That is how many times I have donated blood. My first donation was through a blood drive when I was in college. It was a relatively painless experience and home-made cookies were offered as motivation! I started donating after that, but for years I did so sporadically. At some point, I learned my blood type was O negative, a classification fitting only 7% of the population. As a universal blood donor, anyone in a medical emergency could receive my blood. After a brief uptick in my donations, life interfered and my motivation to donate waned. When I was making my 50th or so donation, I learned something else. In addition to being O negative, I am also CMV negative. Blood with these two qualities is the only type that can be given to newborn babies. As a donor, I am referred to as a "baby quad" because one pint of my blood can be divided and given to four different babies! After I knew this, I began to make the effort to donate every six weeks. I did this for a time until life got busy again.
Eventually, donating felt more like a duty than a joy and my motivation dwindled.
Months would pass without a donation. Finally, after several reminder phone calls from the blood center, I scheduled a time to donate. On the morning before my donation, I spoke with someone on the phone and happened to mention I was giving blood later that day. When I revealed, I am a "baby quad," the voice on the other end got quiet. After a brief pause, through tears, she said, “Thank you.” She explained that a few months earlier she had given birth and her baby daughter had required over a dozen blood transfusions. And then she said, “My daughter is alive today because people like you are willing to donate their blood."
That moment reminded me of the reason I donate: giving blood truly is the "gift of life."
Regardless of the type of donation, the primary motivation for giving is belief in the mission the gift supports. Knowing that my blood donation could help save the lives of newborn babies inspired me to donate again! It is up to church leaders to help donors connect the dots between their gift to the church and the church's ability to do life-changing ministry. Showing your donors how their gifts are making a difference in the world will motivate them to give again.
Here are some ways to increase donor motivation.
- Keep your mission front and center as a reminder of the importance of giving. The mission of your church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Do not assume everyone understands this single purpose. A recent study by Barna found that 51% of churchgoers state they have never heard of the Great Commission.
- Have a clear and compelling vision that lifts up the unique ways your church is living out its mission in your context. Without a clear vision, the church can become inwardly focused and self-serving. A clear vision has the power to shape and connect everything that the church does, both uniting and energizing the congregation in its life and purpose.
- Create a Vision Statement that is simple and easy to memorize. State it regularly in sermons, in the liturgy, on communication platforms, and on the website. In 10 Prescriptions for a Healthy Church, author Bishop Bob Farr says “I have never seen a church grow by hanging a mission and vision statement on the wall. On the other hand, I have never seen a growing congregation that didn’t deeply understand their mission and vision."
- Share stories of lives impacted and changed through your ministries. It is interesting to learn that 15 or 30 or 100 students went on a mission trip. But it is inspiring to hear one story of how a student’s faith was impacted by that experience. It is rousing to hear a story from someone whose life was changed forever by those students. Facts and data inform the mind but stories touch the heart. Donor motivation requires both.
Help donors stay motivated by connecting their generosity with your mission.
- Preach on the theology of money and giving. While people will not contribute to the church because it needs money to pay its bills, they will be moved by a biblical message that shapes values and offers guidance on how they can faithfully use their resources.
- Express gratitude. While receiving thanks may not be the only reason why people give, donors do want to feel their gifts are appreciated. A personal thank-you note is an opportunity to let your supporters know you value them and what they do. Gratitude is key to donor motivation.
It was just a simple, heartfelt "Thank you," but it reminded me of the importance of my donation and reconnected me to the joy of giving. Maybe those who support your church need a reminder as well. Donation #173 is already on my calendar.