I have a pet peeve:
Not listening to your mother.
At least the part where she said, “Write your thank you notes.”
“Ugh,” my child/teen/young adult-self would whine in response. “It’s such a hassle to write a letter.” I would go on to eloquently argue: “Shouldn't someone give a gift for the sheer pleasure of giving? Because I am so worthy?”
“Yes,” Mom would say while rolling her eyes. “Now go write that thank you letter.”
Some of you are blessed enough to receive surprise gifts in addition to the weekly donations that come in on most Sundays. For those unexpected contributions, you need to have a quick and (relatively) easy procedure in place to say, “thank you.” Here’s a suggested process:
1. Gift is received. (Yea! Celebration all around!)
2. The person opening the envelopes or sorting through the offering plate should bring the gift to the attention of the pastor. This will require that you have a conversation with the person who is doing this so that she or he knows when to bring things to your attention.
3. Unless there is something preventing you from doing so, a personal phone call to say “thank you” is a lovely gesture. You can leave a Voice Mail.
4. Ideally, within 48 hours, and no longer than five working days, a personal thank you letter is sent from the church acknowledging the gift. The letter is signed by you, the pastor (with an added hand-written note of thanks right by the signature line). Sample letters can be found here and here.
5. Hand-write the donor’s name and address on the envelope (and post with an unusual stamp). You don’t want your special letter to look like a business mailing and be tossed aside.
6. If the gift is designated, the chair of the committee or the appropriate staff person is notified. That person, on behalf of the designated ministry, is strongly encouraged to write a thank you letter as soon as possible. This can be a hand-written letter and does not need to mention the amount given, just genuine gratitude expressed. You can never be thanked too much.
Saying “thank you” is one of the simplest ways that we express our gratitude to God. It’s also effective to say “thank you” to the person who is a conduit in making ministry happen. It’s important because it makes the donor feel seen, recognized, and appreciated. And, (bonus points) your mother would be proud that she taught you so well.
P.S. Do you have a thank you letter that you think is great? Send it along! I’d love to see it. Have a thank you letter that you think needs a little work? Send it along, and I’ll take a look at it for you.
P.P.S. Blessings to all of you this Easter. Here’s a lovely article, “The Agony of Faith” from today’s New York Times. Remember, people like Jennifer Finney Boylan may be in your congregation this Sunday.