Eleven ways a church can send thank you cards

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Generosity starts with a grateful heart.

Gratitude is foundational to generosity.

How can churches say thank you? Sending a thank you card is an easy starting point.  Churches can do this! I met with Susan Graham Walker from the United Church of Canada today and she gave me a thank you card that they have created for congregations.  Yay!  It's encouraging to see the national church making it easier for congregations to share their gratitude.

Eleven ways to use thank you cards

Here's 11 ways these cards could be used, I'm sure you can think of more:

  1. Begin meetings with gratitude - each member of council (or elders, deacons etc.) write one card at the beginning of each meeting to express gratitude for someone in the church
  2. Thank church custodians who keep the building welcoming
  3. Thank seniors who faithfully give despite have difficulty attending worship services
  4. Thank students who volunteer
  5. Thank donors - don't wait until the end of the year, send a thank you now and a receipt later (with another thank you)
  6. Thank members - pastors could send out three cards a month to thank members for their involvement
  7. Thank clergy - church members could send an encouraging note to clergy, teacher or denominational leader
  8. Thank Sunday School teachers
  9. Thank church admin staff who keep the church running
  10. Thank people who make coffee (perhaps this should be in the next list, but I hold this gift in special regard because people will forget a bad sermon but remember a bad cup of coffee....)
  11. Thank people who contribute to the church by baking, shoveling, encouraging, sharing, listening, singing, playing music, smiling, dancing, praying, speaking, reading, debating, affirming, welcoming, organizing, giggling, doubting, crying, hugging or simply by their presence.

Imperfect is fine

Simple, short and sincere will be fine.  Long works too.  Quote Scripture if you like.  Tell stories if you can.  Try not to stress about the content: an imperfect thank you card still expresses gratitude.

The author Laura Ingalls Wilder also wrote a newspaper column.  She wrote about a boy who had to write about what he was thankful for.  His mother sent him on a walk around the block to reflect.  Wilder noted that being able to walk and having a mother was already much to be thankful for.  Congregations who worship God and pray together have much to be thankful for too; sometimes we overlook the obvious.

We are called to be the church!  Thanks be to God.

 

 

 

 

Thank-you letters for people who didn’t give

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If you give a wedding gift, you expect to receive a thank-you note.  It’s common courtesy.  If you don’t give a gift, you generally don’t get a thank-you note.  Obvious, right? However, in church giving often nobody gets a thank-you note.  Nobody gets thanked.  Really.  In many churches, donors get an annual receipt with no thank-you letter.

Gratitude makes a springboard into generosity

I’m proposing here that everybody gets a thank-you note. Here’s why: gratitude generally and thank-you letters in particular make a good springboard into generosity.

When I propose sending thank-you letters to donors, some church members object. Not everyone gives; not everyone will get a letter. In this way of thinking, silence around giving seems fairer somehow.  Silence is certainly easier, but generosity is too important to keep the lid on it.

How can we encourage generosity if we don’t talk about it?

If someone doesn’t give, they don’t get a receipt and they may never be personally asked to give. This situation is not unique to faith communities – does your organization have board members who don’t give?  It’s a fundraising concern for charities of all kinds. For churches, it’s a discipleship question as well: how can we promote the spiritual practice of generosity if we don’t talk about it?

In the spirit of the KISS principle (Keep it Simple Steward) I offer a sample thank-you letter for people who didn’t give (in a receiptable way).  This idea comes courtesy of Sherri Grosz from Abundance Canada.  I’m thinking of annual receipt time but with a little creativity, this letter could work in other contexts, like after a fundraising event.

Sample letter

Dear <name>,

Thank you for your support of Peach Blossom.  We are glad you are part of our community.  So many people take time to listen, to shovel the snow, to wash the dishes after a meal or to share a friendly smile.

Many people contribute cash and food to our monthly food bank offering that helped many families in our neighbourhood have healthy food to eat.  Children and adults donated $1,872 to our Christmas giving project to buy coats for refugee families arriving in Canada.  Likely you have been part of these projects and we are thankful.  Perhaps you put money in the offering plate and we didn’t know your name.  Again, we are grateful.

