Seven Ways to Thank Donors to the Church without Knowing Their Identities

Nonprofits that aren’t churches can have a significant advantage over churches in donor development. Almost every leader of a nonprofit that isn’t a church knows precisely what everyone gives. He or she can then thank them personally and appeal to them in the future.

But what do church leaders do if they do not have access to giving records? This issue arose on two separate occasions at our consulting and coaching forum site, Church Answers Central. I learned a lot from our members’ interactions.

 We will not address whether or not a pastor or other church leaders should have visibility to giving records. We will avoid the emotions we often get when we mention that issue. Instead, we will focus on churches where the pastor does not know individual giving amounts. Here, then, are seven ways to thank donors when you do not their identity.

1. Write a letter or email acknowledging their anonymity. Here is an example of the beginning of such a letter: “Dear faithful servant, our financial assistant informed me that you provided a recent generous financial gift to our church. Though I do not have access to giving records and identities, I want to thank you for your generosity. Our financial assistant is mailing this letter on my behalf.”

2. Write first-time givers within the first week of their donation. Of course, you can use the exact verbiage as shown above. You could change the wording “recent generous” to “first-time.” We have heard that this approach has been successful in securing ongoing financial commitments from the donor.

3. Thank the church as a whole regularly. My pastor and son, Jess Rainer, thanks the congregation every week. Instead of asking for money, he gives thanks. Many pastors use the offertory as a time to express thanksgiving.

4. Write every giver in the church twice a year. Most of the time, these letters are not personalized. While writing to thank the givers toward the end of the year is good, many church members expect that letter as a method of seeking commitment for the upcoming year. A mid-year letter can have a significant impact. Because it is typically not expected, it is received with greater appreciation.

5. Write a note to those who give to special funds. Many churches have funds for special causes, such as missions or a building campaign. While other churches have moved to a unified budget, many congregations still have focused, designated giving. These letters can also be written with an acknowledgment of the anonymity of the giver.

6. Find a way to express gratitude to those who have stopped giving while checking on them pastorally. Here is an example of a letter sent from a church’s financial assistant: We noticed that after a long season of financial generosity, your giving habits towards the church have changed. We wanted to check in and see if everything was okay, or if something unexpected has occurred that the church can help with. You can share as much or as little as you want, but we wanted you to know how thankful we are for your financial generosity and that we care about you.”

7. Thank God for the faithfulness of those who give. Even if you cannot thank them directly, you can thank God for faithful givers. Some pastors pray a prayer of thanksgiving for their churches at least once a week. Among their specific areas of gratitude are prayers of thanksgiving for the faithful stewardship of the church members.

 A few years ago, a pastor learned that a senior adult had made a multi-million donation to the local community college. The pastor was shocked that she had that type of wealth. And he was surprised she didn’t direct any gifts to the church. He got the courage to visit her and ask her directly why she didn’t give anything to the church. Her response is telling.

 “Why, pastor, I didn’t know you really cared about people giving to the church. The president of the community college thanked me on many occasions for my donations. When it came time to give away this large amount, the college was top of mind. The president came to my home to thank me again and to work with me on this large donation.”

 Her final words were indicting: “I wished you had asked me. I just didn’t know you cared.”

 Give thanks for everything.

 And that includes those who give to your church.

Posted on June 21, 2021

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Hello there,
    Am Andrew Katende from Kampala, Uganda.
    Am the senior pastor of life in Jesus ministry were we are in a full straggle of having a church structure. The place we are renting is now small for the number has grown big yet the hall sits only 200 people. We need a donor to stand with us in the work of God.

    Pr. Andrew katende .w
    Cont: +256704192981
    Kampala, Uganda.

  • Hearing the Treasurer’s report at a Church Business Meeting is one of the most boring things I’ve ever heard. I struggle with the way God’s incredible provisions can be communicated so blandly! No wonder the younger generation doesn’t get a sense of the incredible opportunity to invest in the Kingdom of God. If we would take even a small move toward communicating “Look what God is doing!!!” in the Treasurer’s Report, they may catch a vision of “If God can do all that with that small amount, how much more could He do if I gave more?!!”

    • Hello there,
      Am Andrew Katende from Kampala, Uganda.
      Am the senior pastor of life in Jesus ministry were we are in a full straggle of having a church structure. The place we are renting is now small for the number has grown big yet the hall sits only 200 people. We need a donor to stand with us in the work of God.

      Pr. Andrew katende .w
      Cont: +256704192981
      Kampala, Uganda.

  • As a church treasurer, it would be amazing if everyone had the mindset that they saw giving, especially generous giving, to fund and maintain mission of the church as an enjoyable act of worship, done in secret and trusting God to reward openly. And yes, everything belongs to the Lord anyway in fact but not so much in action. Treasure and heart are joined at the hip. That mindset is likely not to be prominent if the pastor is afraid to talk much about money because giving is part of discipleship. Expressing gratitude for doing good is always appreciated and letting people know what their giving is doing apart from keeping the air conditioning running is helpful too. Instead of thanking them for making an offering, tell them how joyous it makes you feel to be their shepherd as they demonstrate their love to God through their faithful and willing generosity. By the way; giving is great fun.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Well said, Dave.

    • I agree Dave that giving is great fun! It took me a little time to get there, especially to change from HAVE to give to I WANT TO GIVE! That was freeing and very enjoyable.

      There are times I wish I was the assistant treasurer. I would use the giver’s list to send out surprise Jesus cards. I would disguise the handwriting (usually block letters) and write something like this:

      My Dear Randy,
      Thank you for investing in My work.
      Your Big Brother,

      Or any other item that Jesus might want to communicate… (And I’d hope they’d never find out it was me.)

  • Pastor Donald says on

    I may be overly conservative, but I have problems “thanking” the congregation for making an offering. As I understand, participating in making an offering is every Christian’s privilege as well as obligation. If we want to give thanks, are we giving thanks on behalf of the Lord to those who are giving? Doesn’t everything belong to the Lord anyway? I don’t consider their offerings to go to our own benefit but as their token of participation in God’s Kingdom work, which is a tremendous privilege!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Pastor Donald –

      I respectfully disagree. The Bible is replete with expressions of thanks to Christians and church members for their service and, specifically, their financial gifts. As one example, all of Philippians 4:10-20 is about Paul’s thanksgiving to the church at Philippi for their financial gifts. Certainly the money is all God’s, but that does not exempt us from being grateful to those who are obedient in giving.

    • Pastor Donald,

      Echoing Thom a little. Yes it is a Christian’s responsibility to offer tithes to God, for the equipping of the Church to do God’s work. Practically, the members of a church are still human beings with needs, wants, and shortfalls. Not every person is tithing for any number of reasons.

      Also practically, there are many competing influences for one’s time, talent, and treasure. It is just as easy for the member to choose to go elsewhere and offer their time, talent, and treasure in a different location. In my experience, once we start taking their pledges for granted it is easy to convey that their choice to give in a meaningful way to our Church and the ministry it has, we can unintentionally alienate people.

      As a pastor, I view the tithe as a reflection of the donor’s relationship with God. Looking from a skeptic’s perspective, a Christian has a choice of where to attend church and a choice to fund God’s work in the world. Some may fund just one place and some may fund multiple ministries in God’s kingdom. To acknowledge their gift costs little and engages the member in a positive way.

      One last thought, statistics show that the average pledge to the church is 1-3%. Financial specialists relate that if every member gave 10% there would be no shortfall for any ministry in the Church. Right or wrong, that is the reality of life.