7. Thank, Thank, & Thank

Fundraising as ministry is a radical act of reconciliation. As part of our baptismal covenant, we are called to reconcile ourselves to one another and to God. Within this framework, the act of Stewardship becomes an ongoing practice of removing those things that separate us individually and collectively from God—throughout the year. As we consider Stewardship, we include both the invitation and how it is received. The act of saying “thank you” then becomes a holy one.
 
Thank you’s are multifunctional and highly efficient as a fundraising practice.  The best practice for non-profits is thank donors 7 different times throughout a single year as thank you’s:

  • Communicate how a gift was used transparently
  • Provide an opportunity to demonstrate impact
  • Tangibly translate your faith community’s theology of giving
  • Create ongoing space for connecting your parish’s budget to the flesh and blood people who are part of the ministries
  • Foster ongoing relationships between parishioners and parish leadership

This practice can take various forms according to a faith community’s culture and donor characteristics. Yet, this practice, while highly adaptive, can transform communities.

Impact Statements: The Why in Thank You

On a clear night, when you look up, you can sometimes see large round “spots” on the surface of the moon.  Over the course of millions of years asteroids and comets that were traveling through space collided with the moon resulting in these spots, which are called impact craters. The spots are not the asteroids themselves.  They are a record of the impact the asteroid had on the moon. The asteroids come and go, but the impact changes the shape of the moon forever.

From now on when you look at the moon, you can thank an asteroid for making the view that much more interesting.

BUILDING A BETTER “THANK YOU”

Arguably the most important part of any annual campaign is the “thank you.”  We need to thank our donors as often as we can and we need to do it in a way that clearly articulates why their gift matters.  The name for that communication is an impact statement.

WHAT IT IS (AND WHAT IT ISN’T)

An impact statement lets the donor know that their gift made a difference and that we are grateful for it.  An impact statement does not communicate how we spent the donor’s money.  That is a financial statement.  An impact statement reminds the donor of why they gave in the first place.

Here is a quiz: Which one of these is an impact statement:

  • “We spent $250 dollars on our feeding ministry last month”
  • “Last month we provided lunch to 100 food insecure families in our community”

(Hint, it’s the second one)

An impact statement connects the donor not with the sacrifice that they made when they made the gift, but with the impulse, the “why”, they were responding to when they made the gift.  I promise you, the donor above did not write the check thinking, “Great, we can spend $250 more on the feeding ministry.”  They were thinking, “I hope this helps someone.” And the impact statement assures them that it does.

HOW TO CONSTRUCT AN IMPACT STATEMENT

We church folks love things that come in threes. Luckily, there are three parts to a good impact statement:

  1. It communicates the effect of what was done with the money.  “James, Tomas and Mika are all on their way to Camp Chicago this summer for two weeks of outdoor fun and formation in the Episcopal Church.”  (Not “we spent $1500 sending inner city kids to camp”)
  2. It connects the dots for the donor between their action and this outcome.  “You made that possible with your gift to the benevolence committee.” (Not “the benevolence committee paid for this”)
  3. It is first and last a thank you: Dear Friends in Christ: As you can see from the photos below, James, Tomas and Mika are having a great time at Camp Chicago this summer.  Your gift to the benevolence committee made it possible for these youngsters to get out of the city and enjoy two weeks of outdoor fun and formation in the Episcopal Church.  Thank you.

That is really all you need to know to craft good impact statements.  Communicate the impact, connect the dots, and say thank you.

WHAT DOES IT PAY FOR?

When we communicate the impact of a donation, it is important to recognize all the good that cascades from the gift.  If some of the gift goes to paying a person to drive a delivery truck or wrangle the volunteers to do the work, then that is an additional impact that the donation has made.  “Your $350 gift made it possible for us to provide 250 lunches to 180 families last month. A portion of your gift goes to support April Lee, the part time missioner whose work makes the lunches program a reliable and effective ministry for our brothers and sisters in need.  For all you do to help everyone in our community to live into their potential… thank you.”

WHICH THINGS MAKE GOOD IMPACT STATEMENTS?

Everything!  Big and small, serious and silly, everything about your congregation that communicates its vitality, its personality, its success, all of these things make good impact statements.  If you are working on a campaign theme, tying the impact statements to that theme makes them both more powerful.

And because everything you do makes a good impact statement, you should be keeping track of everything you do.  How many pets were blessed at your pet blessing?  Fourteen?

“Last Sunday, Reverend Alison blessed 56 paws at our pet blessing.  Your gifts to the annual appeal make it possible for us to celebrate all of God’s creation in that joyful way.  Thank you.” (This presumes you have no three-legged creatures among your pets)

WHO CREATES THE IMPACT STATEMENTS?

It can be a lot of fun to gather impact statements. The head of any ministry can come up with one.  Each vestry person charged with an area of mission in your church probably has an impact statement to communicate.  How many bushes were trimmed and made ready for winter?  How many total mugs were washed after coffee hour last month? How many inches of knitting did the knitting club produce last month?  How many anthems did the choir sing? Be creative, be all inclusive.  And once you start keeping track of things, you may find that people suggest impact statements you never thought of.
And it doesn’t have to be all writing.  An informational graphic communicates in an instant what it might take you a paragraph to relate. 

Example of an Infographic

Example of an Infographic

A photograph that tells the story is better than the story in 300 words.  Be creative. Have fun.  This is the celebration of generosity. It should bring a smile to everyone’s face.

WHEN DO WE COMMUNICATE OR USE IMPACT STATEMENTS?  

Every month.  Every week if you can.  And in every form of communication.  Put a note in the service bulletin, in the weekly e-news blast, make a bulletin board, make an announcement.  Remember, impact statements are thank you notes. There is no such thing as too many.  

WHY IT MATTERS

Earlier I described how the impact craters on the surface of the moon were a lasting record that the asteroids had been there.  The asteroids have come and gone, but their impact has changed the moon forever.

There is an opportunity for personal transformation in every part of our lives as Christians.  This is as true for giving to the annual campaign as it is for worship or outreach.  But it falls to us as fundraisers in our church to make giving transformational, not transactional.  Impact statements offer us the opportunity to do that.  An impact statement helps a donor remember not what they gave but why. And it tells them that because they did, something important has happened.  Because they believed, because they acted, they have had an impact on our world. That is reason enough, isn’t it?  But here is one more thing to think about.  If we all act out of our beliefs… and if all of our combined actions made an impact… could it be so deep and so wide that it changes the face of our planet? Like craters on the surface of the moon? I don’t know, but I think it is worth a try.