This is the time of year when we send out annual receipts to our donors.  These charitable receipts can be used for income tax purposes and depending on your situation, can reduce the amount of income tax you need to pay.

If you would like a tax receipt for your donations in future, we have options.

Envelopes: please donate cash or cheques using the enclosed envelopes, or ask an usher to help you find one. Write your name on the outside and also designate your giving: “food bank”, “Christmas project” etc.

If you don’t designate, we’ll assume your donation supports the general work of the church.  Throughout the week, our building provides a welcoming space used by musicians, recovering addicts, knitters and more!  Your donations benefit many.

Online: Did you know that you can give to Peach Blossom online using your computer or smart phone?  You will receive a receipt via email. Please visit our website at…

Through your bank account:  Regular monthly giving makes it easy to give and is now about 40% of our donations at Peach Blossom.  We are thrilled when people support the church in this way!  Please email... or call…

Thank you for being part of our congregation! We appreciate you. If you need help doing your taxes, or would like to meet with someone to talk, we are here.  Please call at …

Blessings to you,

Peach Blossom Church

P.S. Did you know we are hosting afternoon tea next Tuesday and Saturday afternoons?  It’s a great chance to chat.  Guests welcome!

Make it your own

There’s a 100% chance that this letter needs to be changed. Go ahead and borrow this template if you like, customize it to make it your own.

I am trying to keep this template fairly generic; I’d probably make this letter even ‘churchier’.  “Did you know that you can give to Peach Blossom in your will?” would be a good addition and a great topic to discuss at the afternoon tea.

Invite me over

Here’s another suggestion: invite me to come speak to your congregation, denomination or small charity. I have lots of ideas to share and I’m really good with questions. Talking about money need not be scary! “Jesus talks about money; we can too!”

"Young families can't give"?

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"Young families can't give."  Twice recently I've heard exactly the same statement from church leaders.  I believe what they meant was "young families with mortgages, daycare fees and mouths to feed can't afford to give to the church."  I surely hope it wasn't a theological statement! Let me start with a story:

Once there was a big family with lots of kids.  They arrived in Canada as refugees, supported by a small-town church. This family settled in and worked hard. Then something surprising happened: this family started giving more than some of the regular donors to the church.  They had learned tithing back home and they actually did it - they gave 10% of their income to the church. No one had expected them to give; they did it on their own.

Yes, this is an exceptional story.  I heard it on my church basement tour of Canada during my D.Min. research into Christian giving. It was a privilege and an honour to hear from so many faithful stewards. I recorded and transcribed these conversations.  Here's a sampling of their wisdom:

  • as our kids grow up, there’s so many voices calling for their dollars, except the church
  • Don’t feel  bad the time that you can’t give, because you also give in time and talent, and that’s part of giving
  • 10% a good number but if you can give more, give more.  If you can only give 6,7% that’s okay
  • in 1961 we were just married a year and the baby came along.  I had just got laid off, I worked in construction.  The church had a fundraiser and they were asking for money.  We made a commitment by faith.  That Sunday the Ford motor called me...and I got the job.  God is faithful

If someone in church said "I don't have enough time to pray", the church would find creative ways to respond.  Maybe the family needs some caregiving help, networking support for job-hunting.  I doubt that "you can learn to pray later when you have more time" would be the response.

Many of the faithful stewards I talked with learned to give when they were young.  They saw their dad get paid in cash and count out the church pile on the kitchen table. Some generous folks learned from their employers or other role models.  And so I think it's important that churches talk about giving.  Not as a guilt trip, but as a joyous spiritual discipline.  Don't assume people can't give - talk about how they can give.  Model generosity. Tell stories.  Here are more quotes:

You can’t outgive God, it’s a little game we have [laughter]  that’s certainly been very influential.

