6 Common Productivity Myths Debunked

Matt Perman debunks 6 common productivity myths holding you back.

6 Common Productivity Myths Debunked

When most people think of productivity, they think of efficiency—getting more things done in less time. This is a natural response to the villain of overload.

When we see so many things coming at us, our tendency is to speed up. This isn’t always bad, but if this is our first and primary solution, it will backfire.

While efficiency is important, it works only when we make it secondary, not primary. It doesn’t matter how efficient you are if you are doing the wrong things in the first place.

More important than efficiency is effectiveness—getting the right things done. In other words, productivity is not first about getting more things done faster. It’s about getting the right things done.

Here are six productivity myths you need to know and why they’re the wrong solution.

#1. Productivity is enough

The summer before my senior year of college, I had an internship as a claims representative at a large insurance company. My role was to travel throughout my state investigating storm damage claims, determining the amount of loss, and settling each person’s claim.

One day toward the end of the summer, my boss had me investigate a fire claim. The claim was local, so it was going to be a quick trip and easy to do. All I had to do was go to the house, take pictures of the inside, and come back.

When I got back to the office and gave the photos to my boss, however, he noticed a problem.

“What are these pictures?” he asked.

“The house you had me go to, with the fire claim.”

“What! No they aren’t.” He got a good laugh, and so did the rest of the office, because it turns out I went to the wrong house.

Click here to see why thousands of churches and ministries trust Tithe.ly with their online giving and mobile giving solutions.

This little incident shows us why efficiency is not enough. The job was quick and easy, but none of it mattered because I was at the wrong house. I was efficient, but I wasn’t effective.

Thus, more important than how much we get done and how fast we do it is whether we are getting the right things done at all.

#2. Productivity will help me control my work

In many cases, efficiency doesn’t even solve the problem of our hectic pace. As Stephen Covey writes, “Traditional time management suggests that by doing things more efficiently you’ll eventually gain control of your life, and that increased control will bring the peace and fulfillment you’re looking for.”

But, as he and his coauthors rightly point out, “basing our happiness on our ability to control everything is futile.” It will never work. This is why many people are frustrated with most traditional approaches to time management. Simply speeding up doesn’t help if you aren’t going in the right direction in the first place.

It’s not possible to control everything.

Related: Scriptures About Work: What Every Christian Needs to Know

We will make mistakes, and sometimes things will simply be too much for us (2 Cor. 1:8-11). We need an approach to getting things done that acknowledges this and doesn’t require us to keep it up perfectly or to see everything go our way in order to work.

#3. Increased productivity will help me get more things done

Increasing your efficiency can actually backfire and make things worse.

This is because when you become more efficient, you tend to do more things—and if you aren’t doing the right things in the first place, you have just become an expert at doing more of what doesn’t need to be done at all.

If you become more efficient at getting things done, you will tend to do more.

If you don't give thought to what that “more” is that you (often unconsciously) take on, you might just end up being incredibly efficient at completely useless things. Talk about the ultimate in unproductivity.

#4. Productivity will save my business money

Not only can the quest for efficiency be wasteful; a quest for efficiency often undermines effectiveness as well.

For example, many organizations suffer from the myth that the best way to make a profit (or, for nonprofits, “steward donor resources”) is to be militant about cutting costs. The problem is that this is often done in ways that undermine their employees, making their work harder and more frustrating thereby lowering morale.

Related: 30+ Bible Verses About Saving Money and Investing

Worst of all is when the employees themselves are viewed as “cost centers” rather than for what they really are—the true source of value in an organization.

When this happens, people begin to be treated like interchangeable parts, and the quest becomes finding the person who can do the work cheapest rather than the person who can do it best.

#5. Productivity will make room for innovation

There seems to be an inverse relationship between efficiency and innovation: the more you focus on efficiency (beyond a certain point, at least), the less innovative you will be.

#6. Productivity will help us reach our long-term goals

Tim Sanders rightly notes that “success in the future will be based on the fuzzy intangibles: the culture you nurture, the processes for managing information you set up for your people, the partnerships you form around technology’s opportunities and challenges.”

Technology, hardware, and capital can be copied easily. What can’t be copied easily is the culture and human capacity that create those in the first place—and does so in a way that engages not just functionally with people but also emotionally, so that people want what your organization offers.

The true aim of productivity

The quest to cut costs and “be efficient” often ends up rendering people and organizations ineffective. I call this “superficial efficiency,” and it is perhaps the number one enemy to worker satisfaction and productivity in the workforce right now.

The far greater priority than becoming more efficient is learning how to identify what’s more important—that is, what’s best—and then translate that into action.

Efficiency exists so that you can serve others better, not sacrifice them to efficiency.

One of the best places for efficiency is being efficient with things so that you can be effective with people. If you become more efficient with things, you will have more time to give to being effective with people without feeling like you are always behind on your tasks. 

Editor's Note: Taken from What's Best Next by Matt Perman. Copyright © 2014. Used by permission of Zondervan.

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]!
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.


6 Common Productivity Myths Debunked