9 Mistakes Churches Make When Thanking Donors

9 Mistakes Churches Make When Thanking Donors

As a church, you survive off the generosity of others. That means you’re accustomed to thanking members of your community, whether for volunteer efforts, money, or other resources. The thing is, it’s not enough to say thank you. Since thanking donors is such a powerful tool to acknowledge and encourage more generosity, it’s important to do so thoughtfully and avoid simple faux pas. 

Before you hit send on that thank you email or push notification, make sure you aren’t making one of these very common thanking mistakes. 

1. Make thanking givers an afterthought

An insincere or generic thank you card is almost as bad as forgetting to send one at all. Sending a bland thank you card with none of your church’s branding, the fund the giver supported, or communicating your mission is a huge miss. Before you even ask for your first gift, make sure you have a plan for thanking donors and communicating their impact. This should be tied to your overall fundraising plan and organizational strategy.

2. Delaying

Penelope Burk, the author of “Donor-Centered Fundraising,” found out that the most important predictor of likelihood to give is recency. If it takes you over a month to process a donor’s gift, then you’re missing out on his or her most-likely-to-give-again period. Timely follow-up matters, and it could mean the difference between a one-time giver and a long-term champion giver.

3. Misspelling

Now this is a simple one to avoid, but it still needs to be mentioned. Misspelling names, words, your organization, or anything else on a thank you note is unprofessional. It reflects poorly on your staff and your organization as a whole. This goes beyond making sure that your proofreader does a good job, you also need to make sure your database is clean. You should never be sending to a “Mr. Do Not Solicit Ryan Cox”. With large batches of thank you notes where you may be pulling from your database to get names, be sure to check that your program is pulling in the correct field, and that the data is clean.

4. Not making it personal

Giving is a personal decision and the thank you note should be equally as personal. Every single thank you communication should include the givers name, and the fund they gave to at minimum. This is important for two reasons. The first being that givers want to know that their donation is going to the right place. The second reason is that research shows that if the giver feels acknowledged, they’re more likely to give again in the future. If they feel like just a dollar sign to your organization as reflected in your thank you note, then you may turn them off from giving again. These givers are the lifeblood of your organization. It’s important to treat them with dignity and respect.

5. Not connecting their gift to the cause

People want to know the impact of their gift. The perfect way to share this impact is in a thank you note. “Thanks for your donation to our food bank program” is not a good way to connect to a cause. “Because of you we were able to feed over 23,000 families in the month of May” makes much more of an impact. 

6. Not following directions

Similar to misspellings, not following giver directions is a major mistake. If a giver wants to remain anonymous or have the gift be in memory of their mom, make sure to acknowledge this in the letter. A line such as, “We appreciate your donation and will be sure to keep your gift confidential per your request” is a great way to acknowledge their directions.

7. Not including a contact person

It may seem a little odd, but if a giver has questions or wants to reach out, make sure you have contact information for them to get in touch with a real person. Including a phone number or email address which is monitored regularly is important to keep people involved. Whether they want to confirm something about their gift, or see how they can make additional contributions, make sure your givers have a way to continue to engage with your organization.

8. Asking for more (or simply seeming like you are asking for more)

Thank you gifts should be pure gratitude. Don’t sully the relationship with a giver by seeming greedy and asking for more money either related to the cause they already gave to, or something entirely separate. There are appropriate times and places to ask for contributions, and a thank you card is never one of them.

9. Depending on the donor to do the work

Don’t bury your thanks in a link, a video, or some other hidden information. Tell the story of your mission and the gratitude for the giver right up front. Never expect a giver to click through to read a thank you note. Only provide links for supplemental information if they are curious to do more. The giver has already done the work of making a donation, don’t complicate the thanking process.

No matter how big or small your organization is, everyone can learn from these mistakes and make sure that they are putting their best foot forward when sharing gratitude with their community.

Thank you notes are not the place to ask for more. Instead, there are a number of other effective ways to grow generosity and drive recurring giving. Discover how growing churches are nurturing generosity within their communities. Download the Definitive Guide To Growing Recurring Giving today!

Maria Marchione
Maria Marchione
Product Marketing Manager at

Maria is a savvy and experienced marketing professional who loves working behind the scenes to craft compelling stories. Though skilled in event planning, marketing, and social media, she's a mountaineer with a love for the Pacific Northwest.