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Be a Grateful Leper

Painting of Jesus with 10 lepers

Dear Mrs. Sanderson,

Congratulations on the food pantry’s first day of ministry! What a blessing to finally open the doors after all of this time planning and preparing. I think that providing food to 35 families on your first day is a wonderful accomplishment. No, I don’t think it’s a problem that we ran out of food. You’re not stockpiling food for an emergency. You’re trying to give it away to people who are already in of an emergency. You didn’t have to send anyone home empty-handed, which is really what matters.

I could tell by the expression on your face as we closed up that you were more than satisfied with the result. You’re hooked. You expected to feed all of those people, but you had no idea how much this ministry would feed you! I’m so delighted that I’ve been able to help you discover and establish the ministry that God made you for. I can’t wait to see what you’ll be doing in the years to come.

Share the joy

We need to come up with a way to share the joy of this experience with the rest of the Parish, especially with those whose time and donations made it possible. I want your glow to rub off on them, and the stories of the good their gifts enabled are a great way to help them share the excitement.

The first best way to thank people is to do it directly. You would need to make 42 phone calls to say thank you personally to all of our donors. Since this is the very first day that the ministry served people, I think this is appropriate. The excitement and joy in your voice will convey something that is very hard to write down or convey in any other way.

I also think that we should ask Fr. Zagloba for permission to speak after mass and share a little bit about our experience of serving the community. Not a huge presentation, just 3-4 minutes to share from the heart how wonderful it was to feed the hungry and thank the whole Parish for supporting the ministry. This public thank you, with all the joy and enthusiasm that fills you right now, will have a powerful effect on encouraging others to get involved as donors and volunteers.

Commitment to gratitude

In the long-term, expressing your gratitude to the ministry’s supporters should be an important, regular activity. While I don’t think a phone call is necessary every month, I do think that a thank you letter for every monthly gift is more than appropriate. Your ‘thank you’ notes are a way to keep people connected to what you’re doing. You can share a little bit about the number of people who you served, but the story of a person that you met while ministering would be even more powerful. Numbers are fine, I use them a lot in grant writing, but they just don’t have the impact that a personal story or testimony will have.

You should plan on a personal connection at least once a year, either face-to-face or over the phone. During the holiday season is probably best, although you’ll want to do it starting in early November to avoid the busyness of the Advent Season. This will reconnect you with your supporters and give you an opportunity to share about all the good that you’ve been able to do throughout the year… with their help.

During the rest of the year, you can do emails with a thank you, story, and picture. Something personal that people will enjoy reading. It’s great to share the exciting things that happen, but don’t be afraid to share some of the hard things that happen. Ministry to the poor is not always easy and sharing stories that move you can also help our donors feel connected to what we’re doing.

Expressing your gratitude helps people to know and feel that they are more than a source of revenue for the pantry. They are supporters. Members of a team that is feeding the hungry. A side effect of a consistent effort to thank your donors is that you’ll see more repeat donations. But this is not so much about increasing donations as it is connecting our supporters with the good that they’re doing with their gifts.

One in ten

I’m reminded of the story of Jesus with the 10 lepers. All of the lepers got healed. Only one came back and said thank you. Jesus praised the one grateful leper, but then wondered, where are all the rest? I think our donors can sometimes feel like the Lord did. Most give to a number of different organizations, but how many of these organizations take the time to stop and say thank you?

By going back to your donors with thanks and praise reports, you’re recognizing that this wouldn’t have happened without them. They should be proud and excited about what happened because they responded generously. This story points out that this is important!

There’s one more ‘thank you’ that you must not neglect. The Lord called you into this ministry. He’s opening the doors to make it possible. First and foremost, we should give thanks to God for bringing this ministry to life. It’s His mission and His grace that makes it possible, and it’s His love that will make it fruitful and keep it going when it gets tough. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.

Congratulations again on Day 1 of the St. Catherine’s Food Pantry. It’s truly something to celebrate!

Blessings,

The Almoner


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Image courtesy of Gebhard Fugel, via the Public Domain, no rights reserved.