Right now, you’re as good as your campaigns and no better. But your campaigns might not be very good because you haven’t taken a good approach to preparation. The thing is, it is almost impossible to have a good campaign, especially during Lent, unless someone gives you a good framework.
My job with the website is to give you a Catholic framework for fundraising. I also want to give it to you with such enthusiasm that you’ll take the necessary preparation to develop your own campaign, especially this Lent.
Let’s do that right now, sound good?
Let’s get down to the basics
At anything you choose to do, you’ll be as good as the preparation and practice you went through before actually doing it. The toughest thing I have to do with new fundraisers is to convince them that if they wait until they’re in front of a donor to learn what to do, it’s too late.
Fundraisers often like to wing it. That is to say, average fundraisers like to wing it. Catholics who are serious about their mission like to get fundraising right the first time because they can then get back to what matters most; saving lives and souls. So they don’t wing it – they prepare.
One of the reasons many new fundraisers think they can wing it has to do with the faulty image they have of the fundraising process. They think of fundraising as a slow-paced affair where there’s plenty of time for telling jokes, chatting about church news and the weather, and then winging their way through any unexpected challenges.
“Get your fundraising basics right this Lent.”
What these new fundraisers don’t realize is that, even with such a leisure approach, the grueling demands of mission work and pursuing a vocation goes very, very fast. Your mission goes on, regardless of what you raise, and sometimes this causes even bigger issues. You become overwhelmed by the lack of funds and the constant demands to help others.
Preparation develops you to respond quickly to the demands of your mission and vocation. When you can adapt more quickly, you can get on to doing what you want to do. This happens because you have time to choose your best response and approach and to deliver it smoothly.
This Lent, I recommend you take the time to prepare your campaign instead of winging it. Here are the seven steps for planning a Lenten campaign.
The 7 Steps to Preparing a Successful Campaign
Step 1 – Define Your Mission Identity and Key Messages
Step 2 – Establish Administrative Details and Confirm Contact Lists
Step 3 – Map Your Online Presence and Case for Support
Step 4 – Get People’s Attention
Step 5 – Build People’s Trust
Step 6 – Ask for Their Support
Step 7 – Follow Up and Close the Campaign
If you’ve never seen this approach, you don’t realize that all successful campaigns follow the pattern shown above. The approach is simple and straightforward, but its application is demanding and specialized for every Catholic agency. More so, it’s in a constant state of evolution. You don’t just learn these steps once, memorize the process, and then turn your mind off the subject forever.
Fundraising, especially in the Catholic context, requires constant alertness for refining your approach and for better steps. Your goal with fundraising is to align it with your mission, thereby inspiring those around you to support you while also understanding the importance of your work. This balancing act requires an unwavering commitment to preparing for your next campaign.
Join the Lent Fundraising Boot Camp
To go into further detail about these steps, each year I open the Lent Campaign Boot Camp which provides you with a timeline, plan, templates, and examples.
When you turn pro (which means that you decide to stop playing around with fundraising and take it seriously), you come up with an effective approach to your campaigns that fits perfectly with your Catholic cause.
Work this approach thoroughly and sign up for the Boot Camp waiting list by clicking here. I recommend you get on board and take your fundraising to the next level. Your mission and the people you serve deserve it.
Question: What step will you take this year to improve your campaigns? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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.
Recently I discovered a beautiful church in the South of France that is being renovated. The church is Saint John of Malta in Aix en Provence, and over $700,000 in a capital campaign was raised to restore the facade.
What is ironic is that $0 is coming from the parish itself. Local and state sources provided all of the funds.
Now you may not have access to that much money in your area; however, this campaign can provide you insight into how large sums of money can be raised, especially outside of your parish community.
As you can see from the photo, the church has an incredible historical gothic facade that just screams Catholicism. It makes you just sing the praises of God.
Three lessons for raising significant amounts for a capital campaign.
1. Historical importance – You obviously cannot make up history if you are building a new parish; however, it is important to consider what your historical significance will be in the future. In the case of this church, it was the first Catholic church built in the area.
2. Beauty – I often see churches being built at the lowest cost possible, thinking they will make it beautiful later. What often happens is if a church is built ugly, it stays ugly. Then, it’s very hard to find funds because no one wants to give money to something ugly. Therefore, start small, and think beautiful. Build a chapel first. Then when it fills up to maximum capacity, people will recognize the need for something bigger.
3. Sustainability – We live in a society where we consume and throw things away regularly. This mentality, unfortunately, hinders our capacity for building churches that last for less than 30 years. When building a church, think long term. Think longer than everyone else.
These are the three lessons that this beautiful church from the South of France taught me. We know that these lessons work because the state (which is 100% secular) is paying for the renovation of this Catholic church.
Focus on these three lessons whether you are starting out, expanding, or renovating, and you will see similar results.