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Beyond Just a Thank You: How Gratitude Amplifies the Impact of Generosity

4 min read
Mar 8, 2024 3:24:49 PM

Churches tend to put a big emphasis on generosity. You ask your people to give to the church generously, and they probably are doing that. To express thanks for it, gratitude should carry equal weight, because a “thank you” is to a giver what fertilizer is to a plant. It helps long-term growth occur and amplifies the effects of generosity.

The truth is, however, that most churches are not good at showing gratitude. It’s a perplexing issue, because there is absolutely no biblical reason not to thank givers in the church.

Gratitude is just as important as generosity. It’s a state of mind and a state of the heart about being truly thankful to the people in your church who have given their hard-earned money to see the vision God’s put in front of you be implemented. Without their resources, your vision for the church doesn’t go anywhere. Vision is like the automobile, and these financial gifts are like the gas you put in the tank. 

Yes, sending a simple thank you note is the right, polite thing to do. And some churches send them based on that fact alone. But it needs to go deeper, and showing gratitude should be about having an attitude of thankfulness. 


Why are churches so bad at showing gratitude?

Several factors are likely at play when it comes to the reasons why churches aren’t expressing gratitude to givers. Some pastors and church staff members have the mindset that the gifts are going to God, not the church; therefore it is unnecessary to express gratitude. This is faulty thinking. The church, even more so than other organizations, should be thankful and should express that thankfulness well. 

Here are 5 reasons why it might not be happening:

Faulty assumption #1: Givers don’t expect it.

Pastors and church leaders think, “Our people love God, they love our church, and they don’t expect a thank you.” Maybe they don’t expect it, but when you do surprise them and show gratitude, it has even higher value.  

Faulty assumption #2: No one else is doing it.

It’s very possible that some church leaders just aren’t aware that it’s a best practice for churches and other non-profits to say “thank you.” However, with any other type of organization that is supported by financial gifts, expressing thanks is an integral part of their process. It is so ingrained into the system, no one even thinks about it. They just do it. Because of that, maybe it isn’t talked about enough, but it absolutely is appropriate and necessary to thank the givers in your church. 

Faulty assumption #3: No one on staff wants to take ownership for gratitude.

There’s no doubt that everyone who works in your church is really busy. Your pastors and staff members are trying to figure out how to best do their jobs with the time they have. With so much going on, it’s easy to lose sight of showing gratitude to givers. They probably know deep down that they should express thanks, but because it’s not usually built into the system, it falls through the cracks. 

Faulty assumption #4: It takes way too much time to write thank you notes.

It does not have to be time consuming to express gratitude properly, and it doesn’t have to be written notes every week. Instead, you can customize your default thank you message for online or mobile giving, or you could incorporate a thank you message into your quarterly and annual giving statements. You can also make sure someone on staff is in a position to notice the less frequent, larger gift amounts and follow up with those families to say thank you.

Faulty assumption #5: It doesn’t really matter. 

It does matter. In working with hundreds of churches each year, I’ve seen the effect of expressing gratitude regularly. It is an essential part of creating a culture of generosity. Letting givers know that they are appreciated and that their gift matters to the church in the accomplishment of its God-given vision and mission is a part of a thriving culture of generosity.


If churches are not good at expressing gratitude, how do we fix it?

In light of the fact that these incorrect assumptions are being made, churches must start shifting away from their lack of gratitude and start taking steps to do better. It can start pretty simple.

  1. Recognize first time givers – Don’t take them for granted and assume they know you’re grateful.
  2. Thank people for unusual gift amounts – If there’s a couple that’s consistently giving $500 a month, but then one month they write you a check for $15,000, recognize that, and tell them thank you. More importantly, someone should follow up with them to see if there is a God story behind the gift. There’s almost always is. Don’t you want to know about it and celebrate with them? 
  3. Thank faithful givers – These are your people who give $250, $500, or $750 a month over a long period of time. They have been with you as you’ve gone through good times and not so good times, in the world and in your church. You don’t have to thank them weekly, but do it on some sort of a regular basis.

Make these three things the foundation of your plan for expressing gratitude, and build from there. 

As  you go through the process of improving how your church is showing gratitude for people’s generosity, remember, gratitude is to givers what fertilizer is for plants. It amplifies generosity and allows for growth over a long period of time. The results will be a thriving, healthy church.

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