Getting Your Online Presence Right

A Catholic Guide to using the internet in your fundraising

Make sure to get your free copy of ‘The 10 Commandment of Catholic Fundraising’. It’s a book that highlights the ten tasks you should do to keep you focused on your mission and hit your fundraising target, every time.

Brice Sokolowski Catholic Fundraiser

To be seen by Catholics, you need to share your mission and tell them what you are doing. But traveling from one parish and another is not enough. You must spread your reach by using digital platforms, and I can convince you for one simple reason: you will find the majority of your donors here.

When I started fundraising, every single prospect and current donor that I met was asking me to connect with them through the internet. I quickly discovered that my initial approach to go from parish to parish was the least efficient use of my time. That’s not to say you should never get out and meet people, but I had to maximize my full potential of telling my charity’s story and finding donors.

I desperatedly needed to find a better approach because our costs were mounting and more donations had to come, soon.

That’s when I turned more of my attention to the internet. But I didn’t just put a donate button on my homepage. That would not be enough. Instead, I had a genius moment. I understood that everyone I was asking to be a donor was connected daily to the internet, had two to three email addresses, and was frequently checking their multiple social profiles. In fact, most everyone I knew was always online, especially with the prevalent smartphone. The big question I was now asking myself was, “How do I share my charity’s story online with people and ask for donations?”

I discovered that building a digital presence rests on four key propositions. Here are the pillars that will build a clear picture for any Catholic agency.

1. Start with a positive view of having an online presence

To get more donors and donations, and without me running around, I had to ask the right question about building my online presence. I used to ask myself the question, “Should I be on all these digital platforms?” I quickly changed my thinking and asked myself a much more helpful question, “Which platforms should I spend use to connect with the right people who will support my mission?”

This was the turning point for me. I went from being overwhelmed with all the options to being more focused on what mattered most: sharing my story and capturing enough attention from people to ask for donations.

You more than likely have a few doubts and worries about the internet. Yes, there are some issues, especially when it comes to distracting us from our lives and responsibilities; however, we must remember that past generations also worried about the television and radio. Both definitely offer a lot of negatives but also positives. Look at how EWTN, Catholic Answers, and Ascension Presents, to name just a few Catholic agencies, have used these technologies to spread the faith to millions of people.

You can too by being having a positive perspective. Your online platform will help you stay focused on your mission and, by managing it correctly, not overwhelm your time and energy in front of a screen.

2 – Select only what you can handle

As I mentioned, the focus must be on identifying which digital platforms are best suited for telling the story of your mission. We must remember that Catholics only donate after you’ve gotten their attention and trust. To get them as passionate about your mission as you are, I recommend maximizing your time rather than trying to maximize the number of social profiles you have.

The goal is not to spend hours on social media. Let’s face it; you have better things to do: saving lives and souls.

Therefore, my suggestion is to select three digital spaces that maximize the spreading of your mission and the sharing of your story. You might be able to only handle one at the moment. That’s perfectly fine. The important step is to start with one and to do it well. What do I mean by that? It means engaging with people through your online presence. If you are on Facebook, you can’t just post a picture every other week and hope people like it. The objective is not to get 5, 10, or even 100 likes. It’s about connecting with people through the story of your mission. To do so, I recommend taking the time to learn and develop how you do this better each week.

The old adage is always true, “Practice makes perfect.” Or as the Catechism teaches,

Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace.

3 – Use the online platforms that fit your mission

Next, I suggest you select three to four platforms and spend your time and energy working with them. To get you started, I have three recommendations which will move you quickly forward. Two in my view are mandatory, and the third depends on the nature of your mission.

  1. Your Website – You must have a website because you own your website. Every social media platform can disappear tomorrow. The internet and website, however, will not. You want to safeguard your digital presence on the internet, along with your content. A website keeps you secure and directs people to a place they can always find you. I talk extensively how to build a fantastic Catholic website in this article which you can read by clicking here.
  2. Your Email List – You must remember that every donation comes from the hands of someone. And for someone to donate to you, you must get their attention and build their trust. Email is a fantastic medium for doing this because it’s personal and private. Plus, it’s the most cost-effective way of communicating with flocks of people because everyone checks their email. While email looks old-fashioned, it’s still the best way to engage in a one on one conversation with someone. Email isn’t going anywhere. It’s as prevalent as letters. I offer a practical approach on how to use email to better communicate with your donors and prospects in an article which you can read by clicking here.
  3. Pick a Social Profile – Select one to two social platforms that tell your story the best. If you share your story through photos, choose either Instagram on Pinterest. If by facts and articles, select Twitter. If by video, use YouTube. If you use a mix of articles, blogs, photos, and short videos, Facebook may work best for you. If you can share your story through audio, consider using Soundcloud, Stitcher or iTunes.

