Fundraising is on every Catholic’s mind when it comes to carrying out their mission. We all know it must be done, but most of us don’t want to think about it. Worse, we wait the last minute to do anything about it, therefore limiting our ability to be successful.
This is unfortunate because fundraising is really important! Being successful with receiving donations can open so many new possibilities with spreading your cause. Even more, it doesn’t have to be as painful as you think.
The sad reality is that most Catholic causes fail at reaching their funding targets. This year, most of the hundred Catholic orders, schools, apostolates, dioceses and parishes which I collaborate with have either delayed or canceled their campaigns because they never got around to putting the wheels in motion.
So what is the secret to reaching your funding goals?
Whether your funding goal is large or small, it all comes down to having a disciplined approach to fundraising year round. There are two distinct types of fundraising which allow you to do so: active and passive. Active fundraising is the actions you most associate with fundraising. In other words, it’s when you are actively seeking donations and making gift requests.
Passive fundraising is driven by the actions you take to update current donations, cultivate prospects, and plan your next fundraising campaign (active fundraising). To put it simply, passive fundraising focuses on planting and watering seeds, while active fundraising is all about harvesting what has grown.
As Saint Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6)
Your entire year – meaning 365 days – therefore should have these two seasons: active and passive fundraising.
When many Catholics get started with their fundraising, the common first steps focus on writing a case for support, sending letters, and asking people for donations.
While all of these actions are necessary for fundraising, you must take several steps back before completing them. Passive fundraising is all about preparing yourself, prospects, and your current donors before you do seek to raise funds.
Most Catholic charities, however, overlook passive fundraising, which is one of the leading causes of their failure in raising funds.
For instance, instead of immediately asking for donations and sponsorships, think of the different ways you can spread the news about the great work you are currently doing and how the community is already benefiting. This helps build awareness and trust in what you are doing. With these in place, people are much more inclined to donate when you do ask.
Another way you can passively fundraise is to focus your attention on your current donors and network. Update them on what you’ve been doing, the impact you’ve had, and ask for what they’d like to hear about from you. Deliver regularly stories, facts, and examples of how their support and involvement are helping you carry out your mission.
I call this passive fundraising because what you are doing is attracting people’s attention to the impact your mission is having, which as a result, is building trust in your work. Again, awareness and trust are two critical factors that must be present for people to donate (even increase their current giving). It’s important to remember that people give not because you ask but because they are inspired by the great work you do. Therefore, inspire them, continuously.
People who know you will be even more impressed by how the Holy Spirit is working through you, and in turn, they will want to get more involved in your work.
Improving your storytelling is perhaps one the best things you can do to have better results with your passive fundraising. In addition to sharing great stories, your success in fundraising will be dependent on how committed you are to do this. Therefore, get into the habit.
Being Successful in Fundraising Means Being Disciplined
Habits are a significant pillar of the Catholic Church. Look at every religious order, and you will find that they each follow a set of daily routines. If you have big plans for your cause, charity, order, organization, implementing the right habits will serve to improve how you raise funds.
Leaders and fundraisers can set goals, assign tasks, monitor daily progress, and keep everyone on the same page throughout the duration of a project. The result is building your network of happy donors who want to continue supporting you and a list of prospects who will welcome the opportunity to support your work.
Success in raising funds starts with passive fundraising. Again, I quote the line from Saint Paul because it’s so relevant with fundraising: I planted. Apollos watered. God grew. If you want your fundraising to last, there has to be ample time to plant and water seeds.
Everyone wants to hit their fundraising targets, but too few want to take the time to plan for success. While setting a goal is easy to do, it can be very hard to accomplish.
One of the most significant challenges to reaching your funding target is the commitment to the right habits. Yes, habits are essential to your fundraising. This is because when you don’t see instantaneous results, you can quickly get discouraged, change your target, change your approach, or cancel the campaign altogether. Therefore, having the right habits before you begin is imperative.
When it comes to reaching your funding target, you cannot do it without a number of support systems. This is why I am so adamant about people subscribing to my website, CatholicFundraiser.net, because I offer the weekly support you need to overcome discouragement and continue moving forward. I also provide you tools and resources to track your progress, adjust your messaging, and of course, improve how you ask for donations.
