantee that if some of these folks wanted to go to see Alan Jackson they would not even blink at a $40 ticket, but suggest $10 for a Greater Vision concert and they shudder. I know it is all about perception and a lot of people believe that if God calls you into ministry then He will take care of all your needs. We have been lucky so far in that we have lined up 6 businesses to help underwrite our concert. We plan to do an advance ticket (reserve the necessary number of rows) then a suggested donation at the door. Based on our sponsorships and anticipated number of advance sales we will be over the necessary money needed for the groups. We have decided that anything left over after other expenses are taken care of will be divided between the groups as extra. Thanks for those of you that had a take on my previous post.

  25. thom wrote:

    David: sounds like you are handling your concert in a good way. getting the community involved and asking for business sponsorships is a great idea.

    one thing I have done along with the “suggested donation at the door” is to include door prizes. I asked merchants in our community to donate prizes, gift certificates, Cds, etc and when people give their “donation” they are eligible for the door prize drawings.
    Plus, most groups will donate some CD’s or DVD’s to give away.

    in between groups, at the love offering time, intermission, etc. we draw out a ticket and give away a prize. you’d be surprised how excited people get about winning a DVD or a $25 grocery certificate. This is certainly not original with me. I know other promoters that give away $25 gas cards to the person who drove the longest distance to come to the concert.

    Back “in the day” Les Beasley / The Florida Boys used to give away TV sets at big concerts!

    you are on the right track

  26. thom wrote:

    p.s. - and you are right about what people will pay to go to a country concert or a rock concert vs a sg concert - quite a disparity in what value people put on the music.

    as I said before, I think we as promoters of this great music must do our part to raise the value of it in peoples eyes.

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