Fundraising is a lot like soul winning. In soul winning, we invite people to give their lives to Jesus Christ. We affirm to our audience that Jesus is real and good and powerful. At the top of our claim list, we insist Jesus is trustworthy. He can and will do what He says.
In fundraising we are doing the same. We invite people to give their money to us. We say our cause is real and good and powerful. We insist WE are trustworthy, and we will do what we say. We tell donors our work is done in obedience to Jesus Christ.
Christian faith is based on trust: an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Christian benevolence is based on trust too: an intimate relationship between a donor and a ministry.
Our job in fundraising is to convince people – by our vision, character, habits, integrity, authenticity, and our long-term consistency in our work – that we are doing worthwhile and effective work for Jesus. We ask a foundational question: Will you give me your trust?
Trust is the bedrock of all giving: Large donors almost always begin a relationship with a ministry by giving a small gift (compared to what they could give). In other words, they entrust a small gift to us to see how we manage it. Jesus talked about this: “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” (Luke 16:10).
We earn trust by taking every donor seriously. That does NOT mean we treat every donor the same. A donor who gives $100,000 appropriately deserves more attention than a donor who gives $25. Why? Simply put, because of stewardship. A large contribution is a large investment of trust. Trust is earned… and it grows through a relationship with a donor reflected in communication, appreciation, and accountability.
When a donor begins a relationship with you, they look for several very important things. You are being tested. Don’t fail the test! Just like in witnessing, people watch our lives to see if our walk matches our talk. But donors are NOT critical judges! They sincerely want to be connected to worthwhile ministries and have real friendships. Like all human beings, they want to belong to something and use their assets to make a difference. By your request for support, you are offering them that opportunity. Always approach the donor relationship with this in mind!
- INVOLVEMENT. Donors want to be a worthwhile part of an effective ministry. They love to know their financial participation is making an impact. You must TELL THEM about the impact they are making. Regular reporting about your work is vital.
- APPRECIATION. Donors want to know they are valued and appreciated. Everyone wants to be appreciated. You are not the only lonely person on the planet. When you include a donor in your work by sending them regular progress reports (including the good, the bad, and even the ugly), “just touching base” phone calls every few months, and regular expressions of appreciation, a donor experiences valued involvement. Donors love being treated like a valued friend and hearing that their gift is helping!
- MANAGEMENT. Donors want to know you are a good manager. They want to see a thoughtful and clear budget before, and excellent records and reports after. Accounting and reporting is especially important for major donors, and must precede an ask for another gift. Wealthy people did not grow wealthy by accident. They managed and budgeted and watched over their interests. They expect you to do the same with their trust. Nothing kills a donor relationship more than an impression that you are a poor manager who casually squanders their trust.
Fundraising is a skill that must be developed. Like public speaking, playing the piano, or managing a small business (which is what your ministry is), there are skills to be learned. I recommend every start-up evangelistic ministry get training in “Partnership Development.” There are many great books that can introduce you to both raising personal support and major donor development. There are numerous organizations who provide training and coaching in partnership development. In my opinion, every emerging evangelist should get professional training and coaching in partnership development and donor relations.
We are still learning too! Globe International is a 47-year-old organization that manages over $5 million annually and a couple hundred ministries. This year we hired an organization to coach us in our work with major donors. I’ve been doing global ministry for forty years and have been raising funds all that time, but I am still learning. If you invest in getting well trained in partnership development work – and good training with coaching is not cheap – you will reach your goal of being fully funded much more quickly than if you go it alone.
So, get out there and win souls! But be sure you are skillfully and amicably taking your donors – your friends and colleagues in ministry – with you on the journey!
For more information about fundraising and partnership development training and coaching, contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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