Health and Growth

Automated Text Messages: Why They’re Essential for Your Church

Confused about what automated text messages are and how to use them in your church? Here's a 7-step guide to go from zero to hero with automated text messages in your church.

Automated Text Messages: Why They’re Essential for Your Church
by

Paul Maxwell

Automated text messages are the future of automated church communications.

It might sound like an obscure method of church communications.

A church? Texting with … its members?

Isn’t text messaging what you do with your friends?

We don’t text message businesses, do we?

Actually, we do.

Think of how many times you’ve received a confirmation text from an auto shop, or a confirmation code through an online store, or “Reply Y/N” text from a local office with which we’ve made an appointment?

We already know that they work.

They get opened almost three times as much as successful email campaigns.

We always open texts, and rarely fail to respond to an informational text message.

The idea that sounds odd to us isn’t texting or texting with a business.

It’s the idea of texting with your church that sounds odd.

But that will change over the next 10 years.

Increasingly, churches will adopt text message marketing as a means of communicating with its members. This is why it’s essential to add texting to your church communication strategy.

Below, we will list seven reasons why your church should adopt automated text messages into its communications plan, and also why they are an inevitable part of every church’s communication plan.

Automated Text Message and SMS Autoresponder—Definitions and Examples

But, before we get into these reasons to add automated text messages to your church’s communication plan, we need to define two concepts—automated text message and SMS autoresponder.

An automated text message is a message scheduled to be sent to a group of recipients who opted in for an automated text message from a particular company for a particular situation.

For example, if you give your number to a char mechanic, he will input your number into his database, and when he updates the progress on your car, you will receive updates to your phone according with that progress.

An SMS autoresponder is a simple engine that sends these automated text messages. Their basic form is this—users are invited to opt in through a text message informing them of an easy text-based opt-in response keyword.

For example, an SMS autoresponder invitation will look something like this:

“[Jake’s Car Mechanic]—Respond to this text with “Updates” to receive text updates about the progress of your car.” Send “STOP” to stop receiving texts.”

The difference between an automated text message and an SMS autoresponder is that an automated text message is the automatically triggered text message itself, which plays a part in your larger text message communication strategy, and an SMS autoresponder is the database that stores and deploys those automated text messages and keyword-oriented invitations.

1. Automated text messages are the easiest way to communicate

Social media is an unreliable way to communicate pertinent information.

Email can easily get lost in an endless sea of “Unread” emails.

But text messages always remain read.

The fact that it’s a text conveys a certain level of meaningfulness.

Because people open them, they are a reliable method of communication.

Because they are reliable, they are the easiest way to communicate.

2. Automated text messages give the experience of access without the time cost

As far as the user is concerned, text messages are a much more intimate way of communicating.

But for the church, text messages are just another form of inbox communication that can be queued and batched with other member-management communication software.

In the past, an increase in perceived access has come at the cost of the provider—whether it be a phone call, service, or other real-time, individualized human interaction.

The problem with these features is that they do not scale vertically well, because each experience costs another individual person’s attention in real time.

With an automated text message marketing service, the increased perception in attention fits seamlessly into your current process and can be managed asynchronously by your team.

3. Automated text messages communicate information in real time

Text messages are best used for communicating urgent or semi-urgent information.

Email is an unreliable way to give people necessary information at the last minute.

Phone calls are too labor-intensive, especially if the information needs to be sent to every member.

For this reason, an automated text message marketing service is the only viable solution to reliably and efficiently put information in their inboxes with the highest read-rate.

4. Automated text messages allow you to communicate with real people, not just the corporate body

Automated text messages allow personal communication on the backend.

If one member has a particular query in response to a mass text message, your software should enable you to carry on an individualized message with that person.

In fact, the very medium itself invites this kind of individualized interaction.

As stated above, the church needs to be protective of its staff’s most valuable resource—time and attention—and shouldn’t parcel it out too willingly or freely without restraint, since that leaves less resources for other important ministry needs.

However, again, the point is that the experience of access gives members a sense of assurance and availability that mass-email simply doesn’t.

Because of this, regularly utilizing the text message medium as a tool in your church’s communication plan naturally creates a culture of welcoming and warm invitations to connect between members and staff.

When access feels easy, information feels attainable, and therefore social connection is perceived to be a more realistic result of invested relational energy.

People want to feel like the time and energy they invest into their church social groups will yield real belonging.

Receiving automated text messages about information central to the community’s activities makes that belonging feel attainable.

5. Automated text messages help you get better information from members

Text messages are easier to send than emails.

Getting information through email is difficult.

Best case scenario, you include a “Complete This Survey” call-to-action in your email that gets a 10% click-rate.

With text messages, you can include a simple “Reply Y/N” — and, with a 97% open rate, you are almost guaranteed a reply from every member.

6. Automated text messages prepare people for the service

Automated text messages are a great way to get people ready for the church service.

You can use text messages to confirm attendance, check in for service, enable text-to-give tithes, or even get a head count for an event after the service.

Using the text message tool in this way will increase your members’ familiarity with the automated text messaging feature of the church communication strategy, and it will help them to feel connected to the church service in a more intimate way than if they had just shown up with no message.

For example, you could send this message before the service:

“[CHURCH NAME] — We can’t wait to see you at service this morning! Meditate on [BIBLE VERSE] to prepare for the sermon. You can take notes on our church app here: [LINK].”

7. Automated text messages are crucial to growth

Newcomers often ignore emails, announcements, and mailers.

However, if you text them, this is your highest chance of receiving follow-up.

An automated text message gives you the very best chance at church growth with the lowest time and attention cost from your staff.

One easy way to get newcomers’ phone numbers is to offer a free giveaway if users enter their basic information, such as Name, Number, Address, and Reason for attending.

Freemiums can include anything from a book to a gift card to a local restaurant.

This cost-of-acquisition for a new member is very low, especially if you have a recurring giving software for tithing, which should allow you to easily calculate a lifetime giving value for a new member, which ought to be in the thousands.

Over to you

Automated text messages are an inevitable and invaluable aspect of a 21st-century church’s communications plan.

They perform certain tasks and cultivate a member experience that other technology simply can’t—at least, not with the same efficiency and reliability.

Text messaging is the best way to get someone’s attention with the least time and attention cost from you and them.

Church leaders serious about creating a positive visitor experience for newcomers and a better sense of belonging for their members should seriously consider adopting automated text messaging into their church communications plan as soon as possible.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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Automated Text Messages: Why They’re Essential for Your Church