When looking at raising money, much of the focus is on finding people to ask and then asking. However, the foundation of a great campaign is always internal. I recommend you focus your attention on what Jesus told us to do. Seek and find. Knock, and the door will be open. Ask and receive. Consider organizing your campaign in these three parts: seek, knock, ask. (Luke 11:9)
Therefore, yes it’s important to ask, but you also have to seek and knock.
Your first task is to consider where you will look for donations. Because you’ve been spent considerable time with passive fundraising, knowing whom you will ask is clockwork. You already have your long list of donors and prospects ready to focus your attention.
Then, you take ample time to knock on each person’s door and share with them your request. This means knocking on each person’s door, one after another, and making a personal invitation. One to one fundraising is the only way to go because it works, it’s genuine, and Catholics enjoy this approach the most.
Last, you must make a clear and compelling ask. This too is easy because you’ve spent plenty of time sharing your story during your season of passive fundraising that everyone already knows what you do and sees the impact you have. While the finer details of this task are crucial in reaching your funding goal, the overarching focus should be to seek, knock, and then ask. This is a structured and Catholic approach to your fundraising.
When it comes to reaching your funding target, discipline throughout the year is the defining factor. When you get into the habit of passively and actively fundraising, you will have tremendous success. Also, regardless of what your target is – a hundred dollars or hundred million, you must always have a passive and active season with your fundraising.
As 2017 comes to a close, review the following approach below to see how you can plan your passive and active fundraising seasons. Both will be pivotal in helping you stick to your fundraising and hitting your goals.
Pray – Take a moment to read 1 Corinthians 3:6 and consider how Saint Paul went about planting and watering seeds. Take a piece of paper and map out when you can have two seasons to your fundraising.
Pray – Take a comment to ask God how you can better passively fundraise. How can you better share your story? God is asking you to do great things in his name. Review the people who are currently in your life and the gifts they are giving you. How can you bring them closer to your mission without asking for donations?
Pray – Reflect on how you respond to the new people in your life. God is always bringing people into your life for a purpose. How often are you considering why someone enters your life, the talents they have, and how you both can work together to bring your mission forward? Too often we look only for people with ‘deep pockets’. Don’t let money be your focus. Instead, let the Holy Spirit guide you and your new relationships.
Ask – Take time to map out your year and define when you actively and passively fundraise. Write down the different tasks you will accomplish each week, so you get into the right habits. Follow your approach which will give you plenty of time to plant and water seeds. Then, when it is time to fundraise actively, recognize the different opportunities God has grown for you.
Question: What is your plan for succeeding with fundraising in 2018?
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.
Jennifer Fulwiler interviews Brice Sokolowski from CatholicFundraiser.net. In this Part 2 of the interview, Jennifer and Brice talk about how to fundraise in the Catholic Church, the fundamentals to follow, and why now is the best time ever to follow Christ and go big on your vocation.
Thank you for watching this video. I hope that you keep up with the week videos I post on the channel, subscribe, and share your learnings with those that need to hear it. Your comments are my focus, so please take a second and say ‘Hey’ ;-).
Jennifer Fulwiler interviews Brice Sokolowski from CatholicFundraiser.net. In this Part 1 of the interview, Jennifer and Brice talk about the Catholic Church, Mass, living abroad, the challenges of following God, and how to pursue your vocation.
Thank you for watching this video. I hope that you keep up with the week videos I post on the channel, subscribe, and share your learnings with those that need to hear it. Your comments are my focus, so please take a second and say ‘Hey’ ;-).
My fundraising started to kick into high gear when I better understood how it connects with my faith. The word “faith” gets thrown around a lot and unfortunately, it loses its meaning. I took a close look to understand what faith means and what it does not mean.
The common phrase about faith when you fundraise is, “You just have to have faith, and it’ll all work out.” In everyday terms, we often hear, “I’m living on faith.”
What do these phrases mean? When someone says them, I also hear, “Just sit back and do not worry. What is supposed to happen, will happen.”
