Posted: Dec 10

What Do I Get in Return for My Gift?

By Kristine Miller

whatsyourstory.jpgYou may be saying to yourself, “What do you mean? Donors should give without expectations of receiving anything in return! After all, we are simply returning to God a portion of our blessings.”

Sadly, you are mistaken. While it may be true (and I believe that it is) we should not expect anything in return from God (after all, the blessings have already been received), donors have every right to expect something in return from the organization to which they have donated.

In his recent blog, best-selling author, Seth Godin says,

“...every time someone donates to a good cause, they’re buying a story, a story that’s worth more than the amount they donated.”

Godin purports that if we find ourselves in a position of not receiving sufficient donations, “it’s because you’re not telling a story, or telling the wrong story to the wrong people (in the wrong way).”

In my experience, this has been especially true in the church. In some cases, we assume our members are all aware of the stories happening as a result of our ministry efforts. In other cases, we might feel squeamish about telling the story because it is too personal or too delicate to share. In the worst cases, we don’t believe we have a story worth telling. The end result is our ministries receive diminished funding and we are left wringing our hands, wondering why the local university has just received a $5 million gift from one of our church members.

So, how do we make sure our donors are receiving a story “worth more than the amount they donated”?

Every Sunday is an opportunity for sharing these stories. Instead of music prior to the offering, why not invite a grateful member to share how those offerings made a difference in his life by enabling him to go on the mission trip to Haiti? Use Facebook to invite members to share how they are being changed by God through your church’s ministry. Your website can be a vessel for collecting and sharing stories—written and on video. Imagine a donor viewing your website and being overwhelmed with video testimonies of those whose lives have been transformed through participation in your ministries!

Donors to your ministry are enabling you to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, equipping disciples and transforming lives. Tell your donors stories worthy of their gifts…they might just believe they are getting more than their money’s worth!

Kristine Miller, CFRE, is a Vice President with Horizons Stewardship, a national stewardship consulting firm. She serves as the Vice President of the Board of TENS (The Episcopal Network for Stewardship) and on the Board of Directors of Canterbury on the Lake, Waterford, Michigan. Kristine is the co-author of CLIMB Higher: Reaching New Heights in Giving and Discipleship (Abingdon Press, 2011) and Bounty: Ten Things You Can Do Now to Increase Giving (Abingdon Press, 2013). She can be reached at