If you’ve been reading our blog for any period of time, we hope you’ve picked up on our commitment to helping churches steward their people as effectively as they steward their money. We firmly believe that if you care for your people well, their giving will naturally follow. That’s nothing new — it’s just good stewardship of everything God’s given you.
Even though we believe most church leaders would agree with that statement, we still see a number of churches who too often undervalue gifts given by first-time givers. Often that activity isn’t even tracked, let alone acknowledged in a way that lets the giver know the church leadership recognizes what this means for their spiritual development. When someone gives to your church for the first time, it’s very likely they’re telling you through that gift that they’re taking an important step of commitment — to their faith, and to you as their church family. They may not even realize what they’re saying with that gift, but they do know on some level that they want you to notice and respond. Your response shows you see and you care about both their financial gift and their commitment to your ministry.
"...it’s very likely they’re telling you through that gift that they’re taking an important step of commitment."
Since the act of giving a gift for the first time is such a big step on a person’s faith journey, acknowledging and affirming that gift should be a big step on your church’s journey of stewarding people. You have to have a system for tracking first- (and second- and third-, etc.) time givers in your church. If you don’t have a systematic, documented process, it just won’t happen. And it’s too important to leave to chance.
Here are some steps to consider adding to your process (or using as a basis for your process) of acknowledging and affirming givers:
1. Identify your first-time givers as soon as possible.
The Tuesday after the weekend during which the gift was made is the last window (or two to three business days if the gift was made online).
2. Develop and document your process for connecting your first-time gifts.
Depending on the size of the gift (and your staff), that could be a phone call, an in-person visit, or a personalized note or email. Develop your parameters and put them in writing for your whole team to access.
3. Thank every giver for their generosity.
And affirm their decision to give by telling them how their gift will make a difference. Be as specific as you can in telling them about the ministry they’re making possible.
4. Make sure you know when a second gift is made.
A first-time gift can be made by a random person you may never connect with again. A second gift is a definite demonstration of commitment and should be noted.
5. When you receive a second gift, acknowledge it.
And thank the donor for their demonstrated commitment to your ministry. This is also a good time to let him or her know about all your giving options, especially recurring options. Just like you need a system for recognizing fits, donors also will benefit from knowing about your giving systems!
6. Go beyond the financial details of the gift to learn what inspired the donor to give.
This conversation will help you find other ways for them to connect with your community.
7. If there isn’t one in use already, find a church management software that can help you connect the dots and supports your process.
We just happen to know a good one!