My eyes have been opened over the last two years about showing appreciation. Not that I wasn’t appreciative before, but now that I’m in development, appreciation has become a large part of my role in ministry and I’m much more conscious of showing it.

What is development? Development is so much more than fundraising. Development is making connections and building relationships to grow a ministry, from both a financial and a volunteer base.

Ideas for Showing Appreciation to Donors

If you’re looking for ways to show appreciation to those who give financially to your church or ministry, here are some ideas.

Send a thank-you card when someone signs up to give monthly. This can be something prepared in advance. The pastor and leadership staff could blanket-sign cards prior to personalization to protect [the] anonymity of gifts.

Send a handwritten thank-you card when memorials are received. For example, say a memorial gift is given to the church choir. Have thank-you cards available for choir members to sign.

Make sure e-giving donors receive an electronic receipt, including a message of thanks, for online gifts. This is typically a setting that can be set up in an online giving portal.

Add a special thank-you note to the giving statement. Each year, add a statement from the pastor or church president sharing thanks. Adding a handwritten note and signature is always more effective, even if it’s a scanned image.

Tell your church’s story. Verbalize thanks. Have the pastor or church president express thanks to the congregation for their faithful stewardship each year. Share a video while telling the story of how God’s work has happened in your church and community because of the gifts of your congregation. This video could highlight special projects, mission trips, community outreach events, or church fellowship events.

Ideas for Showing Appreciation to Volunteers

As we all know, there are many ways to support your church. Time and talents are just as important to acknowledge. Here are some ways to show appreciation to those who give of their time and talents.

Send a thank-you card when a member goes above and beyond. This is a very impactful way to show appreciation. This can be a phone call, email, or handwritten note. Whatever the medium, it’s the message that matters — make it personalized.

Have a large group to say thank-you to? Email them to show your appreciation. Tell them the impact of their gift(s) and how that was a blessing to your ministry or congregation.

Place an announcement in the bulletin or newsletter (print or electronic). After a campus work day or a large event, give a shout-out to those who served. It might be difficult to find time to handwrite and mail thank-you cards to a large group, but the message will not go unappreciated when your volunteers see the gratitude in print!

Make a verbal announcement during the service. Again, when large groups of people come to serve, ensure there is time pre- or post-service to make a special announcement of appreciation.

Share a message on social media. Post pictures and videos of your volunteer groups with a meaningful message of gratitude. Social media can be a great way to interact with your congregation, and posts like these allow others to see the impact their time and talents can have on their church and community. Here’s an example of one we sent out recently.

Never underestimate the power of a personal thank-you and hug! Some of the best ways to say thank you are in person. Sharing thankfulness face-to-face can be a great way to connect [with] your church members. A simple, “Wow, Jane, we really couldn’t have pulled off VBS without your help! Thank you so much for all you did to share the love of Jesus and help our kids make lasting memories!” can mean the world to a volunteer to hear.

As I said in the above section, tell your church’s story. Verbalize thanks. Have the pastor or church president express thanks to the congregation for their faithful service. Add a section to the video or presentation that includes thanksgivings for the blessings of time and talent. Show pictures and videos from service trips, facility work-days, or Sunday School teachers and their students to show that when God’s people come together to serve, exciting things can happen in both the church and the community!

Host an appreciation event. Have a yearly appreciation event at your church celebrating how God has worked through His people. Cater a meal or punch and cake. Allow church leaders and ministry staff to communicate their gratitude. Show a video that highlights the previous church year. Communicate the ideas and plans of the year ahead and ask your church family to find something they are passionate about and to get involved.

An Example in Action

It’s important to define with ministry staff what the procedure of showing appreciation looks like for your congregation. Here at the Lutheran Student Center/Fairmount Coffee, we have a procedure put in place on how we show appreciation.

We’ve learned that people love receiving handwritten notes. We buy blank note cards from Hobby Lobby for less than $5.00 a box. We then hand stamp our logos onto each card to make the cards personalized to our ministry. We have received so many comments on these little notes. I can’t count how many times people have said thank you for our thank-you cards!

Here’s a quick look at our procedures for showing appreciation.

Monetary Gifts

  • A first-time donor will receive a personal phone call.
  • All donors will receive a personalized handwritten thank-you card signed by staff.
  • Reoccurring monthly donors will receive an initial thank-you card.
    • Each gift thereafter will be acknowledged by an electronic receipt.
  • Donors will receive a personalized Christmas card.
  • Personalized notes will be added to the giving statements.

Time and Talents

  • Personalized thank-you cards are sent to volunteers on a case-by-case basis. For example, if someone comes to mow weekly, we will send one thank-you card. The staff member who has a relationship with the volunteer writes the card, but all staff members sign it.
  • Large-event emails are sent on a case-by-case basis.
  • Social media, print newsletters, and e-newsletters include announcements of appreciation.
  • Volunteers will receive a personalized Christmas card.
  • Because we have a coffeehouse in our facility, an easy way to show appreciation to volunteers is by offering them a treat when they come to serve at our facility.
  • Invite volunteers to an evening of fellowship at the coffeehouse to show our appreciation.

Showing appreciation does not have to be an expensive process. It can happen through many different mediums — print, verbal, electronic — none of which require an expensive or flashy presentation. Overall, it’s not what the message looks like that matters. It’s what the message says.