To Thank or Not to Thank, That is the Question

The end of the year is quickly approaching, and this is the time when organizations work to raise the largest number of donations. Because donations are vital to the success of nonprofits and churches, building relationships with donors is critical in maintaining and increasing giving.

While we all enjoy the benefits of receiving donations, the question is, what is the proper way to express gratitude to your donors? From the time a child can speak American culture teaches them to say “thank you” when they are given gifts, money, food, etc. But when dealing with an organization, are thanks in order for gifts received, or should you choose another method?

First we must recognize that being thankful is a reflection of your heart and an instruction from God. Scripture speaks against those who are unthankful; therefore, we all want to display a heart of gratitude. In the book, The Gift of Thanks, Margaret Visser suggests that “thanking either expresses or provokes interaction” and that it’s essential for recognition of one another and respect for one another.  She goes on to explain how thanking is like complimenting – “it’s a sign of connectedness, a mark of goodwill, a brief gesture of respect [and] it need not express depth of feeling.”  Essentially, saying “thank you” can become routine and because we’ve been taught to say “thank you,” it seems awkward for us NOT to say it, and it’s equally awkward NOT to hear it (or some form of it)!

So let’s explore an alternative to saying “thank you” to your donor. The goal is to Thank God ONLY for the gift and commend the giver for giving the gift. There’s an eternal truth in this statement. Because God is the Source and Provider of all good things, our focus should solely be on Him.  When we don’t acknowledge God as the one who provides, we view our receiving of good things because of our good work and/or our effort.  Another danger in misdirecting our thanks–directing it to a person instead of God–is a growing affection toward the person’s behavior and placing them on a pedestal to be admired by all.  We draw attention to them in our newsletter, we put their name on our building, we put up pictures of them in our office and we exert lot of energy in keeping them happy, which could lead to idol worship. This approach leaves no room for God.

Have you ever noticed how almost all of Paul’s epistles begin with thanks to God right after identifying himself and extending a warm greeting?  During your next quiet time take a look at how they start.  Here are a few single verses:

  • Phil. 1:3 — I thank my God every time I remember you.
  • 1 Cor. 1:4 — I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
  • Eph. 1:16 — I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
  • 2 Thess. 1:3 — We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.

The Apostle Paul left us great examples to follow. He communicates his priorities from the beginning, which is reflective of his heart towards God. This year is an opportunity for you to shift the way you thank your donors. You set the tone by acknowledging God first, which causes your donor to understand that by donating to your organization, they have actually participated with God. Honoring God will remind your donors that they have honored him with their substance. Let’s be intentional about thanking God while commending those who have given gifts to our organizations.

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