Saying thank you promptly and regularly is one of the simplest and most effective things a congregation can do to reinforce good stewardship and enhance giving. When people are thanked regularly, they feel appreciated, valued, and needed — which makes them more likely to support ministry with their time, talents, and financial support. To accomplish this, churches need a thank you system that is personal, prompt, and planned.
A well-thought-out thank you system will help nurture a culture of gratitude in your congregation and reinforce generosity.
Personal. Expressing gratitude personally is an important way to nurture relationships. And people tend to give to persons and organizations where they feel valued and connected. In thanking people, use the most personal approach possible. A personalized letter is better than a form letter. A hand-written note is better than a letter. A phone call is better than a note. And a face-to-face thank you is best of all! The beauty of a personal thank you is that it allows you to put the focus on the person being thanked and how much they mean to you and to the community. It reinforces the relationship that underlies their generosity.
Prompt. The moment for saying thanks effectively is a fleeting moment. The sooner a thank-you is received, the more likely it is to be perceived as sincere. The promptness of the thank you expresses the strength of the appreciation. It is a general rule in fundraising that thank you letters should go out within a week of receiving a donation — preferably sooner.
Planned. Many churches fail to thank their givers because they have not thought about it ahead of time or put systems in place. They let the opportunity to thank people pass by simply because they have not planned. You cannot wait until after the fact of receiving a gift or pledge to start thinking about how to say thank you. As you conduct your annual commitment campaign, for example, it is crucial to have a system in place so you can respond to each pledge as it is received. Don’t wait until after Commitment Sunday to think about this, or it will be too late. And don’t wait until all pledges have been received, as that can take many weeks or even months.
With these principles in mind, take stock of the various opportunities you have to express gratitude to your contributors — when someone gives to the church for the first time, when someone makes or fulfills a pledge, when giving statements are mailed out, or when a special gift is made — and make a plan for saying thank you in appropriate ways. A well-thought-out thank you system will help nurture a culture of gratitude in your congregation and reinforce generosity.