“When is showing gratitude ever inappropriate?” That was my wife Valerie’s response after I returned home from meeting with a pastor who had asked me to write a series of letters for him. One letter I wrote was a thank you letter to donors for their generosity. When I showed it to the pastor he remarked, “I think sending a thank you letter is inappropriate as I have a theological problem thanking people for what they ought to do.” Clearly, he did not understand the value of showing gratitude.
This is the final Coach in my series on preparing for the Easter offering. One of my goals for the Easter offering is to attract new donors. To move those new donors to the next contribution, I want to conclude this series by sharing with you one last key step, expressing gratitude for the offering. This Coach is entitled The Value of Showing Gratitude. I’m on a mission to change the conversation about giving and one key way is to help leaders see the value of showing gratitude.
Let me establish that I believe Christians “ought to” give without expecting anything in return. Period. We can all agree on that. Most donors never expect to hear anything about their gift. That is why when you make the effort to say thank you, it means so much to them. Here are at least two major reasons why.
First, churches teach gratefulness by how they respond to givers. Everything we do in church is a teachable moment. So, when you make the effort to thank those that fuel your ministry, it shows them you are grateful and sets a standard for them in how to respond to those that give to them.
Next, gratefulness begets gratefulness! When you show gratefulness to donors, they in turn show gratefulness. While saying thank you might not mean they give more, it will certainly make donors feel appreciated for the gifts they give. Again, how you respond teaches them how to respond.
Why is thanking your donors important? Apart from all of the above, I have some practical reasons for suggesting we say thank you to donors. Here are a few reasons I stress having a thank you plan of action…
- Saying thank you for a past gift is a subtle way of reminding people about giving.
- Saying thank you gives you an opportunity to say what gifts accomplish. People give to what matters!
- Saying thank you builds a platform upon which to ask for further gifts.
- Saying thank you produces happy donors. 99.99% of your donors are not expecting a thank you but they will appreciate one when given.
- Saying thank you shows you recognize donors are not simply a number but a real person.
- Saying thank you sets you apart from others who never acknowledge donations.
It takes so little to be above average. Several years ago, I read a book by Florence Littauer by that title. The title says it all. Few churches have any plan for building up donors. How hard is it, from time to time, to simply say, “Thank you, your gift is making a difference?”
Does expressing gratitude work? Penelope Burk, in a book titled Donor Centred Fundraising, shared this, “A thank you call from a Board Member to a newly acquired donor within 24 hours will increase their next gift by 39%.”1.
How can you show your gratitude? Here is what I recommend as an ongoing strategy for expressing thanks to your donors. Start by publicly thanking donors ALL the time. From your offering time to social media, you should be regularly expressing thanks to those who give. See this week’s offering talk. Here are a few other ideas.
- Write up-to-date automated thank you notes for your online giving receipts. For more ideas on how to do this, see my blog post at https://www.onlinegiving.org/support/because-of-your-generosity.
- Write periodic notes to your top donors in your own handwriting expressing your thanks. I leave it to you to decide what percentage or amount generates a thank you note. I would suggest that you at least consider your top fifteen percent.
- Write a note of thanks to all your first-time donors. I have a follower who typically runs around 1,500 each weekend yet he writes a personal handwritten note to all who give for the first time, thanking them for their gift.
- Make sure every appeal expresses thanks for past gifts and consideration for giving in response to your appeal. We are always looking for the next gift. For more practical advice on showing gratitude, see the Bonus Section.
The bottom line is to be thankful AND to express thanks for those who give to your church. They help fuel the missions and ministries you do. It takes very little effort to say thanks but the return on that is enormous. Find regular and creative ways to express your appreciation to your donors. Because gratitude changes everything!
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach