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Engage Donors and Acknowledge Past Faithfulness

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Acknowledge Past Faithfulness

Part two of Five Strategies to Engage Donors Right Now

Looking for concrete ways to engage your donors? In this blog series, we’re looking at five practical strategies that will help your church connect with and inspire your givers.

There’s an adage in the philanthropic world that donor acquisition is tough but donor retention is easy. There’s actually nothing further from the truth. While it can be difficult and costly to attract new givers, it’s actually far more challenging work to retain those donors over a long period of time. 

I served as executive pastor in each of two very large churches over the span of about 15 years. On any given Sunday, we would have as many as 300 visitors in our services. The worship was wonderful, and the technical presentation was superb. People came to see what I privately called ‘the show.’ But many did not stay for the show. They stayed if and only if they found community in the church. 

On Monday morning the names of our church visitors landed on my desk, and my quest was to assimilate them into the life of the church. In sheer marketing terms, we had mounted a huge effort to get them in the door. But now came the more arduous, long-term challenge of weaving them into the fabric of the church. It needed to be done not simply for the sake of ‘growing the church,’ but for the sake of growing the people whom God had brought to us. 

We developed a strategy of ‘high touch’ — making a number of different types of personal contacts with the newcomer within the first three weeks after his or her initial visit, in hopes of making at least one lasting connection. That work didn’t stop there. 

Pastors and church leaders: Remember that in working with givers for the long haul, you have to devote yourself not just to the goal of acquiring financial support, but to the relationship after the gift is given. A donor may give a first gift as the result of an appeal to his compassion, or because of the urgency of the appeal. But a donor will only continue to give as the result of the relationship and the ministry or community your church provides.

To stay in relationship, and to keep finding new ways to express the vision of the ministry within the context of that donor relationship, takes thought and prayer and time and effort. 

In any donor relationship, you need to constantly ask yourself, Where do the interests of the ministry’s work intersect with the interests of the donor? Where can the mission of the church connect to the passions of the donor? God certainly has brought you together for a productive reason. Stay in the relationship and intentionally continue to explore what God’s call for that relationship might be. 

What does this look like? 

  • Begin by assessing your church donor records to identify your most faithful givers. Keep in mind that this isn’t the amount of the gift or cumulative giving, but the loyalty and consistency of their giving. Givers who’ve faithfully supported your church monthly or annually for a number of years at any level need and deserve your attention. 
  • Develop a plan for outreach to those faithful givers. In a large or multi-campus church, this might involve assigning executive-level staff and clergy to meet with a certain number of givers each month or quarter. 
  • Acknowledge and ask. Use that outreach – calls or meetings – to thank the donors for their faithfulness to the church. But use it as an opportunity to explore what called them here, what keeps them here and what their passions and dreams are for their role in advancing your mission. Just that act of asking is pastoral and will go a long way in keeping long-time donors engaged and knowing they are valued.

Retaining your givers takes prayer and hard work, but there is no better way to build your giving program than to shower love and focus attention on those who already support you faithfully. Stay in the relationship and they’ll “stay for the show” long-term.

In the next few weeks, we will unpack additional tips for engaging donors now…including Engage Donors by Making the Right Ask.

Tim Smith has over 30 years of experience in Church, Non-Profit Administration, Management, and Fund Development.  Serving as an Executive Pastor and Chief Development Officer in growing Churches and Non-Profit Organizations has provided a wide range of expertise and resources. Tim serves as Founder and CEO for Non-Profit DNA, a boutique firm committed to helping nonprofits and churches build their capacity through fundraising, leadership, team building, staff recruiting, and coaching.

Additional guides on engaging giving include:

How to Talk About Giving

Gearing up for Fall Giving

Visit Church Growth for many more guides on giving and growing giving

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