What?! There's a Ministry of Acknowledging Memorial Gifts?


What?!  There’s a Ministry of Acknowledging Memorial Gifts?

Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting with leaders of the United Methodist Western Jurisdiction Camp Network – people all the way from Alaska to Arizona and in between.  Camp people are awesome.  They don’t fear icebreakers and I think every one of them knows an unusual grace (never did I think I would find myself praising God for food to the tune of the “Addams Family” theme song).  I have such fond memories of my years at church camp, not only as a participant, but as a camp counselor as well.  I am proof that camp experiences changes lives.

Addams Family aside, it may seem odd that in my workshop on “Donor Relationships” I spent a lot of time talking about dead people.  Thankfully, I wasn’t seeing dead people.  But we talked about the saints who have gone before us, or their families, who had designated a memorial fund in their memory.  Some of these gifts generate a significant amount of money for a camp or church and they fund either a much-needed capital project or meet the immediate needs of a ministry at a church.

So how do you go about thanking the donor who gives a gift in memory of someone they knew and loved?  You actually thank them (I cannot tell you how often this is overlooked…bad, bad, bad) and refer to the person who has passed away in such a way that the donor knows that this is more than a “fill-in-the-blank” note.

Consider this opening paragraph of one memorial acknowledgement letter:

“Thank you very much for the donation of $100 in memory of John Smith.  This is a very generous way to honor his memory.”

Perfectly acceptable, right?  Yes.  But it’s a lost opportunity.  Compare the previous opening paragraph to this one:

“Joan Jones was a tireless advocate for the hungry in our community.  At Awesome United Methodist she chaired the church’s first “Hunger Task Force,” leading the group to discover ways in which people of faith could make a difference in the lives of women, men, and children who are going hungry in Salem and Keizer.”

Which one wants to make you to read on?  

Sometimes memorial gifts are “one and done.”  But other times they are an invitation to begin or reaffirm a relationship.  In memorial thank you letters make sure you do the following:
•    Say something about the person beyond his or her name – indicate that you know them, and if you don’t, do some research
•    Tell what the gift will go toward and explain its importance, if at all possible
•    Accurately indicate how much was given
•    Say “thank you” at least three times (yes, you read that right)
•    Invite a call if there are any questions (be sure to provide a phone number)
•    Sign it – use a color of ink other than black (so they can tell you signed it) and write an additional note, in your own handwriting, of thanks
•    Acknowledge any letter that may have accompanied the check
•    Provide information to the family of the saint about who sent in gifts.

Writing sincere and meaningful thank you letters to people who have sent in a memorial gift is a ministry in and of itself.  Make sure you don’t miss out on the opportunity to be a comfort and blessing to these generous souls.  No doubt, you’ll find yourself being blessed as well.

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 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations.  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.  You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com.  If someone has forwarded this to you and you would like to subscribe to "Inspiring Generosity" click here  Miss an issue?  Click here

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.