December, Advent, and Christmas are all times when most Catholic charities are preparing their year-end campaigns and appeals. As I talk about the most important month of the year for fundraisers, I get a lot of questions like these: “How do I make sure I’m ready to make the most of December? How do I not be too pushy?”
If you’re asking these questions, you’re already on the right track. Why? Because you’re talking about laying out a plan that will make sure you have an authentic Catholic voice when you do make the ask.
I like to answer these sorts of questions by finding out how well someone’s considered three essential aspects of Catholic fundraising. I use this same technique when evaluating my own December fundraising.
1. Am I Speaking With My Own Words?
For a campaign to be authentic, it has to use words that Catholics understand. That means that it has to resonate with Church teaching and our commitment to spreading the Gospel. If you are focusing your attention on the money aspect of a campaign, it’s probably not going to catch as many Catholics attention.
I recently reviewed the campaign documents of a prominent religious order which is looking to raise over $1m to purchase property and expand. The religious brother that I am working with decided that it would be best to focus not on the plans of the building but rather on the story of how they got to this point.
What’s instructive is why he did so. He hadn’t done much with fundraising before, he said, but he knew that if Catholics heard their story, rather than a request for money, they’d commit.
If you are preparing for your December appeal and putting the final touches, I recommend you double check that you are telling your story in your own words. Sharing facts and figures about what the money will be used for is important, though don’t forget to share how God has blessed you throughout the year.
We know from research that religious giving is the highest of all charitable giving. Catholics are included in this statistic and are ready to donate. They just want to hear an authentic story said in your own words.
FACT: December giving accounts for 29% of all giving throughout the year
2. Does Your Campaign Focus on the Right Audience?
For a year-end campaign goal to be meaningful you should focus on getting the attention of the right people. We know that just because someone is Catholic doesn’t necessarily mean they share the same passion for our causes. Therefore, it is important to focus on energy on getting in front of the right Catholics.
We do this for two important reasons. The first is because when we focus our attention, we can spend more time with Catholics who will give. This, therefore, increases the number of gifts we receive. The second reason is that we reduce our stress levels. This is important because when we are speaking to people, they are more inspired to give to someone who is calm, composed, and happy. Plus it is Advent, and stress is not a gift of the Holy Spirit.
We find the right Catholics by taking time to review our year and reflect on who God has placed in our lives. When we connect the dots, and we identify the people who have crossed our paths, then we’re closing on finding the audience to ask for donations.
You won’t know whom to ask until you commit the time and effort to plan. Set your intention and get started with reviewing the past 11 months and recognize which people God placed in your path.
3. Are You Getting Personal with Your Approach?
There’s a difference between an appeal letter and genuine request. We all have received those direct mail letters that follow the same formula. These letters are so professionally done that they lack a personal touch.
What about the monastery who decides to build a new wing because more people are visiting for a retreat or considering a vocation? What about the Catholic apostolate that is increasing its online presence and reaching more lapsed Catholics? These are exciting stories, would you agree? It does until you read their appeal letters and how they forgot to share the unique aspect of their work.
But how do find your personal style when asking for donations?
Sometimes it’s just intuition. In his Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, Saint Louis de Montfort asks us to spend at least twelve days emptying ourselves of the spirit of the world. He reminds us that before we can take a step forward, it’s prudent to stop and reflect.
Saint Louis shows us how moving from one desire to another (even if it is to do God’s will) has to be done with prudence and preparation. This is especially true when it comes to asking for money.
Fundraising is a challenge, and if not properly planned, it can just turn into discouragement. What I like to do is set a December campaign goal that is motivating (and a bit discouraging) and then take time to plan. I make sure that I’m getting as personal with my approach and that my story is correctly told.
How to Plan for a Successful December with Fundraising?
As we move into December and the Advent season, try to organize your campaign so it is authentic, personal, and resonates with the right Catholics. It’s important to remember what fundraising campaigns are for in the first place. They are about raising funds to keep your mission moving forward, yes. But it’s more than that. A campaign is not just about what you raise. It’s about what you are doing for the Kingdom of God.
Campaigns are about moving forward. A good campaign requires us to strengthen our mission and do more for Jesus. That’s because every campaign is about Our Blessed Lord as much as—even more than— our vocation. And that’s precisely why planning your December fundraising in Catholic way is so important.
Every fundraising campaign must about Jesus as much as our goal to get donations.
For more information on how to plan your next campaign, make sure you download a free copy of ‘The 10 Commandments of Catholic Fundraising.’