In today’s episode of the Generosity Labs podcast, we interview Cesie Delve Scheuermann who talks about how simple expression of gratitude paves the way to instill a culture of generosity in every church and all over the world. She is the writer of a blog called, Inspiring Generosity.
Key points in the discussion:
- How thanking a first-time giver is powerful than you think?
- What are someways to show gratitude to your sponsors or givers?
- How follow-throughs are important when someone gives to your church?
- 4 Tips to Encourage Generosity in Your Congregation.
Reach out to Cesie Delve Scheuermann on firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can listen, subscribe or watch my interview with Cesie Delve Scheuermann below.
The Generosity Labs Podcast is part of a new resource hub for pastors, providing free resources and information about digital giving. You can find more free resources here.
A full transcription is below
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KENNY: Welcome everybody. This is Kenny Jahng with Generosity Labs. Thank you so much for joining us for today’s episode. I’m really happy and excited to talk to a new friend of mine across the digital information highway in the Oregon, Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church. This is just one of the pleasures that I have a meeting people across the country that talk about generosity. So, Cesie, welcome to the show today.
CESIE: Thank you! Great to be here.
KENNY: Let’s just get started and I want to know a little bit of more about who you are and what your ministry is all about. Let’s start with where you are located and how you’re connected to the conference and some of your roles there.
CESIE: Okay, great. Well, I am located in Salem, Oregon and so it’s a capital and I’m not even wearing Birkenstocks, so how’s that? So, not really a true Oregonian. But, what I do for my work in general is I’m a Development Director. I do a lot of development stuff for nonprofits here in the Salem area, so I work with Arts. I work with some child abuse assessment program and I work with the program that helps kids get new clothes that poor kids and kids in need. And then, I have this whole other aspect of my life where I work with the church. I am a late person but have been a lifelong United Methodist with trails down to The Jesus Movement and Sojourners and a variety of different places all over the world. So, what I do now with United Methodist Church and a Methodist Church and with the Oregon Idaho conference is I write a blog called Inspiring Generosity. The work that I did through all my development work really lead me to see that clergy sadly are not trained in seminary to raise money or even how to do development work. And I see a very different fundraising which is a one-time event as opposed to development which is relationship building and the church is primed for just picking up the tips that somebody like myself has figured out over the last 20 years — I’ve been doing this for about 20 years now — that can translate very easily into the church. So, that’s what I do. So, I write a blog called Inspiring Generosity. I consult with churches about how they are doing stewardship or financial crisis that they’re in. I do all that kind of stuff.
KENNY: I love it and that is a good point. When I went to Princeton seminary. there were no classes on relationship donor developments and none of that stuff. And the question is, where is that? Where are we supposed to just pick that up? It’s definitely not in undergraduate studies, right? So, I was recently talking to the Director of Content at Princeton, thinking about what are the practical areas that we can provide as tools? But, again it’s just not being taught. And so, pastors I think are ill-equipped or under-equipped in this area of inspiring generosity. And I love the fact that your blog focus for really giving practical tips there. Now, there was one blog post that caught my eye and which you actually talked about setting your generosity priorities and giving the clergy some really good tips on three things that you can do right now to encourage and promote generosity in your congregation. I wonder if you could just help us walk through that today in terms of 1, 2, 3 so that we can give our listeners here today some really practical things that they can actually go off and probably try this week in particular. These are really easy low hanging fruit stuff.
CESIE: Yeah. Absolutely.
KENNY: So, the first one that you talked about is thanking people who gave for the first time or unexpectedly. What’s that about? How is that helpful and literally what can someone do when when that happens?
CESIE: Well, let me start off by saying that there is competition for all resources these days and for all giving. And people who do the ‘thank you’ really well, they are the ones that people remember. So, it is sort of a pet peeve of mine that the church I think in general does a really poor job of thanking people because we’re still in that old mindset of ‘well, it’s their responsibility, it’s what they’re supposed to do’. Yes, that’s true, but that doesn’t mean you don’t use your good manners. And, as your mom or your grandma said, ‘Please write a thank you letter’. So, especially when someone is new to the church and this is their first time giving, you should have a letter, a first-time letter that said ‘I noticed that you gave to our church for the first time, and I just can’t tell you what a difference that would make.’ because I know from my own experience. When I’ve gone to a church or when I have given to something especially related to the church and I’ve written a check out the whole nine yards and there’s crickets. Nobody acknowledges it. It’s not even recognized. So, that to me is really critical that a pastor just takes a moment to say, “Wow. I noticed you.” That’s the other thing. It’s a ministry to be able to say, ‘I noticed you.’ I might not have had a chance to meet you in church, but I noticed that you gave and I want to thank you for coming to our church and I want to thank you for giving.
KENNY: That’s awesome. Some of the pastors that I’ve talked with when we bring up the old art of thank you notes and a side note, do you say that pastors should be writing handwritten notes or type notes or emails? What’s your preference?
