Donor Acknowledgement vs. Recognition

Last week I posted about my distaste for most donor recognition programs in churches.  Based on some emails I have received, I want to make clear the difference between recognizing donors and acknowledging donors.

Donor recognition publicly lifts up certain donors, such as a listing in the program at Playhouse Square or a giving tree in the lobby of the hospital.  I don’t think those are a good match in the United Methodist Church.

Donor acknowledgement, however, is the church’s way of thanking a member who makes a gift.

Mr. and Mrs. Clark, over the course of a year, give $15,000 to their church (a tithe) and another $15,000 to their favorite arts organization.

When they mail their check to the arts, they get a written thank you letter in the mail within a week.  It is professional, personalized and signed personally (and in blue so you know it’s a rea signature) from a development person.  It notes that their gift this year is an increase over last year’s.  A week later, they received a hand-written note from the CEO of the organization thanking them for their gift, also acknowledging the increase in giving.

As major donors they get invitations to special receptions before a performance to meet the guest artist and chat with the director.  They receive quarterly newsletters explaining the vision of the organization and how their gift is making a difference.

During the same year, they make periodic gifts to the church.  Each quarter they receive a computer-generated statement showing their pledge for the year, what they have contributed and the amount they still “owe” the church.  At the bottom is a plea to make sure their giving is kept up to date throughout the year.

Throughout the year, they receive monthly newsletters.  On the front page is usually an announcement about the office being closed for a holiday.  Inside is an article from the Finance Chair about how expensive the new copier contract is.  The Trustees Chair talks about the need to replace the roof, but for now they are just patching it (again).  Parents are reminded that children MUST BE ON TIME for choir practice as they prepare for the Christmas pageant.

In October they get a duplicated letter asking them to increase their giving.  Some years it has a veiled reference to tithing, but often it does not.  The message is clear, “Whatever you gave last year, we need you to give more this year.”  They dutifully return the pledge card with another increase.

In early January they receive another computerized statement, this one for the entire year.  Attached is a duplicated copy of a letter from the Minister and the Finance Chair summarizing the year financially.

What if the church acknowledged their gifts in the same manner I describe above that the arts organization does?  Do you think those who increase their giving would complain that the minister knows that they do?  Do you think it would help if our newsletter was more about the mission and less about administration?

It doesn’t hurt to say “thank you.”  And saying it often, personally and sincerely sure could help.

  1. Jim Williams says:

    Brian – You’re usually “spot on” with your comments, but this time you’ve really nailed a major shortcoming. Most of us hopefully don’t support our churches for recognition, but a “thank you” now and again sure wouldn’t hurt and NOT just the kind the computer spits out!

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