4. Have your followers and donors do the work for you

Finally, I don’t recommend you be on every social platform. By doing so, you spread yourself thin and lose steam. Your mission and fundraising will suffer when this happens.

I want to reiterate that you have to focus on sharing your mission, every day, every week, every month, every year. To do so, you must spread your story in the best way possible over the long run, not short. It’s more important to share stories with those who enjoy hearing from you, rather than trying to be seen everywhere by everyone.

This means it is more important to go deep into the relationships you develop online. Rather than trying to rack up as many likes, followers, and subscribers as possible, engage with their comments, thank them for their shares and likes, and respond to their emails. Numbers don’t matter.

If you do a great job with the people who are connected with you, I guarantee more will people come. God is continually placing people in your life. Focus on the few and allow God to multiply them.

‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ – Matthew 25:21

Question: Which digital platforms will you be using to spread the message of your work and attract donors? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Brice Sokolowski Catholic Fundraiser

Happy New Year… now what’s your fundraising plan?

The Importance of Following-Up with People

I want you to accomplish everything that God wants you to do. Whether you are a religious, a priest, a layman, or discerning your vocation, whatever God is calling you to do (even if it seems impossible), I want to help you move forward.

What often happens when we walk in faith, we look to others for support. The assistance we want usually comes in the form of financial donations. Meaning, we have to start asking for donations.

As a result, fundraising adds another level of difficulty to the already challenging journey, wouldn’t you agree?

I want to offer you advice on one of the best ways to get people to assist you financially. Listen to me very carefully because I guarantee you will have significantly better results. You will also stress a whole lot less, isn’t that what we all want? We want to focus more on the mission and stress less about the resources.

The Best Advice for This Year – Follow-Up with People

My advice is to focus significant amounts of your attention on the follow-up.

A follow-up means taking the time to build a meaningful relationship with someone after you’ve asked them for support. You do so by keeping people informed of how you are making a difference, even if they’ve not yet agreed to give financially.

Why do I encourage you to follow-up with people?

Too often, when asking for donations, Catholics forget about keeping in touch with people. They instead ask for money, then get disappointed when the response is negative or non-existent. Then they forget about the person entirely. The relationship disappears even before it can be started.

This common way of fundraising is detrimental to you and your cause. Let me dig deeper and explain why.

I am blessed through my work at CatholicFundraiser.net to work with hundreds of Catholics who are seeking funds. Because of this oversight, I’m able to see the trends and mistakes that Catholics are making over and over again. One of the most significant missed opportunities I frequently see is this inability to follow-up with potential donors.

Brice Sokolowski Catholic Fundraiser

Two Case Studies – One Failure and One Success

Let me share with you two examples to explain why following up with people is so important and how it can transform your fundraising quicker than you can imagine.

Case Study #1 – This is What You Should Not Do

The first example comes from a Catholic family who is passionate about reviving the use of sacred music in the liturgy. While working with them, I discovered they had a fantastic line-up of potential donors. Seriously, some of the people they had met over the course of two months were unbelievable. These were well-known people in the Catholic Church and their community. They had shown interest in the family’s work; however, they weren’t responding to the family’s donation requests.

I recommended that the family keep in touch over the course of three months and try again.

The family, unfortunately, didn’t take my advice. They didn’t see the long-term benefits of building relationships. Instead of seeing each person as a future donor – either in three months, six months, or even next year – the family could only see them as people who would never donate. This is a false assumption.

As a result, the family forgot about these relationships and looked elsewhere. Three months later, they put her project on hold due to a lack of funding, confidence, and direction.

To learn more about what to say to people, and build your confidence in following-up, read this article: How to Find the Right Words When Fundraising.

Case Study #2 – This is What You Should Do

The second example comes from one of the largest Catholic organizations whose mission is to keep Catholics informed about the teachings of the Church. I worked with the development office to build a campaign that would immediately identify people interested in financially giving and focus 100% of our time on following up with each one individually.