CESIE: Basically, I think all three are fine. But, just do it. I mean, the method that’s easiest for you. That’s what you should do. I love getting a handwritten note. That’s always nice because it’s so unexpected, if anything and I think a typewritten note is nice if at the end you write, you know, God bless you, Pastor John and then on the letter itself, write a little special note in your own handwriting. So, they know actually a human touched the letter. And then, make sure somebody has a handwritten envelope because we get so much junk mail that when something comes in the mail that has actual handwriting on it, ‘Wow, that’s pretty impressive’. So, I think the best is to go first-class mail, if that all possible because then that’s something that people can hold. They might even put it on the refrigerator. That would be the big bonus. So, that’s my suggestion. Make sure that they feel like somebody has put their hand on it.
CESIE: Go ahead and do email, too because you know, any thank you is better than no thank you.
KENNY: That’s a great thing to have. So, the pushback I was getting at is some pastors say, ‘Hey, some people the first time they give they don’t give that much’. It might be $5. It might be just $10. It a might be just a couple of dollar and literally, it might be one or two dollars in the offering plate or might be a check for $5 even, right? So, it feels petty, thanking for those. Should they still do that?
CESIE: Yes, of course. If your grandma sent you $5 in the mail, you would be expected to write her a thank you note, even if it was just $5. and I think we go back to looking at the Widow’s Mite. I mean, the widow didn’t throw in a lot of money but was everything she had. So, don’t make those assumptions for somebody else that they could have given more money. Maybe, they could have, and maybe they’re waiting to see how you respond to that first gift to say ‘Well, should I invest more money in this church’.
KENNY: That’s a great great response there and I agree with you in that. It’s not about the amount. It’s about participation and it’s about recognition of what they’ve done, right? Okay the second tip that you have and I think is this one. I love this one because I’m one of those process-oriented guys in this schedules. When you say, schedule-a-day, every week you can write, four gratitude notes. And, you’re not asking 40. You’re just saying 4. I think I could do that. I could actually put that on my calendar and schedule it on a weekly basis and pick a day that it’s good in your routine and actually do that. So, tell us a little bit more about that. How important is that for follow through? What has been the response for some of the people that you’ve used that with?
CESIE: Well, I am surprised. Let’s just put it that way. First of all, it’s like. ‘Wow. I wasn’t expecting a thank you note’. This is not for a recent donation or a recent tithe. It’s just to thank people. We did this once. A variation of this was at our administrative council meeting. We passed out thank you letters. We passed out notes from the church and said that at our ad council meeting tonight, we talked about how thankful we were for people. I am thankful for you because… And people wrote that out. People got great responses. Some people were just like, ‘Why did you do that? Is there some ulterior motive?’. We’re like, ‘No! We’re just thankful that you gave.’ And I think that’s when we’ve received those kind of letters from our pastor, it’s like ‘Wow, that really means something’. We have a male pastor, right now. So, he was actually thinking of me, you know. He was thinking about us and it wasn’t so much for, ‘Thank you for your $50’. It was ‘Thank you for being a generous person’, ‘Thank you for thinking of us because we know that you can give to a lot of places but your generosity makes a difference’. And that’s the other thing that those gratitude notes can do. They can let people know how the money is being spent or how you know, it’s like, ‘Your generosity made one thing possible. It made Youth Development possible’. You know, it makes a difference. So, yeah. It really can do two things. It can thank the giver and it can let them know what their money is doing.
KENNY: I just love your reminder in this blog, that say, ‘Hey, think about over the course of the year, if you do four a week, it adds up to the 208 people that you thanked over the year’. Just imagine the blessing that you are giving to other people. I think we forget about those little things add up, right?
CESIE: Yeah, they do. I think they do make a difference, right? And, the other thing is they make a difference for you. So, you start right. I suggested 1 year for Valentine’s Day that a clergy person write little goofy Valentine’s cards to their congregation. And even if it wasn’t personally, somebody would say, the pastor got a letter back saying, after I said ‘thank you so much, you mean a lot to me’, you know what, I started falling in love with my congregation again. So, it’s not only the act of how it impacts the person receiving the note, it’s how it’s impacting you as you write the letter because you’re like, ‘wow, this people are really awesome. What a blessing to have them in my life’.
KENNY: And I am telling you, I am pulling out my desk, I just got this Thanksgiving. This is a box of, I went to Target, and I got this box of cards. All these multi-colored cards and look from Thanksgiving ‘till now, how many cards are written, I’m almost quarter way through the box already. How many cards it is, it’s over 250 cards and some a quarter way through, just writing thank you notes. That’s a practice that the church that I have been a part of has been really instilling. Every volunteer is giving up their time and treasure and volunteers are heroes, especially. So, givers and volunteers.