My conclusion is that people associate faith with not having to do much. This is entirely false. Just read what the Catechism says about the subject. With regards to fundraising, having faith means, if God wills it, people will donate. So you don’t have to spend lots of time fundraising because faith will take care of everything. Faith will magically make happen what you want. This approach has you believing more in magic than in faith.
How faith works in fundraising
I do not want to dive too deep into a theological lecture about faith, but I do have a few comments which I think will help you find a more Catholic approach with fundraising. Let’s first start with a Catholic definition of what faith actually is because it doesn’t mean to wait for things to magically appear out of nowhere.
“the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”
Faith is the belief in things we yet cannot see. In the context of fundraising, you can say that faith is believing that donors and donations exist even though you cannot see them. It’s not that they will magically appear. They are just not in front of you at this very moment.
Therefore, faith doesn’t mean that donors will show up one day. Faith means that they are out there. This is a small but important distinction.
So when someone says you just need faith that you’ll receive donations, don’t think that donors will come with open checkbooks to your door. Faith means what you are looking for is out there. That’s it. It doesn’t mean donors and gifts will come to you. To have donations come to you, that’s where the work kicks in.
Have faith in God, not money
To have faith work in fundraising, you have to be crystal clear on what precisely you believe but cannot see. I am not talking just about money and donors. Money is bi-product of what you want. I am talking about having a clear understanding of what God is calling you to do.
If he wants you to take care of the homeless, does that mean God wants you to build a shelter? To take care of the sick, does that mean God wants you to build a hospital? To be a missionary, does that mean God wants you to build a network of people around the world?
Faith means getting clear on what you want. That’s step one.
Be clear on your mission.
Then, when you move forward, you have faith that God will surround you with the people that will support you. Those people start appearing in your life, and you stop them to say, “Hey, I want to talk to you.” With your eyes fixed on your vocation, you start recognizing the people along your path. It’s not that people appear out of nowhere. Nor is it that people appear after you ask. They show up because God wants you to succeed. You just have to keep your eyes open. This is how fundraising works. Fundraising happens when you are already doing what God wants you to do.
Again, let me be clear. Fundraising is a tool to help. It’s not the tool that makes it happen. You don’t need money to start realizing your vocation, cause, or mission. You have to already be moving forward. As you move forward in faith, fundraising can help you to keep going.
Faith is also tied to hope. To go back to Saint Paul, he says that faith is the realization of what is hoped. Well, what do you hope for? Let’s open one of my favorite books, the catechism. I love being Catholic because everything is so clearly explained in the catechism. (If you don’t have one, I recommend purchasing one today.)
The Catechism states:
“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
Hope for me is that burning fire that keeps me going to pursue what I yet cannot see. Hope doesn’t come from me. It’s from God. When you are looking for those donors that you have not found yet, hope helps you keep looking. Fundraising deals with constant rejection. Sometimes you will get weeks, even months, of people saying no to your requests. Hope, however, keeps you going. It’s important to recognize that hope kicks in when we are striving for the right purpose.
If you desire to find people who believe in your work, who see what’s possible, and passionate about your cause, then hope helps you make the journey.
“With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones.” – Ephesians 6:18
Hope helps build your confidence that you will reach your goal. You can pair the word hope with perseverance. Each step of the way, hope is guiding you with how to inspire people. Hope doesn’t mean going from one lukewarm campaign after another, thinking the next one does better. I see this a lot. It’s a skewed version of hope. If you’re dragging your feet from one campaign to another, it means you evaluate your approach. I say this because the Holy Spirit is giving you the wisdom, knowledge, and guidance on how to improve.
“But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.” – Luke 8:15
Putting your faith in fundraising
My goal is not to show you how we can place faith in money. I want to move fundraising a bit closer to the truths of our faith. The challenge with fundraising is that it lives in its own bubble, separate from the virtues. This is the problem. You have to look at fundraising with the right perspective if you want to get better at it.
When we talk about faith in the context of fundraising, it doesn’t help to say, “have faith that donations will come.” That’s not going to get you moving forward. If anything it’s going to drain your desire to move forward with your mission. Money is not a necessity of life. We should not be sitting around waiting for it to appear. What is necessary is for you to find what your faith is actually telling you to do. This means finding your vocation, otherwise known as the answer to, “What does God want me to do?”
