By Paul Hanson
I’ve been in a bit of a grumpy mood for the past…oh, six or seven months. So when I was asked to write about “how to thank givers”, I decided to embrace my inner Oscar the Grouch and instead write “How NOT to say thank you” to givers to your ministry. Besides, haven’t we seen a few too many “best practices” lists? So here goes:
Seven Worst Thanking Practices.
1. Eschew personal thanking. A blanket thank you in the Sunday announcements should suffice: ‘Thanks to everyone who pledged this year….” Or put a paragraph in the newsletter, and you’re done! Handwritten notes? Phone calls? Face-to-face thanking? That’s silly!
2. Be efficient. Tuck a thank you note into everyone’s box of offering envelopes. Leave the boxes on a table in the entry for six months. (Pro tip: This method doubles as a way to shame those who haven’t been to church for awhile.)
3. “Thanks, but…” is a great formula. “Thanks for your support, but our total fell short; can you all stretch just a little more?” Or the ever-popular, “We want to thank those have turned in their annual pledge, but NOT those who haven’t yet.”
4. Stories are for softies—stick with hard data! Who really wants to hear personal stories about the impact of their giving? Nothing says thank you like an impersonal sentence of gratitude on their quarterly giving statement. (Pro tip: Highlighters are handy to point out how much the giving is behind YTD expectations.)
5. It’s sufficient to thank only one member of the household—the “head of the household” is best.
6. Never say the word money. It’s rude. People might think you’re asking for their money. If you’re personally uncomfortable thanking people for giving money, go ahead and generalize: “Thanks for all the ways you support this work…time, talent and treasure.”
7. Actually, it’s probably just fine to not thank people. After all, giving is an expectation of church members and disciples, right? Never mind.
OK, enough Oscar the Grouch! How do we thank givers?
Ways to Say Thanks
- Specifically. Don’t be efficient. “Thank you” can be the only message.
- Personally. Along with general thanking strategies, practice individual thanking methods. Surprise people with a note. Make three phone calls a week. Catch someone after a meeting. Maybe even a text or email! (Pro tip: if you’re worried about thanking some and not others, start anyway. It will work out.)
- Engagingly. Ditch the numbers; tell about ministry stories. “This really cool thing was possible because you gave.” Stories are best used in person because you can watch how they smile with their eyes!
- Courageously. Don’t chicken out by thanking them for doing stuff; say “Thank you for the money you give.” (It’s even okay to know how much they gave.) I dare you. Watch what happens!
If you know you deep down that you need to grow more willing to ask people to give money, practice thanking them. The courage to thank people is the same muscle as the courage to ask. And if people experience your gratitude, they won’t mind when you talk about giving. They will expect it, and even be grateful for it.
About the Author
Pastor Paul Hanson served congregations in South Dakota for two decades, was director of the ELCA Fund for Leaders, and for the past ten years is Senior Philanthropic Adviser at Luther Seminary. He has three awesome adult kids, two green thumbs, one brown dog, a mean trombone, and a sweet wife.
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