We launched the campaign in just a few days because we kept our focus specific to identifying people, asking for their support, and then following up when necessary. Within a month, we had raised $100,000. We also had another $500,000 on the way because of our dedication to following up with people who showed tremendous interest in what the organization was doing but weren’t ready to commit immediately.

Let me reiterate. This campaign took only a few days to get started and reaped significant results for this mission.

How did we do it? All we did was write a few emails, edited a short phone script, and make phone calls. The costs were just time and effort. For information on the how to find donors, read this article: The Art of Finding Donors.

Brice Sokolowski Catholic Fundraiser

The 2 Lessons Why You Should Always Follow-Up

I want you to take away two key lessons today about the importance of following up with the people.

Lesson 1. God always provides. You must pay attention to who God places in your life. I constantly quote Saint Paul: I planted, Apollos watered, and God grew.

I’m a big believer that God always gives us the people and resources necessary for us to move forward. We just have to have our eyes and ears open, and then take action. Meaning, you must keep following up with the people God places in your life.

Lesson 2. Always maintain a log of the people whom you meet. Instead of continually looking for new people to ask for donations, take the time to review the people you’ve met each week. Take note of what they’ve said and consider the best approach to reconnect with them.

Not every person you met will immediately respond with a yes when you ask for a donation. However, don’t disregard the person in the long run. Make a note of the meeting and put a reminder on your calendar to check back at a later date.

Sometimes the best action you can do is to give them an update on what you are doing.

Remember that people donate because they are inspired by what you do rather than by what you say. Keep their attention and remind them of the difference you are making. Then, when the time is right, ask again. Keep repeating this.

Please don’t look at the short term. Be patient – it’s a gift of the Holy Spirit. Follow-up with people regularly and you’ll see that more and more people will support you.

You will succeed with fundraising when you do this: demonstrate for 52 weeks a year “how you are making a difference” rather than “how you will make a difference.”

Question: Who will you follow-up with this week? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Brice Sokolowski Catholic Fundraiser

Gather a community before you gather donors

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.

For more ideas on this topic, read this article which outlines 5 activities you can get people to do.

Build a two-way dialogue

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.

[Tweet “It’s usually the person we least expect who has something profound to share.”]

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.

Perfect the art of listening by reading this article.

Encourage your community to take action

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?

How to perfect your ‘Thank You’ in fundraising

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.

[Tweet “Thanking people more often will have a tremendous impact on your fundraising.”]

The four ‘thank you’ messages you must master

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.

[Tweet “Saint Paul is the master when it comes to thanking people.”]

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 way is 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.

Pray – Reflect on the current way you thank people. Do you think you can do more? Is it sufficient? Read Saint Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians to see how he personal thanks people.

Pray – Reflect on the different actions people do for you which you could thank them? Apart from donations, what else do they do?

Pray – What are four different ways you can thank people?

Ask – Map out a plan for thanking people more often throughout the year

Question: How can make your next thank you more authentic?

What to say (and not say) when asking for donations

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.

[Tweet “You have better things to do on your weekends than ask for $ in parishes.”]

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.

[Tweet “Your request is NOT a plea for help or a time to give 1,000 of reasons why someone should donate.”]

A simple exercise to help you ask for money

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?

How to Ask for Gifts and Get Donations

What more could be said about engaging with prospects and donors? We all know what it comes down to. We all know that the ask is the biggest, scariest, and most important, the one action that can change our Catholic mission in an instant.

While hesitant about how to properly ask for a gift, Catholic leaders and fundraisers consider communicating with prospects and donors as super important. However, strangely enough, they shy away from developing any deep conversations. They instead hide away and ask only when desperation kicks in. Even after they’ve asked, they rarely follow up and obtain a definitive answer.

They would rather play scenarios in their heads. “Why have they not responded to my request?” “When will they get back to me?” “What do I do now?”

How to ask for gifts

It’s the cycle of doom that will leave with you raising nothing.

Why no one is giving and never will give to you

They do this only because they sabotage themselves when it comes to authentically communicating with people. The most stubborn Catholic charities avoid altogether authentic conversations and engage in dialogue only when it comes time to ask for money.

And if they do overcome these hurdles, it’s because the donor is the one who’s seeking them out.

It stands to reason that authentic communication with people is the one topic that should require the least explanation. Yet this article ends up being the longest because although fundraisers, board members, and leaders think they understand communicating, they obviously do not. If they did, Catholics would be lining up to make donations to them.

