Generosity

How to Build a Lasting Relationship with First-Time Givers

A first-time donation is a big step for someone to take with your church. Here are five ways you can build a relationship with a first-time giver.

How to Build a Lasting Relationship with First-Time Givers
by

Financial stewardship is crucial for your ministry.

Managing your church’s finances not only honors God—it makes sure you keep the lights on.

But there’s more to managing your church’s budget than adding donations and subtracting expenses. The most crucial aspect of your church’s budget isn’t the numbers. It’s connecting with the people behind the gifts.

This is especially true for first-time donors.

When someone financially contributes to your church for the first time, their giving is an expression of their trust in God, as well as their desire to support your church.

Think about it like this:

Where your treasure is, your heart will be also (Matt. 6:21).

Said another way, when someone is committed to your church (heart), they will also commit to financially supporting your church (treasure).

As a church leader, when you acknowledge a first-time gift, it lets the people who made the contribution know that you appreciate their donation and their commitment to your church.

There are many ways you can affirm first-time donors:

But here’s the deal:

Without a process in place, it’s a Herculean task to make sure your first-time donors feel appreciated for their online giving, mobile giving, or donations made with cash or check.

Creating a process to help you identify first-time givers is an essential part of being a faithful steward of people.

Let’s explore how you can improve your process of affirming donors.

#1. Quickly identify first-time donors

Don’t wait too long to acknowledge first-time donors.

Here’s a general rule of thumb to follow:

  • Don’t wait longer than 2-3 business
  • Don’t wait longer than 48 hours after a worship service

When someone contributes financially for the first time, he or she is taking a big step. If you wait too long to acknowledge their gift, then you’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity to express your thankfulness.

Here’s one more thing to keep in mind:

People like to know that their donations are making a difference.

Be intentional to thank your donors by sharing with them in detail how their gift is contributing to your church’s ministry.

You’re probably thinking:

How can I do this?

Hang tight.

We have you covered.

#2. Create a connection process

To quickly affirm first-time donors, you’ll need to outline a process your team can follow clearly.

Here are some of the best ways you can follow up with first-time givers:

  • Make a phone call
  • Send an email
  • Write a personal note

To pull this off, you’ll need to put a system in place and hold your team accountable to contact first-time givers.

#3. Track second-time donations

You cannot underestimate the significance of a first-time donation.

But a second financial gift is a real demonstration of someone’s commitment to your church family’s well-being. A second-time gift emphasizes someone’s willingness to support your church and the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

With second-time donations, take the time to thank them for their continual support and provide them with all the giving options you have available.

#4. Discover giving inspiration

Building a relationship with your givers is crucial.

Knowing the people you serve will help you to see the heart behind their gifts.

In general, most of the people in your church will give because they understand what they have been given in Christ, which is key to building a generous church culture.

More importantly, you’ll be able to unearth what else motivates them to give.

For example:

  • Does your church’s vision inspire them?
  • Do they donate because they affirm your church’s outreach?
  • Do they support your community efforts?

Knowing what makes your church supporters tick will give you an idea about how well your church’s mission resonates with your church. For instance, if your vision is to evangelize your community, but most people mention spiritual growth as a motivation to donate, then there may be a disconnect with your church’s vision and the members of your church.

#5. Make it easy with software

Is your office covered with Post-It Notes of reminders?

Does your team use a spreadsheet to keep track of first- and second-time donors?

It’s time to press the Easy Button.

Church management software makes it easy to identify, track, and record giving in your church. Being able to press a few buttons to identify first- and second-time donors makes it easy to connect with them and express your appreciation.

Over to you

Are you connecting with your givers personally? How are you tracking your first- and second-time givers?

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.

Blog

How to Build a Lasting Relationship with First-Time Givers