When you fundraise, you can be too focused on the idea that money is what will move you forward. When this happens, you become blind to what God wants you to do and who he places in your life. Sometimes he places donors where we least expect it. Sometimes he gives us guidance when we aren’t looking. We are so fixated with receiving money that we aren’t aware of what’s happening around us. We don’t see the people God is placing in our lives.
Always remember that every donation you receive comes from the hands of someone. Therefore, keep your eyes and ears open at all times. Get to know people. Build your community. Most
Therefore, flip your thinking on faith when it comes to fundraising. Start with getting clear with where God wants you to go. Then start walking in that direction. Don’t wait for the money to come. Just move forward. You don’t need money to start. Move forward and have faith that God will provide. As you move forward, watch who God places in your life.
My goal is that you look at faith through a different lens when you fundraise. This adjustment moves you closer to understand what God wants you to do and how fundraising can help. Here is my recommendation for how to do just that.
Pray – Take time to have clarity of your mission. Where does God want you to do? Read part three of the catechism, “Life in Christ,” and review all the footnotes. The footnotes are a great resource of wisdom to move forward with your mission. Journal your thoughts on how you see your life in Christ.
Pray – Answer the question: “What is it that I truly hope for?” Then, ask yourself how you will persevere in your mission and fundraising. Detail what your prayer life needs to be to support you. Find mentors who will give you confidence. Build a community of people around you. It’s important to have your hope be on your mission, not on finding donations.
Pray – Write your plan of action. What acts of charity will you complete for the people you meet? You don’t have to wait for someone to give you money to be charitable to them. Be the first in showing generosity. Charity helps you realize your faith and hope.
Ask – Take action with every person you meet. Whether it’s asking them to donate, volunteer, keep in touch, pray, or attend an event, take action to build the relationship. Keep a list of the people you meet. Grow this list and keep in touch with everyone. Remember, the most important relationship you will have is the one with Jesus. Keep him close to you.
Question: What could you do to have fundraising better fit within your Catholic faith?
Everything you do with fundraising begins with your community. Your community consists of every person you bring into your mission. This includes donor, non-donor, volunteer, inquirer, lapsed donor, and even the people who you meet each day. By focusing your attention on building your community, you take them on the journey which is realizing your mission. This community will then be inspired to support you financially.
It’s important to build a community because if you don’t surround yourself with people who are passionate about your work and cause, then you will have difficulty fundraising.
If all you do is surround yourself with major donors, you won’t be as successful because you need more than just people with deep pockets. Your mission is not dependent on the money you raise. Your mission is dependent on God and how he wants you to carry out your vocation. Because you cannot carry forward our vocation alone, you must recognize the different talents that people have who come into your life. Then, you determine what led you together and how you help one another.
Start building your community today
Get started with your community by gathering the people around you. It is your responsibility to invite people into your community, what activities they do, and when to approach them for a donation request. As I mentioned, your community’s purpose is not to surround you with financial donations every month. That may be one aspect of your community, but it happens when the other activities are in place.
There are several ways you can build your community. You can connect members with other members.
You connect members with other members.
You get people to share their thoughts and views in discussions. This can be a live event or online.
You share knowledge and wisdom so that everyone becomes better informed about your work.
You educate your community about what is happening.
The atmosphere you build inspires them little by little as they discover more about your work. With time, more people get involved and eventually take action. This action can, of course, be through a financial gift. Each community member takes one step at a time to become more involved in your work.
Also, your community must have its own voice and identity. I am a fan of having a constructive dialogue with your community because it’s fantastic way of learning what inspires people. If you know what inspires them, you’ll know how to better ask for donations.
While you are the leader who organizes how and when people meet, I recommend taking a step back and allowing others to express their opinions. This is not to say that they dictate which direction you take. You definitely set the boundaries.
One of the best ways to learn what people think is by conducting surveys. I talk incessantly about surveys, and there is a reason for this. Surveys work incredibly well in fundraising. I’ve been using them for years, and I’m still finding new ways for improving my fundraising with them.
