Your Most Important Letter of the Season

Your Most Important Letter of the Season

You can use a computer...this time.

Friends, tomorrow’s the day. I’m sorry to tell you…take a deep breath. Now take another one. It’s – are you ready? – December the freaking first! Holy smokes. Have you revived yourself yet? Good. I still have the smelling salts at the ready. Thank goodness we’re in this together.
Now that you have settled yourself, it’s time to tackle one of the most important, yet fun (in my own bizarre sense of what “fun” is) tasks of the season. Yes, it’s time to write your church or organization’s Christmas/Holiday/Year-End letter.

 Why will you be writing this? Because this is the time of year people’s hearts are most generous (that, and the tax deduction doesn’t hurt either). December, and especially the last week of the month, is when people donate more than at any other time of year. And that’s good news because let’s face it: people love your congregation or your organization. They want to give to you. But for a special gift, people need to be asked.

What should be in your Christmas/Holiday/Year-End letter?

Unlike those annoying letters that you might receive from your second cousin once removed, your letter is not a brag sheet about your fabulous accomplishments. What your year-end letter should reveal is how the reader (the person in the pews or on the couch) has made all the difference for your congregation or organization.
Here are 10 tips:
1. Use the word “you.” A lot. “Because of you...,” “You have made it possible…,” “You are making a difference.” This is by no means false flattery. It’s the truth. The people who are donating or tithing are making it possible for your congregation or organization to change the world.
2. Make the tone conversational. Pretend you’re writing to your Aunt Sally (ah, dear Aunt Sally). You’re not trying to impress everyone with your ability to use a lot of jargon and big words. Save that for grad school. Or your first article in The Atlantic.
3. Have someone from your congregation or organization write a letter about how he or she has had a transformed life because of you. Let the person tell the story of a struggle that he or she overcame and what role you all played in making that change happen.
4. Tell them how their gift will transform the world.  “Because of your gift, our church can open its doors to some of our community’s most vulnerable people.” “Because of your gift, the community gets to listen to music that opens hearts and souls.” “Because of you, we have meeting space for all of our brothers and sisters in AA, Al-Anon, and NA.”
5-10. Don’t worry about making it one page – in two you can tell a story and still make it easy to read. Use at least a 12-point font. Indent your paragraphs – this is not a business letter. Insert a picture – but make sure there are only one or two people in the photo; otherwise you will lose the impact. Address the salutation to a person. Avoid, if at all possible, “Dear Friend.” Sign your letter. A personal signature is best but a scanned signature is acceptable too.
As you can see, writing a letter is not (necessarily) as easy as it looks. But this is an important letter so it’s OK to pour over it and get it right. Don’t put it off. Write your first draft this afternoon.
If you want a second set of eyes, this is my annual Christmas gift to you – send your letter to me and I’ll be happy to review it and give you some helpful suggestions.
I can almost guarantee that by utilizing these tips the initial “Lord help me, it’s December 1st” distress call will fade away. As you write, the anxiety will be replaced by feelings of gratitude and amazement at how God has used the people in your congregation or organization to be Light in a too-often dark world. So have fun – get crackin’ and get writing!
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. She just may have to have “Hipster Nativity” under her tree this year. She was 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. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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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.