Words and Tone Matter

My doctor’s office is filled with signs as to the “Do’s and Don’ts”. And it often seems more are about the “Don’ts”.

“If you need a referral, we need at least One week”.

“You need to provide your co-pay at the time of Check-In”.

“As of July 1, 2015 (3 years ago! – really) we no longer accept ABC Insurance”.

“Don’t come for bloodwork after 10:00 AM”.

I have been a patient with this practice for many years. The medical care is pretty good. The doctor calls with the test results, good and not so good. But in all of this time, I don’t think anyone from the office staff, or my doctor, has ever commented “it was great to see you; or thank you for being a part of our practice for more than 20 years”. Even a sign among the others that said “We care for you and care about you – Thank you for being a part of our practice” would be a nice touch.

Words matter. And so does tone. This is especially true for synagogue communities.

Many synagogues begin their new fiscal year in either June or July. I have a hunch that many of us recently received a statement, as the financial cycle begins, that has language similar to this:

“Dear Temple Member,

Attached is your monthly statement. If you have an outstanding balance due to the temple, a reminder of the dues payment terms follows:

2016-17 or prior balances are all now past due and are due in full.

2017-18 dues: 1/3rd by Sept 1st, 2/3rd by Nov 1st and 100% by February 1st. Payment in full is of course welcome.

If you are receiving this invoice, it is presumed you are continuing your membership with the temple. If this is not the case, please contact us at office@temple.org.”

An opening paragraph that simply thanks congregants for being a part of the synagogue community would certainly convey a welcoming and appreciative spirit. It is the first invoice of the year.

I think an invoice from Amazon is even more of a “warm and fuzzy”.

For synagogue communities, it can’t just be about collections, or about money.  The ”Thank You” shouldn’t be hidden in the last line of the last paragraph. Congregants should be recognized for being a part of a sacred community – as well as for their generous financial support.

During the coming weeks, there will be many opportunities to communicate with congregants. The weekly email, the monthly newsletter, as well as various snail mail and email packages about the High Holy Days. I know it is at times appropriate to remind congregants of the importance of financial obligations. But it is also certainly appropriate – and very beneficial – to thank them for being a part of a synagogue community as well as for their money.

A synagogue invoice should focus on more than just the transactional aspect of a congregant paying money. It is the relationship that makes the synagogue special.

Highlight this in the words you use, in invoices and in all communications.

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