Knowing how to engage with your community will help you fundraise better.
Along with listening and connecting with your community, the people around you must grow in knowledge about your mission, the purpose, and the results. You do this by updating them on a consistent basis about what’s happening.
Never assume that because you said something once it’s clear to everyone. Just because you have a page on your website titled ‘Our Mission’ doesn’t mean people know what you do. You have to continually tell people who you are, what you do, why you do it, where you are going, and how you will get there.
For more on this topic of surveys read this article which outlines how to use them step by step.
The Benedictine rule for building community – Listen
I remember attending a lecture at a Benedictine abbey just outside of London, England. The abbot was discussing a specific rule which allows the youngest monk the chance to speak openly with his fellow monks, particularly the abbot.
Saint Benedict added this rule because he understood that sometimes God speaks to us through the youngest or least expected person. Take for example David, Ruth, Moses, Abraham, Rahab, John, and Mother Mary. Look at all the Marian apparitions, as Mother Mary is always more comfortable speaking with children.
It’s usually the person we least expect who has something profound to share. You never know who in your community has something valuable to say, therefore always have an open ear.
Feedback from your community also allows you to recognize what you are doing right. When people are complimenting you on your style, especially when it comes to fundraising, you know you are on the right track. It’s that simple. Your community helps you take a step back, reflect on your work, and keep moving forward. Even when you receive criticism, this negative feedback can confirm whether you are or not on the right track.
Therefore, let people share with you what they think.
Another important activity in your community is that they must frequently be asked to take steps forward. It’s not enough to have a group of people around you and hope they will eventually act. This is especially true when it comes to donating.
You have to ask people to take steps forward. Otherwise, you will be waiting a long time before people do.
Whether you are looking for one donor or one thousand, you start with asking your community to take steps forward. Ask each member to regularly take one small way after another. Yes, this all takes time, but this is part of growing your mission, especially with fundraising.
By asking your community to take steps along their journey with you, you connect your mission with theirs. They become co-owners in your work. Then when you do ask for a donation, they more often than not will say yes.
Learn more about how to take action by reading this article on what a Catholic fundraiser should do every week.
An exercise on how to start building your community
Here is a simple Catholic approach to building your community and moving your fundraising forward.
Pray – Take a moment to recognize all the different people in your community. This includes volunteers, donors, colleagues, contacts. Take time to reflect on how you have connected with each person . Read chapter four of Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He provides wonderful instructions of how to communicate with people and thank them for their generosity.
Pray – Review how often you connect with your community and share information and knowledge. Write ideas on how you can share more with them about what is happening so they can learn how things are going.
Pray – Review how often you invite your community to have a voice in what is happening. Regularly take feedback through surveys. Thank people for their opinions and decide on the ones you see most valuable. Let people know that you use their feedback. This makes sure your community knows that you are listening and taking action.
Ask – Each month ask your community to get involved. Diversify your requests so that people don’t get the impression that all you want is their money. For those who are new, ask them to attend an event. For those who have been in your community for some time but you’ve never met personally, ask them to volunteer with you.
For those people who have been very active but not donating, ask them for a financial gift. And for those who have been giving for some time, ask them to increase their contribution or sign up for regular giving.
Over time, when you ask every community member to take one step forward, your momentum will pick up, and as a result, your mission will move significantly forward.
Question: What is one action you can take today to build your community?
The “thank you” is the undisputed champion of all fundraising conversations. This is because your gratitude is the hallmark of acknowledging how God blesses you through the people you meet. Therefore thanking people must be foundational in your day to day work as a fundraiser. I would even rank your ‘thank you’ as more important than your gift request.
Let’s take a closer look at how to thank people because more than likely you are only thanking people after they donate. This is the standard approach to showing gratitude. Yes, this is good, and I want you to do this every time, but I want you to do more.
If you want better results in your fundraising, you have to learn to use these two words more often.
Thank the person, not the donation
I recommend that you get more personal when expressing gratitude because thanking someone goes beyond the donation. There is so much at play in a donation than the moment the person gives you money.
I often stop for a minute to comprehend how this person reached the decision to give. How did they come into my life? How did they get inspired? What conversations did we have? What led them to think that I was worth a financial gift? How did they reach the decision to be generous with their money?
