5 Ways to Help Your Church's Donors Feel Valued
As church communicators, one of our primary objectives is to help build relationships with all kinds of people. We create marketing plans that connect with our community through outreach events; once someone checks out our church, we think about how best to welcome them as newcomers; and we think strategically about how to remain connected with people who call our church "home." There’s still one group, though, that most churches overlook in their relationship-building communication: the people who donate.
It’s no secret that donations keep ministry happening. And many churches focus significant attention on acquiring new donors (or, in ministry talk: encouraging people to give). But if we truly recognize the importance of people who sacrifice their finances to support the church, we should also invest in deepening our relationship with them. When was the last time you considered how you communicate with people who give to the church?
If you think about the relationship-building process in your church, there's typically an established relationship between the church and the person donating. That person knows your church well and has a connection to the ministry by the time they begin giving regularly. But the act of giving shouldn't be the end of the relationship. The more connected and appreciated a donor feels, the more likely they will continue supporting ministry—yes, through finances, but even more, through an increased sense of pride and ownership in how they talk about the church (personal evangelism). That’s why communicating with your church’s donors is essential and, in my opinion, some of your most important work.
I realize this added level of communication may feel like a big undertaking, but I don't think it needs to feel like an extra burden. Here are five easy communication changes to help your church’s financial contributors feel appreciated and strengthen the two-way relationship.
1. Be personal
When you communicate with donors, your goal is to make a personal connection with them. Address the person by name and make the sender of your emails or letters a real person. Avoid sending emails and letters from your generic church account, but get your pastor or other staff members involved, so your donors feel a genuine connection. Many email programs will also let you auto-populate the recipient’s name into the email, so even if you’re sending a mass email, their name at the beginning is an effortless change to make the communication more personal.
Segmenting your email list is a great way to be intentional about communicating with your donors. Many church management systems integrate with email providers, making it easy to create a constantly-updated list of recent donors and develop a communication strategy specifically for this segment of your congregation. For example, you could create a monthly donor email that updates them on the impact they are making at your church like an exciting initiative funded by their donations or the story of someone impacted by the outreach efforts of the ministry.
If you don’t have the capacity to create an extra email every month, think of how you can make your regular church communications more personal. An alternative option might be to tweak the emails you are already sending out with a version for this newly created list segment. In the email version sent to donors, add their first name in the email or a simple “P.S.” message at the end. These added messages could be a simple way to acknowledge their support and provide a little nugget of helpful information.
The bottom line: People who donate to your church already know and support the ministry, so don’t just throw them in with the rest of your regular communications.
3. Say thank you
Acknowledge and thank your donors as much as you can. Think about how you feel when a group you’re passionate about reaches out and thanks you for your contribution. You can thank your donors in many creative ways, so maybe brainstorm with someone at your church this week.
4. Use "you" language
Using second-person language is a relatively easy change to make, but it will probably take some practice. To help people feel more involved and engaged in what’s happening, you want the focus of your messaging to be on your donor—which means talking less about yourself (the organization) and more about the donor. Using “you” words focuses on the person and gives them credit for the things their donations have helped make possible. Donors who feel valued and feel like they are making an impact will keep contributing. Make sure all your communication with your donors speaks directly to them.
5. Get everyone involved
Even if you are in charge of communications for your church, communicating well with donors is more than a one-person job. Speaking on purpose with the people most devoted to the church is something your staff, especially your pastors, should be thinking about. Your role in this conversation is to help your pastors and staff see why connecting with donors is valuable. Once they understand the value, you can work together to come up with a plan.
Ready to start communicating better with donors? Take some time to gather your team and identify low-hanging fruit. Start by asking questions like:
How easy is it right now for someone to begin donating (think about Sunday and your website)
How do people who currently tithe and give feel?
How can the staff and leadership strengthen its relationship with contributors?
With everyone on the same page, you can identify clear next steps to begin improving the process and communication. Make it a goal to implement one positive change every month. After a year, you’ll be surprised how many changes you’ve made and how much stronger your relationships are with your donors.