In a blog on January 4 I listed some New Year’s resolutions for fund raisers and church leaders. Number three on the list was:
Say thank you more. There is no excuse for ingratitude in churches and non-profits. Most well-run non-profits get A's for gratitude, but churches are, to be blunt, awful. We think folks are supposed to give and that excuses us from extending common courtesy. For me this means getting a list of our top 20 givers and making thank you phone calls in January. I know the top 20 donors may not be our most sacrificial givers, but it beats what most of us do which is nothing.
That is what I said I would do back at the beginning of the year. Here is my report.
I called 19 of our most generous people at church. I did not ask our bookkeeper for the amount each had given. I just wanted the list of our top givers. And by the way, I had never done this before. It felt a little weird the first couple of times, but I warmed up to it pretty quickly.
Each phone call began the same way. “This is an official phone call from the preacher.” Then I said, “I want to thank you for your financial generosity to church in 2015. We could not have done it without you.” Sometimes I said something about we thank people for using all sorts for gifts and I simply wanted to thank them for their gift of generosity. Other times I apologized for not thanking them more.
I began the call in this somewhat funny way because I wanted them to know this message was from me personally. I was not calling for someone else—the board, the elders, or the deacons. I wanted them to hear that the preacher was thanking them, not somebody else.
The response? They were grateful. One person apologized for not doing more. Apparently he had given more in the previous year, a fact I did not know. And then a couple said they were simply doing their duty. But overall the response was the same across the board. They were genuinely touched that I had called them.
People like to be thanked.
So should we thank people for “doing their duty?”
Let me answer this way. I do any number of things out of a sense of duty, from taking the garbage up to the street to visiting hospitals to cleaning up the yard. (The last task I do as little as possible.) Anytime my wife thanks me it makes me feel good. And when a church member expresses gratitude to me for stopping by after surgery, it gladdens me. I don’t do it to hear them say thank you, but it is nice nevertheless.
So yes, we thank people for doing what they ought to do. I mean come on. Tons of folks don’t do what they should. Your church and mine is full of them. We should be jumping up and down with joy for those in our midst who do their duty.
Will I do this again? Yes. In fact, I already have another list of folks to call. And I will stick with the same hokey opening line, “This is an official phone call from the preacher.”
Thank you. Two of the best words in the English language.