Money talks. Are you listening?

I heard about a ministry that was engaged in an ambitious planning process. Consultants had been hired and staff positions created. Advisory, implementation, and discernment teams were flown in from every corner of the country. And volunteers had been recruited to crisscross the constituency listening for advice about the future direction of the ministry.

It was an amazing undertaking in anticipation of even more amazing ministry outcomes.

thank_you_4252Meanwhile, the organization was so understaffed in its development operation that turn-around on thank you letters had ticked upward to a month. Not surprisingly, all the talk about wanting to hear from stakeholders didn’t ring true for people waiting to be thanked for a recent gift.


In the larger scheme of organizational life, a thank you letter seems a small thing. For donors, however, a speedy and specific reply is a big deal. These are the folks who’ve raised their hands to say they care. They’ve made an investment. They’ve given a thumbs up to the work and they’re waiting to hear that they were right in their assessment.

I know the caution about straining at gnats or focusing on trees at the expense of the forest. And don’t get me wrong. I’m a major fan of organizational planning – of big-picture thinking. But sometimes it really is the little things – like a thank you letter – that make or break an organization despite the best laid plans. And always, it’s the little things that grow givers’ hearts.

As blogger Jason McNeal puts it,

The concept of the ‘gift as message,’ should remind us all that our work isn’t about the money. The money is a byproduct, a side effect. It’s not an outcome, it’s an outgrowth. Like the image in a mirror, gifts are a reflection of engagement not the engagement itself.

Donors at all levels are whole people who are multifaceted, nuanced, and wonderfully complicated.  Our work is to better understand them. And that starts by listening intently and responding appropriately to them. Even when the messages they send come through their giving.

May we have ears and the organizational capacity to hear.

For more on the importance of saying thank you, see:

Put the focus on thank you, please

Tips for perfecting your thank you

What part of thank you don’t you understand?







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