Are you wondering how you’re going to make this year’s budget? Have you looked at your donations and felt concerned they’re running behind? It seems like every time I talk to church leaders the topic of increasing revenue comes up. It’s understandable because oftentimes church funding is the only thing standing between our vision and its execution. Donations can definitely enable more ministry opportunities; however, I’d like to challenge you to stop thinking about ways to increase revenue if you don’t already have a robust system in place to thank your current donors.
It’s our opportunity and our responsibility as a church to thank the people who have chosen to invest in our ministry. Those who give to your church are actively choosing to give to your ministry. Whatever your philosophy on giving, the reality is that the donors who fund your ministry also encounter a number of other giving opportunities on a regular basis. The fact that they’ve opted to support your ministry is pretty amazing. Rather than outlining another way to increase revenue, we need talk about how to show our appreciation for those who already give.
You see, people often repeat what gets rewarded. We all know this from what happens when we motivate our team members, whether they be staff or volunteers. However, the same is true for our donors. If people feel acknowledged and appreciated, they are more likely to give to your ministry in the future.
Now, I’m not talking about putting little brass plates on every object at your church saying, “Generously donated by Mr. Han Solo and Ms. Leia Organa.” An elegant process built around thanking people who give to you church can both acknowledge and show appreciation to them at the same time.
While Scripture is clear that Christians have a responsibility to give back and help push the ministry forward, many of those who attend our churches on a regular basis don’t contribute financially. The internal life change going on within a person who chooses to give up a portion of their income and invest it in your ministry is nothing short of profound. And so, we want to go out of our way to make a big deal about people who have chosen to give for the very first time.
Here are a few ways you could acknowledge and show appreciation to this amazing group of people:
- Take the time to write a handwritten card. This would be a terrific opportunity for the pastor to say thanks and express that the church is honored the donor has chosen to give to its ministry.
- Send a letter of appreciation. It sounds simple, but it’s the best place to start. Have someone in leadership thank the donor, explain the vision of the church, and give the donor an opportunity to reach out with any questions about how their donations are being used.
- Give a thoughtful token of thanks. Many churches will give a small gift to help reinforce the idea that we don’t just want something from our donors—we actually want to give them something in return that can help them continue to manage their resources well. Books such as Randy Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle or Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover are practical and useful examples of this kind of gift.
Initial Recurring Donors
At some point, people will choose to go from giving occasionally to giving regularly. You might notice this in a monthly report that lists regular gifts that match the month before; it may show up when those who give online choose a recurring option rather than a one-time option. However, these regular contributors can sometimes feel neglected as our systems don’t have a way to acknowledge their donations every few months.
Take notice of the donors who choose to give on a regular basis, and let them know you notice their generosity and are so thankful that they’re choosing to give in this way. Some churches will not only send a note or a letter of appreciation when someone sets up recurring giving, but they’ll also have their system track various levels of gifts or the number of months that people give recurrently. For instance, at three months of giving a phone call from someone within the financial services department might be appropriate. After a full year, the pastor might send a handwritten note saying, “Thank you so much for giving monthly over this past year; it’s made a dramatic difference.” Whatever approach you use, establish the good practice of finding regular milestones to connect with recurring donors.
People Who Give to Special Appeals
Can we have a bit of an honest moment? I know that we occasionally find ourselves making a special appeal to those who give to our ministries. Maybe we have a special project we need to fund or we are running behind in a certain area. We build a small campaign where we reach out to our community and invite them to participate in a short-term opportunity that usually goes towards a specific need. Oftentimes, I’ve seen churches invest a lot of time, effort, energy and even financial resources on the front end of these campaigns with little leftover for showing appreciation to funders afterwards.
I want to challenge you to spend as much time, effort and energy on acknowledging donors who give to special campaigns as you do on the front end. If you have five or six dessert nights where you call people together to ask them to give to a special opportunity, you can certainly turn around and have a gratitude barbecue to thank those who contributed to your campaign.
FOR THE LAST THREE TYPES OF DONORS, SEE PAGE TWO!