Thank YouOne of my favorite clients gave me this little axiom that has become part of my everyday work with Christian ministries across the country, “An attitude of gratitude produces altitude.” 

I’ve never forgotten it because it’s so true!  Gratitude is POWERFUL STUFF. God rewards the thankful. He loves generosity and cheerful giving.  He will reward your ministry if you make expressing gratitude the centerpiece of your donor relations efforts.

Lack of Thanking

Fact:  A lack of properly thanking donors is why Christian fundraising often ends up broken down on the road of good intentions.

Gratitude matters.  Most ministries still send tired, boring, mass produced receipts to donors; but that doesn’t meet the real need.  Donors want to feel the love; they want to know they are personally connected in some way.  A warm, personal card or letter or a phone call now and then—not telemarketing—can really go a long way! 

Another form of expressing gratitude is reporting results.  Penelope Burke’s study of hundreds of thousands of donors over the past five years says the #1 reason why donors stop giving to their favorite charities is because, “They never told me what they did with the money.” 

As Christian non-profits, we need to report how God has used a donor’s gifts to change lives, reach more people, or serve the community and do it in a personal way.  Your donors will be so encouraged, they’ll keep on giving and then you can focus on adding new donors during fundraising season.

When Advocace begins a new client relationship with a Christian ministry, invariably we find the gift acknowledgment, or thank you process, to be lacking.  What’s more, the reporting process is often almost non-existent.  Many ministries aren’t even tracking important information like how many people heard the Gospel at an event over the past year or quantifying community service work (shoes, coats, pounds of food, etc.).  Others have no process for collecting and properly archiving the stories of how God is changing lives through their ministry. 

One more important tip: When thanking and reporting, it’s important to get yourself out of the way.  Don’t say, “Your gift helped us to…”  Instead, connect the donor directly with the results, as in, “Your gift changed Sally’s life!  Let me tell you how…”  

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4 Ways to Start Thanking Donors

“Thank you” is the place to start with your donors. Here are a few ways to thank your donors.

1. Make a list of donors who have given $100 or more at any one time -or- $1,200 in any 12-month period over the past three years.

2. Create simple talking points—not a script…this isn’t telemarketing—and train your team to call donors to just say ‘Thank you’ and to ask for prayer requests. Start with the newest donors, first. Then, work backward to complete your three-year list.

3. For the largest, most recent donors, write handwritten thank you notes.

4. On an on-going basis, decide how your donors will be thanked for their giving.  Every donor should get a receipt sent two to three days after their gift arrives.  Getting receipts out the door within 24 hours is a good goal, but a better receipt sent later is just as good.  Finally, donors giving at higher levels should get a personal touch such as a card, phone call, or small gift, every now and then.