CESIE: I guess it needs to be emphasized. They don’t need to be long and drawn out. I mean, really. 2 or 3 sentences is all that it takes. And then, the fact that it’s handwritten again, that really makes a difference.
KENNY: Yes and I’m just even saying that they’re an encouragement to you in the ministry, right? That’s it. That’s the sentiment. Number three you’re talking about is every Sunday, you want to plan to thank your congregation for being generous and for supporting ministries that make a difference. And I love that underscore, yes every Sunday, it’s the same people every Sunday. Are we supposed to thank them again and again and again?
CESIE: Yes, but you can also be creative. It doesn’t have to be you. Let me just go back and say why I think this particular one is really important. When our new pastor came in, our church was sort of on a down low. People were pretty depressed. And, he came in and his first thing was to remind us of who we were. So, he talked about the history of this church. It is 175 years old and then wow, I kind of forgotten we had this sort of history. We really meant something to the city of Salem. And then, he started talking and thanking us for being a generous congregation. It’s like, wow, he didn’t say it just once. I think it was like every Sunday, he would say something about, you know, you all are really generous. And goodness. We started thinking of ourselves as being generous, and if he thinks we’re generous, then we better be generous. And so, that’s why that was so important to do. I mean and I think it really helped change the trajectory of our church. Felt about itself, and how we felt about giving. So, that is what’s really important. The clergy person does not need to be the one that does all the thanking. This is where the old fashioned testimony can come in where somebody can come in and you know, somebody who’s being ministered to by the programs that are going on in the church. A youth, a kid in Sunday School, somebody who goes to an AA meeting at your church can come in and say, ’I want to thank your church for its generosity’ or ‘I want to thank this congregation for being so generous to make youth ministry possible so that I can go to it’, ‘Thank you for making this building available so I can go to an AA meeting’, ‘Thank you for letting me go to Sunday School’. There are so many ways that you can do this. So, it doesn’t just have to be you. It might take a little bit of time, but yeah every Sunday, you should be saying thank you and thank you for being generous and here’s how you’re being generous. It’s not some flip thing. It’s not some saccharine. It’s genuine because really without your congregation, ministry couldn’t happen.
KENNY: And right there, I think, because of our culture is so opposite to that notion, I just love the idea of our leaders and our people modeling that for our own congregation and community, especially the youth, right? So, that this effervescent culture of generosity just becomes contagious. And it really becomes integrated in our personalities, right?
CESIE: Absolutely. You know, one thing I loved was that a pastor have a Sunday School write all these thank you notes and had it really pretty. And then, what he did was he put it on the church letterhead, so it could say, thank you. And then he had fabulous thank you notes straight from his own youth and children to thank people randomly. So, it was really a great way to do it.
KENNY: Loved that idea. Cesie, I just loved the fact the your blog has full of more practical ideas like this. You’ve got I think some other things like a stewardship calendar. Tell us and give a plug for your blog because I really love the stuff that you are doing over there.
CESIE: Well, thanks. Once again, remember that my primary job is to be a development person and so what I’m trying to do is share with you the secrets of development and what I’ve learned over the years, what I’ve read in blogs, what I read all over the place. So, that’s the reason that I started this blog was just to share my secrets. And so, I talked about all sorts of things related to development whether that’s preaching about generosity, that’s the other thing because I know that’s clergy are really afraid of that. Or can be whether you should know what your people are giving, storytelling that was last week’s blog was on storytelling, what you can learn from certain things that happened. I did one recently on the Academy Awards Fiasco and what you can learn from that. So, it’s all over and I talked about about a very popular one was when Prince died, talking about leaving your will, making sure you have a will in place because sadly Prince did not have a will in place. So, it’s reaching all over the map about development and ways in which you can inspire generosity in your very own congregation.
KENNY: Perfect. Well, Cesie, I hope you can join us join us again for a future episode. There’s so many other topics that I’d love to have you share your expertise on here at Generosity Labs.
KENNY: If someone wants to get in touch with you directly after listening to today’s conversation, what’s the best way to do that? Carrier pigeon, telegraph, email, Skype, what’s the best way?
CESIE: You can write me at email@example.com that’s my email address for Inspiring Generosity, so feel free to do that. My blog you can find it on UMOI.org along the blogs and so I would love to be in conversation with you.
KENNY: Thank you so much. Cesie Delve Scheuermann. Really a treat to talk to you and future conversation you promised here on air so, I’m going to hold you to it. And we will have future chats about stewardship, development, grant writing and all this other fun stuff.
KENNY: Thank you so much and for the rest of you, please let us know if today’s conversation is helpful. Like this podcast episode and drop some comments to let us know your thoughts and questions, so that we can follow up on them and tell a friend or two about our Generosity Labs podcast if you get a chance. Thanks so much, I am Kenny Jahng from Generosity Labs podcast. ‘Til next time. Be good.