Using Storytelling to say Thank You

Dear Colleagues, 

We have discussed the importance of thanking donors for their generosity. Saying thank you may seem like a straightforward task, but there are many ways to do this. In the same manner that a development professional’s personality is part of making an ask, it is also present in the way in which we recognize and inspire generosity. I encourage you to think about creative ways to say thank you. This article will include some ideas. What they all have in common is that they use storytelling. 

Storytelling is essential. Why? Because more than numbers, more than facts, stories evoke emotion. Emotion evokes action. Moreover, we remember stories that we can share with others that may also have a heart for the mission. The story gets passed from person to person, broadening the reach of our organization or church! 

 Example #1: Story from a Beneficiary 

Currently the United Church of Christ is appealing for support for refugees who have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries and for elderly and other vulnerable people who are displaced within Ukraine and unable to leave. The support has been overwhelming and recognizing the generosity of donors is important. In addition to the form acknowledgment letter, new donors to the UCC received an email which included a thank you video. The video shared a message from Maria, a young woman impacted from by the warfare in Ukraine. She was able to share a bit about her personal experience and why the contributions were so helpful. Donors may not remember the number of people impacted by their support, but they will remember Maria! 

 Example #2: Story from a Supporter 

When a supporter makes a gift, their contribution has value beyond the financial impact. Their gift has the power to inspire generosity. Do you know of a supporter that is excited about a specific area of ministry? Are they passionate and well spoken? Can they articulate their why? If so, consider asking them if they would share their story with a wider audience. Testimonials are a great way to share a story that has the power to get others to think about their own passions and how they can support related work.  

 Example #3: Behind the Scenes 

Oftentimes it is most difficult to raise money for things like operating expenses. However, showing donors how that money is used can be helpful in building connection as well as confidence that the money is being used responsibly. So much goes into making a church run. And much of that goes unseen. Why not spend a week telling the story of the life of your church Monday – Saturday. This would be a great opportunity to use photos and even video. Putting together the bulletin, weeding the garden, preparing the building for use by the community. These are just a few ideas! 

 Example #4: Before and After Visual 

Sometimes visual stories are best! Did your church recently complete a capital campaign? Perhaps money was raised to repair your church steeple. While there are bound to be great stories to go along with this success, the most impactful way to recognize support may be showing exactly what a donor’s gift accomplished! A postcard with a before and after photo of that church steeple would be an easy and effective way to say thank you. 

 What stories stick out in your mind about a ministry or mission you have supported in the past? How was that story told to you? I’d love to hear from you! 

 Yours in faith, 

Lee Gagen
Generosity Officer
United Church of Christ, National Ministries 

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