Cultivating the soil of new donors can take years of relational investing before the ‘yes’ comes. It would be easy to focus so much on getting to the ‘yes’ that you forget about what absolutely must come after the ‘yes’. And if you don’t, your donors will quit long before you (or they) are ready.
Say Thank You
Duh, right? It sounds simple enough, but in too many churches and ministries this happens only inconsistently, or worse, not at all.
Whether you’re raising support to start a new church or go into the mission field, or whether you’re addressing generosity with your congregation as one of the several marks of a mature disciple, this applies: say thank you early and often.
There are lots of reasons why this is so critical, and they really have little to do with the money itself.
First, thanking new donors acknowledges the spiritual significance of their gift. We are so wrapped up in money here in the US that when someone wrestles with giving and ultimately gives to God through the local church, it is a huge act of spiritual growth and obedience. That’s worth acknowledging!
Second, a sincere thank you works humility and gratitude into your own heart: the gift didn’t come by your own power and your Christian ministry requires shared resources to continue its work.
Third, thanking your givers and donors allows them to share in the harvest of the good work happening through your ministry:
“For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.” 1 Corinthians 9:9-10 (NIV)
The list could go on; I think you get it.
Where it Breaks Down
So why is it so hard? Mostly it boils down to systems, so let’s look at the most likely culprits:
- You don’t get notified when a new giver gives for the first time
- The person in charge of donor records hasn’t been trained to point out first time givers
- You do have a feedback loop, but the information comes only once a month (or even longer) so you miss opportunities
- You don’t have a routine or a calendar reminder to periodically re-thank consistent donors
- You are trying to do all the thank you’s yourself and can’t always get to them
What to Do
Here’s how to tighten up your systems:
- Mail a note quickly to first time givers, which requires you to:
- Train your bookkeeper to be look for first-time donors – easy to spot if they’re not already in your donor tracking database
- Work with your bookkeeper to be notified immediately of any new donor, or no event not longer than once a week in a report
- Have your bookkeeper send semiannual or even quarterly giving statements instead of only in January, and be sure to include a story that connects their giving with the good it is accomplishing
- Form a team to help do the heavy lifting. Delegate but don’t abdicate: you still need to be involved in the process but it doesn’t have to rest entirely on your shoulders
Don’t starve your givers and donors of the thanks they deserve. Saying thank you early and often will paradoxically keep them engaged and focused on ministry instead of the money itself.
This post was written by Patrick Bradley, Senior Project Manager at STADIA. Patrick is a key component to STADIA’s 90%+ success rate at planting church planting churches. If you’re looking for the most critical insight into the church planting world, be sure to follow him on his blog, Church Planting Tactics.