When you pause and reflect on every step that had to occur, you recognize that many actions had to happen before the act of giving you financial support. This helps you thank the person more sincerely, and it helps you recognize the other steps that you should be thanking a person.
You have to thank a person each step they take with your mission. So don’t wait until you receive a donation to say ‘thank you.’ Thank the person for connecting with you, attending an event, calling you, asking a question, volunteering, and the countless other actions they do. Don’t wait until someone gives to thank them.
Take a step back – donations happen much earlier than you think
Let’s dive further in this idea of thanking people much earlier than when they give. A sequence of actions and decisions took place for a person to make that decision. I encourage you to find out what those steps are because once you know them, you can identify prospects much easier.
When I can’t understand how someone came to the decision to give, I contact them and ask, “You have humbled me by your generosity. Thank you so much. If I may, what inspired you?”
You might think this is intruding someone’s privacy, but it’s not. The idea that a donor’s privacy cannot be breached is a myth. Yes, people don’t want you to be cold called. They don’t want to be bothered with endless requests. Also, if all you do is contact them when you want money, they will likely get upset.
However, there’s a significant difference between my approach and what most Catholic organizations do: constantly ask for money.
When I learn why people donate, they tell me their story and how they came to the decision. I see how the different moments led to the donation, and I can become even more grateful.
The benefits of getting good at ‘thank you’
When you become a pro at saying thank you, you are inspired to do ten times more with their donations. This is why the generic thank you note only handicaps your ability to move your Catholic cause exponentially forward.
People’s generosity fuels our passion to do more for Christ, and we can even more by getting better at showing gratitude. If someone finds your cause worthy of their hard earned money, recognize that there is more at play than a financial transaction.
Dig deeper when it comes to thanking them. I recommend you make every effort to tell them how humbled you are by their attention and generosity. When you consistently do this, every day of the year, your fundraising will increase exponentially.
Thanking people more often will have a tremendous impact on your fundraising.
Let’s look at the four moments when you should thank people.
The first is thanking someone after they make a donation. As discussed, this is the most fundamental thank you. Find your authentic way of saying, ” I thank you for your generosity.” Don’t copy someone else’s version. Put it in your own words. You have to come from a place of authenticity.
If you are looking for inspiration, look no further than the writings of Saint Paul. He is a master when it comes to thanking people for their generosity.
The second way you can thank people is after meeting them. Whether it is the first encounter or a “catch-up” after an event, make sure you say thank you. It’s also good to mention one or two comments they said that stuck with you.
The third way you can thank someone is after they do something for you. This is apart from a donation. What comes to my mind are volunteers. Volunteers are a bedrock of support for your work, and they should be thanked after they help you.
The fourth wayis when you become a pro. This thank you happens at the specific moments which you know are fundamental moments in your relationship with a person, especially if they are not yet a donor. You can do this with a handwritten card, a phone call, and personal email. People don’t expect these messages, but when they receive them, they are extremely grateful.
Always remember: Catholics want to give, but they want to give to Catholic organizations who they know will do more than just take their money.
Putting your ‘Thank You’ into practice
Exercise on how to get better at saying thank you.
There is an art to asking for a donation. I am not talking just about intuition and creativity. To become a great artist, you have to spend years learning and perfecting your craft, and it doesn’t come easy. You have to fail countless times until you get it right. You are constantly looking for what techniques, styles, compositions compliment one another. Most importantly you search for your authentic style.
The same applies with the ask in fundraising. If you don’t take the time to learn the craft, you won’t get the results that you want. You will struggle to raise funds, and you won’t find your authentic voice.
Step 1: find whom to ask
The first step in crafting your ask is to understand who your ideal donor is. Most Catholic organizations think their ideal donor is any Catholic, but that’s not true. Nor is it true that you can reach out to non-Catholics. Your ideal donor is someone who relates to you and your mission. Yes, your donors will likely be religious, but that’s not enough. I say this because the days of running from one parish to another asking every Catholic or religious person you meet are outdated for two reasons.
