It is starting to happen on most afternoons now. I innocently walk to my mailbox hoping for a few letters or a favorite magazine. I open the mailbox door, and it all starts to overflow into my arms and onto the street. Catalogs. More catalogs. Credit card offers. Direct mail solicitations. And of course, daily appeals for money and support from a whole host of non-profit ministries, companies, agencies, and institutions. Should the church join this stampede and write a year-end financial appeal letter?
In the closing 45 days of the year, there will be an “onslaught of asks” from a massive number of non-profit organizations. Some non-profits pay tens of thousands of dollars for writers to develop their year-end letter with just the right ‘call to action’. Companies make millions mining mailing lists to determine what level of giving household by household for each of the 100,000 pieces of mail. And December is the banner month for giving. Many organizations will receive nearly 1/2 of their annual budget in the closing weeks of the year! Most fund-raising efforts are scientific and data-driven, and they make their clients money.
- The average person makes 24% of his or her annual donations between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve. − Center on Philanthropy
- While the majority of donations come by check (79 %), online fundraising is the fastest growing donation channel. – Association of Fundraising Professionals
- A third (33%) of all donations made in December occur on the 31st of the month − Network for Good
- The peak giving time on December 31 is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in each time zone − Network for Good
And think about it from another point of view. The people in your parish are inundated with messages this time of year that laud and magnify materialism, money, buying, bonuses, consumerism, and excess. In a well-written letter, the congregational leader can encourage the people to keep the hope and focus of the Gospel and your church’s mission as a priority, especially at this time of year.
Every church NEEDS to write a year-end appeal letter. It is an essential part of a communication effort to encourage and develop a culture of generosity. (I have written about this here.) But, the local church cannot compete with the big boys of the non-profit fund-raising world. The congregation will lose every time. By sheer volume, redundancy, and various algorithms associated with mailing lists, the non-profits know who to ask, how much to ask for, and how often to ask.
Put another way, the church has the MOST ENGAGED DONOR BASE of any organization. We should not think of our congregation as a non-profit organization, but as the Body of Christ. We are not writing “Year End Appeal Letters”, we are standing in line at Target with a basket full of groceries and supplies that we all need keep the family going and do what we want to do. A year-end appeal letter takes on a totally different tone when it is written to the Body of Christ. For the church family, the year-end appeal is not, “What’s in your wallet?” but “Look what we get to do together!”.
Canon David has over 35 years of local congregational ministry, diocesan and national involvement, leadership, and ministry experience and is the founder of Leaderworks. He was the founding Rector/Pastor, Christ Church, Plano and currently serves as the Strategic Leader and Dean, Diocese of C4SO.