Getting Past the Gatekeeper

“He also stationed gatekeepers at the gates of the Lord’s temple so that no one who was in any way unclean might enter” (2 Chronicles 23:19).

Gatekeepers have one job—to keep out unwanted visitors. Perhaps you have encountered a major donor gatekeeper in the form of a financial planner, attorney, family member, or a personal assistant. How do you get around the gatekeeper to connect with your donors? Gatekeepers process boxes of correspondence for major donors and must determine what is important and unimportant. Just imagine sorting through ten times the mail you receive daily. One ministry leader was surprised to learn that his notes weren’t getting to his major donor friends and then discovered the gatekeeper’s unwritten rules about whether he would pitch the correspondence or pass it on to the donor. Here is one gatekeeper’s pitch/pass list:

Thank you note on the receipt. Pitch It!
A common practice for ministry leaders is to write a personal thank you to the donor on the gift receipt. It’s nice gesture that probably gets noticed by 95% of your donors. However, a note on a receipt is still a receipt, not an official thank you note.

Any mention of a future project. Pitch It!
It’s tempting to tease a new project as you thank your donor for their gift to your current project. But if you focus on the next big thing, are you expressing gratefulness for the gifts that got you this far? Effective thank you notes must be genuine. Don’t just check the box saying that you thanked your donor.

Handwritten thank you note that mentions a future gift. Pitch it!
Congratulations for sending a handwritten note! Handwritten notes are rare. Don’t dilute your thank you by asking your ministry partner to consider a future gift. Your thank you note should focus on your donor not you.

Printed thank you note. Pitch It!
Some fundraisers have lousy handwriting and use a computer to print a note. Printed notes feel impersonal because they are. The only exception is if your donor knows that you have a health condition that makes handwriting difficult for you.

Personal, handwritten, stand-alone thank you note. Pass to the donor!
Here’s what passes this gatekeeper’s scrutiny: a handwritten thank you note that’s just a thank you note. Period. Mike was having difficulty connecting with a major donor. The donor had given but never responded to Mike’s phone calls or emails. Mike decided to be proactive and personally deliver his handwritten thank you note. He was interrogated at the front entrance, but the gatekeeper called the donor and said, “Mike, from ABC Ministries is here with a thank you note. Should I send him up?” The answer came back, “Sure.” The major donors were glad to see him and invited him in.

Think About This: Jesus taught about the relationship between the shepherd, his sheep, and the gatekeeper. “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). When you have a personal relationship with your donor, the gatekeeper will open the door wide.

Response: Father, please open the gate and help me connect with my major donors.

Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored two books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising, Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving and Keep on Asking – Bold, Spirit-Led Fundraising. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for At the Center magazine and Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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