To gift or not to gift? That is the question we face with our donors.
Do we send a gift when a financial supporter reaches a certain "tier" in their giving? Do we offer gifts for an amount given? To get the answer, let's first define what a Gift actually is.
A gift is given freely, either as a way of saying "thank you" or simply because. There are no strings, no expectations.
This is where we get mixed up. When a ministry offers a free book for a gift of $100 or more, it is not a gift. Because there is a prerequisite involved (giving the ministry financial support of a certain value) this is no longer a gift but an incentive.
Let's stop here, because it is important to note that incentives are not bad or wrong. I remember giving a gift to a major ministry, and I raised my amount because I could receive a print of a painting in return for that gift. Instead of buying the print, I gave the gift. So this clarification is not to say that incentives are somehow unchristian.
But they are what they are: Incentives. This is a different discussion for another article, certainly. But a gift is freely given.
Should we give gifts?
Answering a question with a question, "Do we give gifts to our friends? To our family members? To those who have helped us in some way?" I would think the answer is . . . Yes.
Our financial supporters should be our friends. We should always be in process of building relationships (friendships!) with them. It might naturally follow that gifts could be a part of this. Not in every case, but at times a well thought-out gift may be extremely appropriate.
Some supporters will eschew gifts ("Don't spend the ministry's money on a gift for me") so it may be important for the board to set up a separate fund, perhaps funded by ministry board and staff, for these gifts. When a donor, concerned that ministry funds be designated for clients, raises an objection, we can answer with, "You can be assured that we did not use ministry-designated funds for this; this is simply a gift, nothing more and nothing less."
Quick take . . .
A gift is welcome, when it is heartfelt. And a gift is quite different from an incentive, in that incentives are designed to draw in certain donations; gifts are designed to build donor relationships. We can invest in both; but must know the difference.