“I don’t notice that it’s gone...it almost seems like I have more money when I give it away”

“we run on a pretty tight budget and we make it through every month”

for some people budget is tight, but instead they volunteer more

“it’s hard to figure out”

“if you’re just pleasing yourself... it’s a lot harder to give away because it feels like its yours but if you approach it as it’s not mine... it’s a lot easier”

“it’s not your stuff, it’s God’s stuff - once you make that leap, it changes everything”

“if Jesus puts something on your heart, then you should support that thing both in prayer and financially, and both are just as equally as important”

I think it's more important to be faithful or to use what we do have..that’s more important  than the amount

try to find that balance – don’t want to be living on the last of every paycheque “but you still want to have that giving heart”

I can't say it better - "you still want to have that giving heart."  May we lean into God's abundant grace.

Getting past the "secrecy doctrine" of Christian giving

"Giving, like every other gift, ... is taught best when it is modelled."  MEDA board member Peter Dueck helps us get past the left hand/right hand "secrecy doctrine."   YES! He points out that Jesus announces how much the widow gave.  I would add the story of Zaccheus' public declaration of giving too.  Helpful article from the Marketplace, a magazine for Christians in business published by Mennonite Economic Development Agency (MEDA). http://meda.org/latest-issues

One final act of kindness

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We had so much fun giving that money away

I heard those words while having lunch at a national church gathering earlier this month.  A pastor described how his church set up a bequest policy - before they ever received money through a will - so that the church would have clear directions on how to use that money.  And to reassure people who might be thinking of leaving money to the church in their will.  People do not want to leave money to their church if the church will argue about how to spend it.  That last sentence bears repeating: people do not want to leave money to their church if the church will argue about it.

It was a very encouraging conversation.  The church had a plan. They divided the money roughly in thirds: special projects at the church, causes the congregation supports and charitable causes associated with the specific donor.  Current living members were still the ones keeping the church going - a vital consideration for many congregations.  The donor was honoured through causes matched with the donor's interests and values.  And it was a celebration of generosity - an opportunity to continue the good work of the church and many other causes.

So the point of my post is: Hey churches!  Do you have a bequest policy? Here's an opportunity to encourage and to celebrate generosity.

This isn't a technical how-to post - talk to my friends at Mennonite Foundation of Canada or the many faith-based institutions that can help here.  It's a conversation-starter post. Maybe another example could help...

An example: Volunteers and bequests

Here in Ontario where I live, volunteers have been running the New Hamburg Relief Sale for 50 years, to raise funds for relief and development work of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).  Many, many people have been generous with their time, talents, money and energy through the years - quilting, cooking, singing and much more.  (And selling plants - that's where the flower in the photo comes from!) Millions have been raised to help with people in Canada and around the world. MCC and local congregations have a great opportunity to invite these faithful folks to leave a legacy.  It's a final act of kindness in keeping with many years of giving.  Imagine if all the churches involved had bequest policies.  What if MCC had a dinner celebrating the long-time volunteers and asked them to consider helping MCC in their wills?  Or, putting those two ideas together, a volunteer could leave money to her church in her will, knowing that the church would distribute the money in a way consistent with her values.

Instead of letting the words will, bequest and estate scare us, I really like reframing it as "we had so much fun giving that money away." Then we can make room for a discussion on one final act of kindness.

 

Lori speaking at The Pursuit, April 2016

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I'm looking forward to conducting two workshops about church and money in April, at a conference called The Pursuit.

What's the Pursuit?

It's a new Christian ministry event, jointly hosted by three different groups and supported by many.  Canadians, Americans, and many denominations and types of ministry.  It's good to push the envelope!

Marcia Shetler from the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (an insider!) says an important part of the conference is how "faithful stewardship and generous giving" intersects with the church.   The list of speakers is impressive and stewardship component is part of a conference serving a larger constituency and offering other organizationally-related topics.  (many, many topics in fact - fortunately videos will be available to see the sessions you missed!)

I tried to think of what that would look like and came up with a Venn diagram (when people study Math and then theology, these things happen!)the pursuit

Video links for Lori's workshops

Here's the links to one minutes videos highlighting my two workshops (these will open in new tabs)

Best Practices for Giving in Churches

What (apostle) Paul taught me about Church and Money

How do I attend this conference?

The Pursuit website http://the-pursuit.ca/ explains all the details.