For now, unfortunately, the majority of Catholic charities and apostolates still have not realized the single need to communicate in an authentically Catholic voice, allowing them to attract more attention, find more prospects, gain more donors, and raise more funds.

[Tweet “Catholic charities have not realized the need to communicate in an authentically Catholic voice”]

Think about why Catholics donate:
to give back,
to make an impact,
to connect,
and to catch up on a cause they know and care about.

In the process, donors find out what other Catholics are doing; what causes they are championing; what ideas they’re hatching; and where they’re going. Catholics want to see change happening and the Kingdom of God at work. Which means you better communicate messages that are relevant, engaging, and useful.

The roadblock is you’re asking as if you’re in 1985, not 2017

Now, if it were that easy, this would be a short post. Hire better copywriters and share better messages, and you’d be good to go. The problem is that three forces have made it more difficult for even the most talented storyteller to deliver authentic messages to Catholics. These are (1) the number of Catholics, (2) the evolution of the Catholic laity, and (3) charities’ responses to these changes.

The very reason that fundraisers want to have a presence in the Catholic Church – the sheer number of Catholics – makes running a campaign an immense challenge. Over a billion members (70 million in the USA and even more in Europe) worldwide, all the campaign material causes a conundrum. With thousands of requests streaming into parishes and competing for attention, it’s unlikely Catholics read or listen to each request, even if it is incredibly compelling and authentic.

This brings us to our next issue: the evolution of the laity. Since the Second Vatican Council, we’ve seen an increase in the laity’s involvement in the Church, particularly with donations. Yet Catholics are human. We have a limited span of attention. We lose focus quickly. Our personal tastes change. We move from city to city, state to state, even country to country. We get married, have kids, and change jobs. So we are not always connected with what is happening in the Church.

The old-fashioned fundraising approach to getting people’s attention by letters and pulpit appeals are long gone. Catholics toss letters in the trash, and they zone out after Mass when the appeal occurs.

[Tweet “The old-fashioned fundraising approach to getting people’s attention are long gone.”]

More than likely the majority of Catholics in a certain geographic location are completely unfamiliar with the local Catholic charities. It’s not that they don’t care. It’s because they are new to the area, focused on their job and family, and already committed to overflowing responsibilities already in front of them. Adding anything else to the plate seems ludicrous.

Catholic charities know that times have changed. They understand that people’s lives change, though the demographics they target and their methods of targeting them have not. Why do most not change? The answer is clear. They are more committed to their ineffective methods of fundraising than they are to their mission. As a result, the result is their mission is suffering. The people they assist and care for are also suffering.

The solution is to generously share authentic stories with Catholics

That is why it has never been more important to produce quality and authentic streams of communications that Catholics want to interact with – a charity’s future visibility depends on its donor and prospect engagement levels.

Unfortunately, the engagement that fundraisers most want to see is not the same as those of Catholics. Fundraisers want Catholics to respond to their requests. That is why they put so many out there. What they don’t realize, however, is that Catholics respond to a voice that echoes that of a Catholic – what a novelty, right?

[Tweet “Catholics respond to a voice that echoes that of a Catholic”]

How then are we supposed to communicate in an authentic Catholic voice that gets people to donate? By staying vigilant. By accepting that you have to interact with Catholics every day in your authentic voice. And by getting to know your community like your own family.

How do you do that? You tell them stories they want to hear. You give openly and generously.

I wrote a more detailed article on how to to do this which you can access here.

What are three ways you can communicate more authentic stories with Catholics in your community?

How to write a clear and compelling fundraising letter

I have learned that writing is a critical part of fundraising. Not only must you write messages that speak to people’s heart, your messages must also be written clearly and concisely so they are compelled to donate. Therefore, your next fundraising letter must capture people’s eyes, hearts, and minds.

Write

When I read some letters and emails sent to me, such as the case for support, an appeal letter, or even a thank you note, I sometimes wonder how effective charities are in raising money. I find grammar errors, typos, unclear messages, and poorly formatted templates. They also share their story through blurred photos.

I have even received emails with PDFs or photos that are 5MB or more in size, thereby clogging my inbox. I wonder if fundraisers know that some email services block emails altogether when they surpass a certain size. Also, an email can be moved directly to the junk box because the content has too many photos. Yes, too many pictures in emails can flag them as junk or spam. As a result, not everyone will receive the email.

