This past year my wife and I invested financially in four churches (outside of our home church).
Each of these churches has BIG vision! We were excited to give to these ministries.
I noticed two things they all had in common:
These churches are led by pastors who passionately love Jesus and are willing to do whatever it takes to reach unsaved people.
They completely ignore their first-time givers.
All of these churches are involved in incredible ministries and are making an eternal impact.
But each failed to let me know how my gift was making a difference.
They also missed a huge opportunity to encourage me to give again and take the next step in my faith.
Here’s something you MUST understand:
There is no greater time to help someone grow in their spiritual walk than after they give to your church for the first time.
How you follow-up with first-time givers will often determine whether a person becomes an active member of your church, or whether they slip through the cracks never to be heard from again.
Consider this, last year at Northpark Church we had 39 individuals give an identifiable, first-time gift. Out of those 39 people, 35 became repeat givers. That’s a 90% conversion rate.
Many of those 35 individuals are now active members of the church, serving across various areas of ministries.
Here is exactly how Northpark Church follows up with first-time givers. We’ve tweaked it over time, but found this process to be extremely effective.
Send a hand-written “Thank You” letter by Tuesday of the following week.
I can’t encourage a “hand-written” letter enough. A form letter is easier, but it doesn’t communicate “my church cares about you” like a hand-written letter does. People notice! It makes a HUGE difference.
In every first-time giver letter I communicate three things to the individual:
- “Thank you for your generosity!” We are a member-supported church.
- Your financial gift helps Northpark Church accomplish its mission–”To build life-long followers of Christ.“
- We’d love to worship with you again this coming Sunday.
Send these letters in bright colored envelopes, not your standard white mailing envelope.
You want people to feel like they are getting a birthday card, not a cable bill.
Also include a ride-along insert with the first-time giver letter that helps cast vision. Here is the ride-along insert that we are currently using at Northpark Church (see below).
Send a gift (preferably a book) by Wednesday of the following week.
In the first-time giver letter (described above) I always say, “Be on the look-out for a small gift that should be coming in the mail in the next day or two.” This simple statement builds anticipation of what’s coming next.
The “gift” we send is a book, The Blessed Life, by Pastor Robert Morris.
It’s the best book I’ve ever read on biblical generosity. In fact, it not only led me to become generous, but I gave my life to Christ after reading this book.
Whatever “gift” you decide to give, make sure it doubles as an educational tool to grow the individual in their faith.
NOW LISTEN UP! THIS IS IMPORTANT!
This is the step that pastors/churches are most likely to skip because there is an upfront financial cost involved. But if you do, you are making a critical mistake.
Two years ago, a couple gave a small first time gift. I followed up with a handwritten letter and a book.
The Holy Spirit moved on this couple and the next service they wrote a check for $5,000.
Today they are still one of the most generous couples in our congregation!
Besides, when you give a gift, you communicate that your church possesses a culture of generosity.
It’s a win-win situation for the individual and for your church.
Follow-up via email, snail mail, or a phone call within 30 to 45 days after receipt of the first-time gift.
The idea here is simply to begin building a relationship.
This is a great time to invite someone out for a cup of coffee and allow them to ask questions about your church.
Lack of follow-up with first-time givers will not only limit your financial capacity to do ministry, it will stunt the spiritual health of your church.
Few churches do it, and even less do it well. But for those who do, the return on investment is immense!