The first is because you don’t have time to be running around. Visiting one parish after another to ask for money is time-consuming and stressful. It deviates your focus from your mission. You have better things to spend your weekends doing.
The second reason is it is ineffective. Catholics vary so much in what causes they wish to support that you often speak to deaf ears. It’s not that Catholics are unsympathetic to your mission. It’s just they have different interests when it comes to supporting a charity. Also, they don’t always appreciate being asked during or after Mass.
To understand who your ideal donor is, pay close attention to who currently donates to you and why they give. If you don’t have any current donors, ask the people around you, “what would inspire you to donate to me?” This question is much more valuable than, “will you donate?” By collecting people’s responses, you uncover the narrative that makes people say, “yes, I’d like to donate.” You want to know what this narrative and then find people who live by it.
Step 2: learn what to say
Once you know your ideal donor, you find the thread that connects why they do or would donate. What are the common themes, words, emotions, actions that inspire them to your mission? By putting all of this information together, you will learn the underlying reasons why people give. This is important because people give because they want to, not because you asked them to.
Therefore, discover the common emotions, words, stories, experiences that connect everyone.
Once you have all this information, make it the foundation of your ask. You now have the canvas for an effective gift request to use over and over again.
Another reason why this is important is because when you do ask people for a donation, you are presenting a case that is founded on why other people donate, not on why you think someone should donate.
Step 3: confidently say the words, “please give.”
The basic structure of a donation request goes like this.
You present the clear, actionable tasks your Catholic cause is doing. Again, the words you use come from the responses that people gave you.
You then present the social problem or issue you are working to resolve. Again, in the language of your current donors.
You outline how you are making a difference and how you continue to move forward. (in the language of current donors.)
You lay out a clear plan for how you will continue. As always, this information is described not in words you think explain these points clearly.
All of this information is presented using the words, emotions, and comments from your current donors. It offers a clear description of who you are, what you do, how you do it, and how you are making a difference.
You then ask for their financial support. Again, completing these steps takes time and effort to perfect. You develop your ask by continuously improving how well you communicate to potential donors the reason your donors give. You separate yourself from the situation, just like an artist separates himself from his artwork. He has to allow his art to do the talking.
Remember, your ask is not a plea for help or a time to give a thousand reasons why someone should donate. Rather, your ask is an opportunity to present your mission through the words of your current donors.
You must look at your donation request as an art. Take the time to craft your request so it clearly inspires people. You can find your authentic voice by using this simple exercise to get you started in the right direction.
Pray – Reflect on the type of donor who would be most interested in your work. Apart from being Catholic, what else makes them unique? What qualities do they all share? Read chapters 8 and 9 of the Book of Wisdom which will help guide you in the right direction for finding the right words and people.
Pray – Reflect on your mission and the plan which moves you forward. What are the three to four specific actions you do to carry out your mission? You can ask your current donors (or people around you) what these are. Write a sentence for each one. Then, write three to four sentences that explain in more detail each of these actions.
Pray – Put together a case for support that connects your mission to their mission. Your high-level message should read, “people like you and me do things like this.” Read chapters 11 and 12 of the Book of Job and reflect on Job’s response when it comes to dealing with a difficult situation. Learn from Job how to have an attitude of humility and trust in God.
Ask – Share your case for support with people who match your ideal donor profile. When asking for a donation, ask them directly by using open questions (how, what, when, why, who, where). For example, say, “What do you think about supporting us with a donation of [insert amount]?” “When could you start giving regularly an amount of [insert amount]?”
Question: How can make your next gift request more authentic?
You have a message that you want others to hear. You are inspired to bring Jesus into the world, and you want people to be as inspired as you. Sometimes you ponder about the possibilities in front of you. You see all the people’s lives you will help. You see it right in front of you. Now the question is how to get them to donate.
However, reality sets in when you look at what’s around you. No one is listening to you.
Why? We live in a noisy world where everyone has a message and wants to be heard. Everyone is also asking for donations. You and a million other people want to do something great, and you all want people’s financial support. So how do you get people’s attention and money?
The most common approach seems to shout louder than everyone else. If you still don’t have their attention, shout even louder. On top of that, you likely won’t get many opportunities, so you scream the one message you want people to do: Please donate!
