Nonprofits that aren’t churches can have a significant advantage over churches in donor development. Almost every leader of a nonprofit that isn’t a church knows precisely what everyone gives. He or she can then thank them personally and appeal to them in the future.
But what do church leaders do if they do not have access to giving records? This issue arose on two separate occasions at our consulting and coaching forum site, Church Answers Central. I learned a lot from our members’ interactions.
We will not address whether or not a pastor or other church leaders should have visibility to giving records. We will avoid the emotions we often get when we mention that issue. Instead, we will focus on churches where the pastor does not know individual giving amounts. Here, then, are seven ways to thank donors when you do not their identity.
1. Write a letter or email acknowledging their anonymity. Here is an example of the beginning of such a letter: “Dear faithful servant, our financial assistant informed me that you provided a recent generous financial gift to our church. Though I do not have access to giving records and identities, I want to thank you for your generosity. Our financial assistant is mailing this letter on my behalf.”
2. Write first-time givers within the first week of their donation. Of course, you can use the exact verbiage as shown above. You could change the wording “recent generous” to “first-time.” We have heard that this approach has been successful in securing ongoing financial commitments from the donor.
3. Thank the church as a whole regularly. My pastor and son, Jess Rainer, thanks the congregation every week. Instead of asking for money, he gives thanks. Many pastors use the offertory as a time to express thanksgiving.
4. Write every giver in the church twice a year. Most of the time, these letters are not personalized. While writing to thank the givers toward the end of the year is good, many church members expect that letter as a method of seeking commitment for the upcoming year. A mid-year letter can have a significant impact. Because it is typically not expected, it is received with greater appreciation.
5. Write a note to those who give to special funds. Many churches have funds for special causes, such as missions or a building campaign. While other churches have moved to a unified budget, many congregations still have focused, designated giving. These letters can also be written with an acknowledgment of the anonymity of the giver.
6. Find a way to express gratitude to those who have stopped giving while checking on them pastorally. Here is an example of a letter sent from a church’s financial assistant: “We noticed that after a long season of financial generosity, your giving habits towards the church have changed. We wanted to check in and see if everything was okay, or if something unexpected has occurred that the church can help with. You can share as much or as little as you want, but we wanted you to know how thankful we are for your financial generosity and that we care about you.”
7. Thank God for the faithfulness of those who give. Even if you cannot thank them directly, you can thank God for faithful givers. Some pastors pray a prayer of thanksgiving for their churches at least once a week. Among their specific areas of gratitude are prayers of thanksgiving for the faithful stewardship of the church members.
A few years ago, a pastor learned that a senior adult had made a multi-million donation to the local community college. The pastor was shocked that she had that type of wealth. And he was surprised she didn’t direct any gifts to the church. He got the courage to visit her and ask her directly why she didn’t give anything to the church. Her response is telling.
“Why, pastor, I didn’t know you really cared about people giving to the church. The president of the community college thanked me on many occasions for my donations. When it came time to give away this large amount, the college was top of mind. The president came to my home to thank me again and to work with me on this large donation.”
Her final words were indicting: “I wished you had asked me. I just didn’t know you cared.”
Give thanks for everything.
And that includes those who give to your church.
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