Episcopal Diocese of Washington

Engaging a changing world with
an enduring faith in Jesus Christ

The Congregational "Ask" Letter

Best Practices

One of the most vital parts of a successful Annual Giving Campaign is an effective “ask” letter, when the stewardship team of the parish reaches out to the congregation to invite support of the church’s mission and ministries. As you begin to think about what content to include in your letter, we encourage you to consider these best practices: 

  1. Keep it positive— highlight the exciting things happening in your church, how the church is serving others and helping to create the Kingdom of God; share a vision of joy

  2. Keep it short one page, bullet points when useful, lots of white space

  3. Personalize it— Dear Joseph and Mary works better than the generic Dear Friends

Above all, focus your story on how the money that is given will be invested wisely in ministries to people. Money follows mission. 

Letter Templates

Using the theme Planting Seeds, we created five downloadable letter templates aimed at particular categories of potential pledgers, from the newcomer to the consistent giver, that we invite you to modify and use as you wish. We’ve also included a fully fleshed out example letter for your study. 

It’s worth thinking about how best to communicate with the various generations represented in your parish. While these templates assume an Annual Giving Campaign with a traditional postal mailing of the ask letter, you may have parishioners who will respond better to email or text. Here is a chart outlining generational characteristics which you may find helpful.

Generation

Characteristics

Message

Strategy

The Greatest Generation 

(Born before 1930)

  • Defined by Great Depression, World War ll, patriotism
  • Loyal to church, strong sense of obedience
  • Trust government and authority
   

Subset of The Greatest Generation 

(Born between 1930-1945)

  • Defined by the Cold War; rising prosperity, a willingness to sacrifice
  • Value loyalty, conformity
  • Married early/ set up the church, as we know it
Legacy
(You build this!)
You are converted - visit from the authority figure.

The Baby Boomer Generation 

(Born between 1946-1964)

  • Defined by idealism and freedom of the 1960’s
  • Highest divorce rate and 2nd marriages in history
  • Reject establishment and routines
  • Self is more important than the group
  • Need information on impact/how gift will be used
  • Must have transparency in light of mistrust of institutions
  • “The American Dream” was promised to them as children and they pursue it
Prioritization of
Charitable Giving.

Narrative budget, lose language of obligation, Impactful storytelling. 

Have actual recipients of giving speak, appeal to their idealism “Could your parish be where they spend their third age?”

Generation X 

(Born between 1965-1978)

  • Defined by Individualism, Single parent households, seeker generation
  • Dual income families and single parents, First Generation of Latchkey Kids, 
  • Watergate, Energy Crisis, Y2K, activism, Corporate downsizing, End of Cold War, Mom’s work
  • Coupled later, entrepreneurial, cynical of authority
  • The first generation that did NOT do as well financially as their parents did
  • Will move or transition jobs 5+ times
  • Wish to “experience” church , though may not attend regularly

We are a people/
community who care about each other.

Put individuals in front of ministries.

Year round thinking on giving. Don’t just focus on the fall, allow them to work independently for your agency on their own terms.

The Millennial Generation

(Born between 1980-2000)
  • Defined by being children of divorce, celebrate diversity, socially conscious, Digital Media, child focused world, school shootings, terrorist attacks, AIDS, 9/11
  • Parents are advocates and friends
  • Givens: Debt and technology

    • Put them in charge of using technologies for appeal - no LONG appeal letters
    • Utilize their networks, have them plan events that interest them
  • Pew Research claims giving characteristics similar to Greatest Generation
  • First generation of children with schedules
  • Require mentorships/relationships to affirm decisions

    • Use them for focus groups, ask their opinions
Your gift is important and will impact lives.  

Now, how can we
get to know you?

Mentor relationship initiatives, immediate gratification of giving, online community presence, and online stories of impact.
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