Inspiring Generosity


Inspiring Generosity


12/2/2015

Write Your Year-End Letter Right Now!

                                  Is your letter ready?

Are you still stuffed from all that turkey? I am! Did you get your socks for 50% off during Black Friday? I did! Are you ready for Christmas? I’m not!
 
And just like that, it’s Christmas time. I’m one of those people who love getting Christmas letters. Call them brag sheets but I love them anyway. Occasionally, there is the Extreme Letter. A distant cousin of mine used to send one of them. She and her husband kept trying for a boy and ended up with 12 (count ‘em), 12 girls. Every year, she would write about each girl in great detail – mentioning their odd pets (monkey anyone?), if they lost their job (seemed one or two got fired each year), or were getting a divorce. So, maybe a 12-page Christmas letter is a bit extreme.
 
That being said – you, yes, you should be working on your own year-end (non-Extreme) Christmas letter to your congregation. This should come as no surprise but the most money that is laid out by Americans to non-profits and charities is RIGHT NOW – the holiday season. Yes, we are a more generous people at Christmas and on January 31 (the promise of a tax deduction doesn’t hurt either).
 
If people love your church – and I am assuming that they do – then give your congregation the opportunity to be generous with you. But, and here’s the thing, you have to ask.
 
Write a Christmas letter to your congregation and do just that - ask them to give.
 
And to help you do that, a great blog by Claire Axelrad popped up this morning – the 3 words you must use in your letter:
 
1.  You – make your letter personal. The person reading the letter should feel like you are writing just to them. Check every time you say “we,” or “I,” or “our” and see if that can’t be replaced with “you.”  “We” can be a good word to use – but be judicious and make sure it’s in the context of what “we as a community can do together.”
 
2.  Because – the reader wants to know what difference their gift can make. “Your offering is critical because it makes our building available to 13 AA groups every week.” “Because of you, malaria is being conquered.”  “You make a difference because our youth are growing in their faith.”
 
3.  Thank you – even though this isn’t a traditional thank you letter, thank them anyway. Thanking is a way to remind your reader that they have given before, that you anticipate their being generous again, that they are part of something good. As Axelrad says, when you thank people for being caring, “it plays into the vision of the person they would like to see when they look into the mirror.”
 
Here are a few more tips on writing an awesome letter:
 
-  Make your opening sentence one that grabs their attention.
 
-  Go ahead, make it two pages long – research shows that people actually will read longer letters (12-page ones aside). Make it longer because you can then
                  ...Make the font larger than 12 points. Remember the average age (and eyes) of the person who’s reading.
                 ...Make it skimmable – bold the main points and use one-sentence paragraphs to stand out.
 
-  Sign it. Don’t leave a blank space where your signature should be. If you must, scan your signature. If you have a small congregation, get out a blue pen and sign it with a special note.
 
-  Add an envelope. Make it as easy as possible for people to give.
 
Here’s an excellent example from Twin Falls (Idaho) First United Methodist Church. (The final copy will be printed on their letterhead.)

This is no time to avoid writing that Christmas letter. In fact, I bet when you start you’re going to feel the love you have for your church and its ministry and mission. You know it’s worth supporting. You know you have a lot to brag about. Just keep it under 12 pages.
 
As my annual gift to you, I would be happy to review your year-end letter and give you feedback. Send it to me at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com


Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. This year, she will limit her Christmas letter to a mere 9½ pages. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann

Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.

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