Question: Hey Fletch… Do you encourage churches to acknowledge first time givers through a thank you letter? I am considering starting this because I see this as a significant opportunity but do not want to come off pushy.
Answer: A first time donation is a big step. The person is saying, “Hey, I’m beginning to buy into the family and vision here. Let me help and support it.” I would strongly encourage you to send a letter to them. I have done that for years. When we printed a 10 page color end-of-year “ministry stories” publication, we printed enough extra to send to new donors throughout the year. People loved it.
You don’t need to thank the person for the amount of the donation. Some churches treat that information as confidential and only for the business office. People do want to know that the money was received and that it matters. Regardless of the size of the gift, say “thank you for being a part of this family. Every person matters here.”
Will you come off as pushy? Not with a great note. When were you ever upset that someone said, “thank you!” I have asked Brad Leeper, Principal at Generis to respond:
Brad Leeper—Rather than pushy, think pastoral. This new giver, through this financial gift, has indicated a new, deeper engagement with your church. The step to acknowledge and to say thank you is a powerful pastoral step that reinforces the risk and courage to enter into a new relationship with their church. And consequently, a new relationship with you as their pastor.
Taking this step and receiving a silent response sends an unintended message that they are not necessarily welcomed or embraced here. Another reason to graciously acknowledge the gift is to prompt and encourage a second gift that comes faster with a note than silence. It seems only 4 of 10 first time givers ever make a subsequent second gift. Those lost second gifts means less financial resources for your mission and a loss of spiritual connection with that person. The lack of a courteous response in a thank you might send the message that we really do not want your next gift and, as odd as this might sound, we really do not want you either. Sending a note establishes a personal relationship with the giver which is pastoral to the core.
One more reason to send a thank you acknowledgement. Most every nonprofit will acknowledge that gift, and show appreciation. Why would we as church leaders seem less pastoral and caring than a non-church organization?
Sample Thank You Letter
Dear Joe and Julie,
Thanks for being part of our Church! The finance team let me know of your initial financial investment to our church. Your gift is generous and will return a big impact in the lives of many. Your part in our church really matters. It is an honor to be your pastor and to have you as part of our community!