Seasoned fundraising professionals are not as easily impressed as they were when they first began their journey on the path of philanthropic encouragement. What used to please them, like acquiring a lot of new donors, now leaves them asking the question, “Did we acquire the right kind of new donors?”
How can ANY donor be less than the “right kind”?
Let’s take a different look at what has become known as The Widow’s Mite:
While teaching in the temple, Jesus is addressing the crowd gathered around Him. Some are asking questions to learn from Him; others are attempting to trap Him with His own words. Jesus knows what the deal is. He begins offering up wisdom that none can dispute. After a few rounds with the Pharisees and Herodians, He warns those listening to Him,
“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, love greetings in the market places, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”
(Luke 20: 45-47)
It’s then that He decides to move over near the treasury. He takes a seat and watches as the multitude are putting money into the treasury. There are some high rollers today, putting in large amounts of money.
Among the crowd is a poor widow. She drops in two small copper coins. He calls His disciples to Him and provides them with a perspective quite out of step with what they have just seen.
“Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” (Luke 21: 3-4)
As a person of faith and a fundraising consultant, this kind of wisdom rocks my world! It speaks to my thirsty soul by providing the living water that only Jesus can give. The Son of God has linked the giving of money to the motive in the giver’s heart. What human being can dispute the value of what we now call, “The Widow’s Mite”? No one.
As a ministry leader you too witness sacrificial giving, and it touches you deeply. As it most certainly should! EVERY gift is to be cherished as God’s provision through His people.
And to be clear, we must thank EVERY donor for EVERY gift. An appropriate thank-you letter should be snail mailed (via 1st-class postage) to every person who supports your ministry regardless of gift size (again, our standard is within 24-48 hours).
So, how in the world can a “Widow’s Mite” hurt your ministry?
It usually occurs when we seek to acquire new donors for ministry. When very small gifts are solicited, say gifts under $15.00, donors will respond with small gifts, because, you may remember, people generally give what they are asked to give!
There’s a problem with asking for small initial gifts. Those who give them very seldom give larger gifts. It can and usually does result in a ministry acquiring a significant number of small initial gifts. This may mean more donors are acquired, but these donors will not upgrade, leaving the ministry with donors who will cost the ministry more than the gifts they give.
We can and must make sound stewardship decisions. While it’s true and biblical that ALL gifts should be appreciated and acknowledged, it is essential to your ministry’s health and growth that larger gifts be solicited during donor acquisition. Our experience indicates that new donors giving gifts larger than $15.00 are much more likely to upgrade their giving in the days and months ahead.
It’s worth mentioning here that every ministry will receive small gifts. In addition to honoring these donations with a thank-you letter, just as you would larger gifts, you will want to limit the number of appeals to donors who fall into this category. If your larger donors receive 12-15 appeals for funds annually, this group should be limited to 4-5 of your most popular appeals. This will give them the opportunity to become larger donors.
So, I encourage you to graciously receive and honor the widow’s mite, but to not seek them in your donor acquisition! As this rule states, “Small donors can cost you money!”