Four Fundraising “Secrets”
To Improve Giving In Your Congregation
Fundraisers know these things and use them with great effectiveness. We think you should know them as well. Can you see how these “not so secrets” would apply in your church?
Secret #1: People give because they believe in the necessity of mission
The primary reason people donate is they believe conceptually in the work they are being asked to support. Feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, supporting women in crisis, digging a well to bring clean water to a community, providing health services to the poor – whatever the cause, they believe someone (or some agency) should be doing that kind of work. It fits their world view about how this makes life better, both for someone in a particular kind of need, and they believe that to support such efforts is its own virtue. They know it needs to be done and it makes them feel good to provide support.
For the church it means going beyond simply being what “good people” do; it needs to become the thing that God’s people do. What is its foundation or connection to a biblical imperative? You need to know your own mission. Know what you do. Know why you do it. Be able to explain it in simple and concrete terms. Why is this necessary and why does it matter? Mission should be “forward” in all of your conversations within your congregation as well as when you speak outside of your community faith. Saying what you are about gives people a chance to connect their own innate sense of what is necessary and open the door for you to be a possible provider of that which meets that need.
Secret #2: People give because they believe that the mission makes a difference
This builds on the concept that the mission is necessary (or should be done), but beyond just that need, people are motivated to give to organizations that can effectively demonstrate that the donor’s gift leads to high impact. Organizations that can tell their story of how they are changing the world by the actions they take in turn validate their own worthiness to be entrusted with a financial contribution. This story is usually told both by numbers (how many people we helped) and by stories (this is how it personally impacted someone). Results matter.
The church should be concerned about having an objective method to measure its impact/success. Be clear about what you are measuring and how you evaluate. Then tie stories to the numbers. Stories are better motivators since they touch people both intellectually/objectively and emotionally/subjectively. You want to work for a blend of the quantitative and the qualitative measurements that prove your worthiness. Don’t just tell us you collected a 1,000 pounds of food for the local food bank. Tell us about Betty who was sleeping in her car at the Walmart parking lot who was directed to the food bank and had her first hot meal in a month because of what your church does! Impact matters. If you are making an impact tell people about it. If you are not, consider why not and what needs to change.
Secret #3: People give when they have confidence in the organization and its leadership
When people donate generously, often they have been impressed by the effectiveness of the organization. They believe it is well run, efficient, ethical, and making the investment of their dollars gain the maximum benefit. Beyond that, they are inspired by the passion of the leadership and their personal dedication to the cause. Leaders who demonstrate competence, enthusiasm, and inspire see positive results.
Make certain that you observe best practices so that you are meeting your fiduciary responsibilities. People, whether inside or outside of your congregation, should be able to trust you and that you will do with their gifts exactly what you said you were going to do. Be excited about what you do, why you do it, and why it matters. When you speak about your work your passion should shine through in your body language, the animation in your voice, and people should be able to identify the stirring of your heart. When you tell the stories of how it is you are changing the world you must believe it – then your audience will as well. If you don’t believe it, that is an indication something is wrong. Allow those you serve to tell how you have helped them when you are giving reports about your activities. When done by, or in the presence of leadership, this ties “secrets” 2 & 3 together.
Secret #4: People give to people – they give generously where they have an established relationship that is nurtured and well maintained.
It is quite natural that people want to know that their investment in your mission is appreciated. Look for multiple ways to express your gratitude. If your ministry/mission provides logical and relatively easy ways (not too physically demanding or logistically complicated/expensive) for your supporters to participate in a “hands on” experience then, make those invitations and be sure follow through with training or facilitating the arrangements. If you prepare meals to feed the hungry or house the homeless in your building, encourage people who support this type of mission to volunteer – this means even people outside of your congregation. You can build these networks of investment and support that can make a difference in having adequate human and financial resources to grow your work and impact. Take the time to get to know them and to reach out with enough regularity so that it is not only when you need a gift that they expect to hear from you.
A hand-written note, a phone call, or shout out on social media mean a great deal more than a calendar, bookmark, or a form thank-you letter sent via bulk mail. It’s not that putting something in your donor’s hand that helps them remember you isn’t important. However, they are much more likely to remember the conversation they had with you when it comes time to make a contribution rather than the trinket they didn’t need.
If they are volunteering, be there when they show up to welcome them and thank them. Let them know you couldn’t do this without them. Remembering birthdays, anniversaries (including the anniversary of their first (or most recent) donation, or other special events or seasons in their lives makes them feel special. In philanthropy, it is called donor management (or donor cultivation). In the church we call it being pastoral. You’ve got this – and you realize this isn’t such a big secret afterall!