Stop screaming, “Please donate!” because people are not listening
As you cry for help, among the cacophony of every else’s pleas for money, you have to realize that the people live noisy, busy, and distracting lives. They are trying to find ways to keep sanity, so the last thing they want is a charity constantly asking them to donate. When they hear you do this, they shut you off. They throw your appeal letter in the trash. They tune you out during your parish appeal. They walk away without even considering what you have to say.
So, let’s face the cold hard fact. Breaking through the noise and getting donations are practically impossible. That’s why most fundraising campaigns fail. There’s just too much noise, and too many people don’t want to listen. They are looking for peace and quiet. Not more demands of their money.
You can hope that people will eventually donate, but this is a passive approach that won’t get you very far, especially if you have ambitious plans. You have to take a different approach and rise above the noise. I know because God doesn’t want you to stress. He wants you to be smart and do what he’s calling you to do.
If everyone is on the same interstate that’s jammed with bumper to bumper traffic, you’ve got to get off onto a side road to get to your destination. Let’s do just that.
In order to fundraise effectively in today’s Catholic landscape, you have to face an important. First, you have to understand that the strategy of hope fundraising doesn’t work. “Let’s pray people will donate,” or “Let’s hope this campaign works.” These approaches usually imply that you just wait and see what happens. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe in hope and prayer, but I think most people view hope and prayer in a secular way, not a Catholic way. Prayer and hope require action, not sitting around.
Instead, I recommend you have an active approach to getting people’s attention that is much more aligned with our Catholic faith. If you want people to hear you, you simply have to speak in a gentle and consistent voice. When you combine these two factors together, consistently present and gently speaking, you have your best chance of being heard. Therefore, you want to find your consistent and tempered voice.
Who do you know that does this? God.
There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.
When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah?
– 1 Kings 19: 11-13
You won’t hear God screaming from rooftops. You won’t see him disrupting your day to day to get your attention. You won’t see him pushing himself in front of a crowd to be seen. You see and hear him only after you pause and recognize that he’s been with you the entire time.
You have to follow the same approach. You want to place yourself in the same situation when people finally pause and take notice of who’s around them.
From my experience, the best way to get someone to donate is to always be there with your calm voice until the moment presents itself. It’s the moment when the person is ready to take action. You can’t force someone to see you, listen to you, and then donate. You have to offer them the best possibility to do so.
Breaking through the noise and being heard is harder than ever, but with a consistent approach to presenting your calm voice, you will be heard and rise above the static. It’s a paradox that works every time. You just have to be patient.
You don’t need to shout. You just have to keep tapping away. You have to know what you want to say and keep saying it. Week by week, month by month, and people will hear you. It’s only a matter of time that they trust what you say, and when that happens, and you are off to the races.
That’s why patience is so important. It’s also a fruit of the Holy Spirit, so pray to receive it. God gave you a voice. Use it wisely, spread the message of your mission, and patiently watch more people listen to you. Plant seeds, then add water and let God do the growing, but he can’t grow if you don’t plant.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6
A Catholic approach to getting heard
Today’s approach to Catholic fundraising requires a return to a traditional approach to being heard. This means following God’s approach to a calm and moderated voice when asking for people’s support. I recommend following these four steps which will help you find a more authentic voice when it comes to asking for money.
Pray – Take time to collect several examples of messages you’ve shared with people over the past six months. Reflect on how you got people’s attention by asking yourself, “was my voice clear, consistent, and tempered?”
Pray – Read chapters five and six of the Book of Sirach. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you have sincerity in speech and honesty in discourse. Write down your reflections on how you can have a consistent, present, and tempered voice.
Pray – Spend time quietly mapping out a 52-week plan for communicating your messages to Catholics. Make sure to balance your voice, so you aren’t just asking for donations. Focus on sharing information that helps people take action in your work. Also, consider the different mediums (the web, social media, email, letters, events) you will use to communicate your message.
Ask – Execute your 52-week communications plan. Be patient with getting your voice heard over the noise. Have faith that in time more and more people will turn to you.
Question: How can you make your voice heard when fundraising?