Gratitude for Givers
We live in a society full of rushed, impersonal transactions. It is not hard to see how diametrically opposed this is to building authentic relationships with our donors. I want to share six principles that empower ministries to connect with donors on a soulful level. These principles are rooted in biblically-based values.
Gratitude is the foundation for transformative donor relationships.
In this sacred realm of philanthropy, gratitude is the foundation for transformative donor relationships. My principles are based on the story of Jesus who returning from Jerusalem healed ten men with leprosy (Luke 17:11-19). Jesus healed ten men that day, but only one came back to thank him. Jesus asks of the one man, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”
We need to be like the one healed leper, and be grateful for all gifts given to our work. By embracing the spirit of gratitude, we can reach the heart of the giver and forge lasting partnerships. We fuel impactful change in the process.
Principle 1: The Power of Sincere Acknowledgment
In a world often filled with fleeting gestures, genuine acknowledgment holds a divine essence. Moving beyond a formulaic thank-you, authentic appreciation involves sincerely and humbly recognizing the unique contributions of each donor. Personalized expressions of gratitude, whether through heartfelt letters, prayerful messages, or personal meetings carry the profound depth of God's love. This gratitude leaves an indelible mark on the hearts of donors.
Principle 2: Listening with Open Hearts and Ears
In the spirit of gratitude, active listening becomes an act of reverence. It unveils the true aspirations and motivations of donors. As stewards of God's work, ministries must embrace the art of listening. This nurtures deep connections with supporters. By immersing ourselves in our donors' stories and understanding their desires, we create bridges of shared faith and divine inspiration. We begin to align with their participation in God’s divine purposes and plans.
As a gift officer, when I was young in my journey of philanthropy, I remember walking with a donor who wanted to make a large gift to our organization. In asking her questions about why she wanted to make a large gift, I learned that it was in honor of her only child who had died in a car accident. If I had not listened, I would have missed the opportunity to fully understand how her gift was in response to her pain. More importantly I would have missed the opportunity to walk with her as she gave a gift that allowed many other “teens” to live a life her son could no longer live.
Principle 3: Transparency Rooted in Trust
Trust is a precious gift bestowed upon us by the donor.
Trust is a precious gift bestowed upon us by the donor. It is the cornerstone of authentic donor relationships. To embrace biblically-based values, ministries must embrace transparency. We must offer a clear view to donors of how their contributions are sowing the seeds of hope and transformation. Every financial decision we make becomes an opportunity to honor God's blessings and demonstrate responsible stewardship of resources entrusted to us.
Principle 4: Embracing Accountability to God and Donors
As we embark on a biblically inspired philanthropic journey, accountability becomes an act of devotion. By holding ourselves accountable to God's purposes and the donors we serve, we invite the Holy Spirit to guide our endeavors. In this context of accountability, donors get to witness the tangible impact of their generosity, reinforcing their role as vital partners in God's plan for our organization's mission.
Principle 5: The Transformative Power of Biblically-based Storytelling
Within the tapestry of biblically-based philanthropy, storytelling emerges as a divine instrument. In weaving together authentic narratives of lives touched by the work of ministry, we evoke the spirit of God's compassion and grace. Through prayerful storytelling, we create an emotional bond that transcends earthly bounds. These stories inspire donors to embrace God's call to love and serve one another.
Principle 6: Nurturing a Heartfelt, Biblically-based Community
Rather than a focus on transactional exchanges, our philanthropic journey should embrace the essence of a biblically-based community. As part of Christ’s body, we invite donors to become cherished members of our organization, celebrating their role as ambassadors of God's love and mercy. Together, we cultivate a community of givers, united by a profound sense of belonging and shared ownership in the divine work of transformation.
Guided by God's Grace
When we model biblically-based values of gratitude, sincere acknowledgment, active listening, transparency, accountability, and faith-fueled storytelling, we honor the divine essence within each giver.
If you want to explore these concepts on a deeper level, my book Turning Donors into Partners (IVP, Jan. 2023) illuminates a path for ministries to embrace biblically-based donor relationships.
By valuing donors' contributions as gifts from God, we become vessels of his love, inspiring positive change and causing a sacred ripple of impact in the world of philanthropy.
Brad Layland is the CEO of The FOCUS Group. He joined the firm in 2009 after a 20-year career with Young Life where he was the Chief Development Officer. Since purchasing the firm in 2012, the firm has grown to be 10 times larger serving over 100 Christian Ministries through a team of 35 staff and consultants. Currently, the FOCUS Group is helping our clients raise over raise over $1 billion dollars. In recent years, Brad has personally led capital campaigns for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship ($81 million), Union Rescue Mission ($83 million), The Bowery Mission ($27 million), and Veritas School in Richmond ($12 million).
Listen to Brad Layland on the The Flourishing Culture Leadership Podcast as he discusses “Why Healthy Culture is at the Heart of Meeting Your Fundraising Goals.”
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