Chick Lane is the Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He writes a newsletter titled “Stewardship for the 21st Century” (subscribe here). His latest issue is copied verbatim below.
Idea #5 “ Develop a Plan for Thanking”By Chick Lane
When I began my work at Luther Seminary over two years ago, my cube was located in the middle of the development staff. Working in a room of cubes provides one with the opportunity to overhear one side of many conversations. As I tried not to listen, what I heard going on was a lot of thanking.
Eventually I started to notice a pattern to the thanking, so I asked one of my colleagues if Luther Seminary had a plan for how we thank people. The answer was, “Of course.” In fact, the plan is written out, detailing how the institution will thank donors for every imaginable giving circumstance.
I’m not aware of any congregation that has a detailed “thank you plan,” but my experience at Luther Seminary makes me wonder why that is the case. It seems to me that having such a written plan would be a great guide for the congregation’s thanking of those who support the congregation’s ministry.
A congregational plan would probably be fairly simple to develop. First, you would need to imagine every circumstance in which people might give to the congregation. The list would include such things as regular giving by members, a first time gift by a visitor, memorial giving, gifts to special appeals, gifts to the endowment fund, and gifts to a capital appeal. Obviously, the list would have to be customized to your congregation, and probably revised as use reveals additional opportunities to say thank you.
Next, you would decide how you will acknowledge each gift. Regular giving might be acknowledged every quarter. A first time gift by a local visitor probably requires an immediate thank you that also includes information about the congregation and its ministry. So the process would go through each giving circumstance.
Finally, and this may be the hard part, someone will need to monitor the plan to make sure it is being followed. Who is responsible for each type of thanking? Are they thanking in a timely manner? How is the whole process going? Certainly, after a few months, a meeting to assess the process and make adjustments would be a good idea.
One more word about thanking. Over the past two weeks I have been in two conversations with pastors who take some time on Monday morning to write several thank you notes to members. Some of these thank you notes are because of levels of giving. Others are in response to something the person has done in the congregation’s life. If you are a pastor, might you consider three thank you notes each week to members? Over a year, you will have personally thanked 150 people.