Generosity

"Giving Is Up Nearly 15 Percent" In A 122-Year Old Lutheran Church

Discover how this 122-year old Lutheran Church increased giving nearly 15 percent.

"Giving Is Up Nearly 15 Percent" In A 122-Year Old Lutheran Church
by

Jesse Wisnewski

“The church used to pay the pastor with chickens and women kept the church going for 30 years with bake sales,” reflected Rev. Andrew Bell on the 122-year history of St. John Lutheran Church.

Since seven families started the church in 1896, the church has understandably experienced many shifts, changing to fit the needs of its community over the years. Like every church in the United States, St. John Lutheran Church is learning how to adapt to the way people prefer to spend or donate money.

According to one study, many Americans no longer carry cash and actually prefer to use their debit or credit card to make purchases. Practically speaking for the church, this means many people prefer to make a donation with their debit or credit card, or directly from their bank account (ACH).  

Up until four years ago, St. John Lutheran Church only provided their congregation with the ability to donate with either cash or check. To get ahead of the changes in consumer behavior, Rev. Andrew Bell knew he needed to make it easy for people to give online as well. Unfortunately, his plans didn’t work out as expected.

“The online giving provider we used was clunky, and it was difficult for people to figure out how to use,” reminisced Rev. Bell. “After a few years, we only had four families using the online software.”

Rev. Bell began exploring different options, but it wasn’t until the church’s online giving provider shut down and didn’t allow people to make a donation for a couple of months that he knew he had to make a change—again.

In moving forward, Rev. Bell wasn’t only looking for a different online and mobile giving platform. He was also interested in finding a partner who would help him to relaunch his church’s online giving, leading more people to use this method and therefore increase giving.

Making online and mobile giving easy

During his research, Rev. Bell had his eyes on creating an easier online and mobile experience for his church. He desired to make online and mobile giving simple, and fast. He knew these features would lead his church to feel more inclined to sign up and use these options.

Tithe.ly was on Rev. Bell’s radar, but it wasn’t until another pastor from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)—who also uses Tithe.ly Giving—encouraged him to sign up, that he took a deeper look.

“The other churches we spoke with had a wonderful experience and Tithe.ly provided the features we needed without an enormous cost,” remarked Rev. Bell. One significant feature Rev. Bell desired to offer his congregation was a mobile giving app. He knew this feature was one additional way the church could make it easier for people to give.

A significant jump in users

“We recently rolled out the church app with Tithe.ly, and we were blown away by the response,” said Rev. Bell. He went on to say: “Our original goal was to sign up 50 people, but we already have 110 users after a couple of months.” When considering only four people previously used online giving, this is a significant jump.  

To lead people to download and use their church app, Rev. Bell provided a demonstration during their offering time. “I set a timer for two minutes, shared the screen on my phone with the congregation on our projector, and I showed the church how easy it is to download the app and make a donation in no time at all,” shared Rev. Bell.

Since Rev. Bell’s demonstration, the church continues to remind people during church announcements and in their bulletin that they can give online, via text, or with their church app. By just letting people know how they can give, Rev. Bell has tapped into one of the best ways to increase giving online—be informative, not flashy.

With Tithe.ly, St. John Lutheran Church has also found it easy and time-saving to use Tithe.ly Events to create online registrations and accept online payments.

“We have rich German history, and every year, we host a big Oktoberfest event,” said Rev. Bell. He added, “This year, we’re providing online tickets and using Tithe.ly’s online event registration, which was super easy to set up and use.”

“Giving is up nearly 15 percent”

Since St. John Lutheran Church has implemented their new online and mobile giving platform with Tithe.ly, Rev. Bell has observed a significant increase in giving.

“Today, we have a few dozen people and families who use it, we’re approaching 30 recurring givers, and another dozen or so who use it here and there—including one-time givers.”

Rev. Bell went on to say: “Our giving is up nearly 15 percent. This is an increase in overall giving—not just online.” For their church, this means more people are participating in God’s work and the church will have access to additional financial resources for ministry.

When I asked Rev. Bell why his church has experienced such a marked change, he said, “[Tithe.ly is] really user-friendly, easy-to-use, and it’s just so smooth.” He added, “It made all the difference in the world when people tried it and saw how easy it is.”

Click here to get more stories like St. John Lutheran Church

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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"Giving Is Up Nearly 15 Percent" In A 122-Year Old Lutheran Church