Thank-you letters for people who didn’t give

thank-you-letters-for-people-who-didnt-give.png

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!”

We can always afford to be generous

Picture1.jpg

How and why Christians give is definitely changing, that's certain.  How can churches and denominations respond? I've summarized a lot of my research into an easy-to-read article in the Canadian Mennonite.  It's the story of Peach Blossom church, a composite of many congregations I've met in my travels.  Do we treat our donors like horses or like cows?  Should we say thank-you in church?

http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/we-can-always-afford-be-generous

I needed to leave out a lot of material - the full article is on my About page - link below.

Data on Canadian Christian giving trends is scarce; it's hard for my Mennonite self to say this, but this longer paper is really a goldmine if you're interested the state of Christian giving in Canada.

Whom do you trust?

Happy reading!  Do be in touch if you'd like to chat more!

One final act of kindness

One-final-act-of-kindnesswww.lgreesor.com_.jpg

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

Looking-forward-to-this-gathering-of-Christian-church-and-charity-leaders.-I-am-conducting-two-workshops-on-church-giving..jpg

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.