“… be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-20)
The recommendation of the nonprofit community is to thank a donor seven times for their gift. This may feel excessive or onerous – especially in understaffed parishes and overworked clergy. Yet perhaps there is wisdom and not a little of the teaching of St. Paul in this injunction.”[Give] thanks always and for everything” – he writes to the Ephesians
A few parishes, not many, actually formulate policies that they do not formally thank anyone for their gift because it is a parishioner’s duty to give. There is truth in giving as duty: “Lend, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35) and “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” (Luke 6:3)
Yet not thanking contributors does not take into consideration the very human need of a giver to feel appreciated, loved, needed and connected. It also does not take into consideration the need of the recipient of the gift to express their gratitude. We thank God, not because He needs us to do this, but because WE need to do it. Daily gratitude is a major pathway to an illumined, fulfilled and purposeful life.
Whether gratitude is expressed once or seven times is at the discretion of the recipient but keep in mind that the more sacrificial the gift the more deeply the giver is emotionally and spiritually invested in the parish, the project or the organization and so may require more than a casual response.
To express gratitude the maximal seven times will take some creativity. Here are some ideas for cases where this is appropriate.
Within 24 hours of receiving the gift, the donor is mailed a receipt and a formal thank you from the parish office.
The priest writes a short note of appreciation. The priest calls the person to thank them and asks, “How may we thank you?”
Six weeks later the parish council chair or the stewardship chair or the capital campaign chair also sends a handwritten note expressing gratitude.
The donor (and spouse) is invited to a special dinner at which time further gratitude is expressed.
If the gift is of a size that it has a discernible effect upon the parish or the organization, then when the project commences the priest calls or writes to describe the beneficial results and impact of their gift.
If appropriate and with the consent of the donor, a public announcement is made of the gift (always done delicately, humbly, and with due caution lest a difficult precedent is established.)
Identify a person close to the project who is greatly respected by the donor (a former priest, person on the fundraising team, the bishop, etc.) who also calls or sends a note of appreciation.
When another gift of similar sacrifice and impact is given, call the first donor to congratulate them on inspiring others to give and on having established a new standard of giving within the parish.
What should be the response to those who give very large sums and who negotiate conditions to their gift? Orthodox institutions may choose one of three responses to those who give in this way. The first response is not to respond at all, which may convey arrogance or ignorance.
A second choice is complete and total responsiveness – this is fawning obsequiousness or worse – prostitution of the essential moral integrity of the church.
There is a third choice. It is to be highly responsive – sensitive, courteous, grateful, thoughtful and faithful in the good management of the gift, displaying scrupulous honesty and strict adherence to the purpose for which the gift was made all the while maintaining personal integrity and corporate integrity of the church or the organization. This response seems to be the one most consistent with the life of the church.