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Purposeful supporter gifts: Why it’s a good investment


October 16, 2017
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For the last decade, every year in December my wife and I have made it a priority to send our supporters a Christmas gift.

We give them the same gift every year, on purpose. Sounds so boring, right?

What if I told you it is a gift that keeps on giving—literally! Keeps on giving to whom? The supporter and the supported. Intrigued yet? Drumroll! Fireworks!

Here it is…a book.

Every year we get our supporters a book for Christmas.

It’s not flashy, but it is purposeful. And yes, we have a very strategic purpose in sending a book each year. It’s investing with intentionality.

So, over the years we have sent a variety of Christian books in an attempt to accomplish a variety of ministry goals.

Purposeful supporter gifts have the ability to accomplish several things. They can be gifts that literally keep on giving.

Let me share four things that a purposeful supporter gift can accomplish.

The great news is that they share significant overlap.

Hopefully it will spur you on to consider investing back into your supporters in a similar way.

1. Fixing Leaks

The Traveling Team has a ministry principle, which I will take to my grave: “Vision leaks!”

Remember that grand campus ministry vision that you first cast before your supporters? The one God used to stir up so many people to invest in you and your ministry? The one your supporters and you couldn’t wait to partner together in?

Well, it’s no less grand, but it is terribly leaky.

Let’s be honest, the daily grind has a way of poking holes in ministry vision, and this leads to slow leaks, especially for supporters—and it’s a constant leak.

They have already started to forget the What and Why of your ministry. It’s not personal, it’s just fact.

Remember, you’re out on campus in the ministry trenches day in and day out.

Every day you engage in ministry you recast vision for yourself. But for the supporter off campus who is investing in us, it doesn’t take long for life to start poking holes in that grand ministry vision.

What does vision leak sound like?

It comes in the form of unspoken questions like, “Why are we investing in this ministry again?” Or, “What exactly are we supporting?”

A purposeful gift, like a book, has a way of patching holes and pumping air back into that vision.

I serve on staff with The Traveling Team as a Campus Missions Mobilizer. As a result, I want to keep missions vision in front of my supporters. I want to pump them full of God’s heart for every tongue, tribe, and nation. How?

We purposefully choose books to send like How to Be a World Class Christian and Finish the Mission.

Both of these books focus on global missions. They remind our supporters what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

2. Teaching Tools

Not only does a purposeful gift help to recast vision, but it simultaneously serves to educate your supporters. This is especially true of a book.

Educate them on what? The ministry you both partner in!

Think about all that goes into your ministry as campus staff and the unique role you play. So many nuts and bolts!

Think about all the things your supporters don’t experience with you on campus.

One day you might be engaged in helping a student share their faith.

On another occasion you might be wrestling through dating issues with a student.

Or the following week you are trying to grow in your own leadership development.

Then a few days later you’re off to go share your faith with a stranger in the union.

In the evenings, you’re trying to teach a small group how to study Scripture.

It’s dynamic! Now, let’s apply my example of a book (as a purposeful supporter gift) to these scenarios.

In some ways, a book allows you to bring your supporters on campus with you. Or in my case as a Missions Mobilizer, it allows me to take them to the ends of the earth.

I have an opportunity to educate them on world religions, unreached peoples, statistics, needs, and much more.

Maybe one year you send them a book on evangelism like Questioning Evangelism or an old classic like Master Plan of Evangelism. It could be something like Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

The beauty of a book is it allows you to get creative in how you educate supporters.

It’s impossible for you to communicate all these ministry dynamics in newsletters or even a phone call.

3. Donor Development

In addition to ongoing vision casting and educating supporters, a purposeful gift, like a book, can accomplish the task of developing your donors personally.

My supporters most likely don’t want to get a book on missions every year. That can get old quick.

However, they could personally profit from a book on God’s grace, the gospel, or the Person of the Holy Spirit, to name a few.

By choosing a book outside the niche of my personal ministry it reminds my supporters that I’m not just here for what I can get, but what I can give, not just to students, but to my supporters as well.

My hope is that it communicates that I’m thinking about them, not just the students I’m in front of on campus.

It lets them know I care about their personal growth in godliness.

This last year we chose to send our supporters The Holiness of God.

What Christian wouldn’t profit from growing in their understanding and worship of a holy God?

I actually received a text shortly after Christmas from one supporter who said he was arguing with his wife about who got to read it first! Mission accomplished!

4. Concrete Gratitude

Maybe the most plain and obvious accomplishment of a purposeful gift is that it serves as a tangible way to express thanks.

As campus ministers we have all written plenty of thank you cards and made plenty of thank you phone calls. These are both good and necessary things. However, saying you are thankful and showing you are thankful are two different things.

I can tell my wife that I am thankful for all that she does as a mother. I can even write her a thank you note and leave it on her bedside table. Or I can buy her a new dress and say thanks.

I’ll let you ask my wife which one sets apart my words.

Gratitude has more gravity when a gift goes with it.

Just consider the gospel.

The gospel is more than God saying He loves us, or writing down that He loves us. It is a demonstration that He loves us (Romans 5:8).

He gave a tangible gift in the crucifixion of His Son.

The purposeful gift of a book helps cast vision, educate, develop, and thank supporters. It is a gift that keeps on giving.

A supporter can repeatedly profit from it just by rereading it.

I realize that sending a book to all your supporters can get expensive (book, shipping, packing) and requires an extra effort. But isn’t it worth the investment?

You might consider reaching out to a single supporter who would be interested in helping fund this.

Or you might directly contact the Christian publisher explaining what you’re doing and inquire if they would offer a discount on a bulk order for your situation.

Depending on what ministry you serve with, publishers like Center for Mission Moblization, Intervarsity, and Navpress have discounts already built in.

You have not because you ask not!

It may not be a book, but what gift could you send supporters that would accomplish the purposeful goal of educating, developing, vision casting, and thanking?

Get creative!

  • Chase Presson

    How many supporters are you normally sending a book to each year?

  • cjb

    Great idea! I think I’ll try it this year.

  • Jon

    Anyone know of good deals for purchasing in bulk or mailing in bulk?

  • Steve Shadrach

    great article, Sean. THANKS!!