What is sometimes more disheartening are those letters and emails that look too professional but have forgotten the most important part: the Catholic faith! Some Catholic entities pay fundraising consultants, and pay them quite well, to write and send content to the laity. This is unfortunate because consultants apply the generic rules and formulas they use for their nonprofit clients, overlooking the underlying purpose we all respond to charities. We don’t respond to appeals because someone is helping the poor, the hungry, or the sick. No. We respond because someone is doings these acts in the name of Christ and His Church.

These mistakes have negative consequences because many donors and potential supporters base their decisions on what they read. When people become distracted by the mistakes, they spend less time on discerning a donation.

The content you write may even be the only form of contact they have with your charity or enterprise. You are doing incredible work, and the donations you receive are helping you do even more. However, if people are not learning about you because of poor communications, how will you raise more funds and increase the number of donors?

I am not saying all of this to point the finger. I am in the front of the line when it comes to making mistakes. I have committed every grammatical error under the sun. But along the way, I’ve learned to improve my writing skills which, as a result, improved my fundraising results.

Writing well is paramount to fundraising. Here are four tips to writing better when speaking to people about your charitable work and asking for donations.

1- Use a beautiful template when you write

Catholicism has a rich history of art, beauty, and orthography. I am reminded of the manuscripts monks made in past centuries. The hours they spent transcribing Scripture onto their beautiful illuminated manuscripts. I am also amazed by the stained glass windows that tell the Gospel stories and the lives of the saints. If Catholics in past centuries (and even today) can spend days, months, and even years crafting these works of art, we can take a few hours designing a template that reflects our Catholic charities’ missions.

I understand that our schedules don’t always permit us to spend large portions of time for designing, but technology has provided us several shortcuts to produce great results in a fraction of the time. Software, sure as Adobe Illustrator and Canva, offers easy to use templates which we can adapt to our needs.

To make this task even easier, I recommend collecting five examples of documents, brochures, adverts, or bulletins which have attracted your attention. These may come from any journals, magazines, websites, or advertisements. Examine why you like them so much. Then, design a new template by combining all the elements you liked most. You will then have an original design for your fundraising letter that looks unique and fantastic.

Last, I suggest picking up a copy of Desktop Publisher’s Idea Book for about one penny on Amazon. The book offers many examples of how to format different document types such as flyers, web pages, letters, and booklets.

2 – Have one message for each piece of communication

I recommend that each fundraising letter that you send to people conveys one message or idea. This message (whether it’s to donate, attend an event, pray, or volunteer) should also be summarized into two to three sentences. Every other sentence should then support this central idea.

I say this because people’s reading habits (especially for fundraising documents) are quite short. People tend to skim read a page in less than 5 seconds, scanning only for the key points, and then make a decision.

When reading your material, you don’t want people thinking, “This is way too long and complicated. I cannot read this now. I’ll put it to the side and read later.” If they decide to read your letter later, 90% of the time they won’t return. This is a lost opportunity for you because they were about to read what you had to tell them!

You may lament this fact, particularly with how the internet is reducing our ability to focus on a topic for extended periods of time, but it is the reality. If someone does not immediately understand what you are asking them to do, instead, they will do nothing.

Therefore, keep your message as clear as possible and remove any unnecessary content. By doing so, you increase the chances of your reader or listener to act.

To help make your material easier to read, I suggest that you limit the number of adjectives and compound sentences. Paragraphs and sentences should be short, particularly if you are writing an email or text on your website.

Also, because people read the first and last paragraphs of a letter or page primarily, have a strong first paragraph and a last impactful paragraph.

I wrote an article listing 100 recommended phrases to use when you write a fundraising message. You can also download a workbook on Scripture passages which you can use in your next letter or speech.

If you must provide additional information, causing your text to be lengthy, I recommend adding an addendum or a hyperlink. You can also include the additional text as a separate document.

Clarity is what you want, not confusion.

Last, ask others to proofread your document before you send it. You can also use grammar software like Grammarly to edit your text. I have sent too many times a letter with spelling errors to hundreds of people. What a horrible feeling. Now, I always have someone proofread my documents before I send them. I also never send or publish a text the same day I finish writing it. Instead, I review it one last time the next day.

3 – Avoid scare tactics

Many charities in a fundraising letter focus on a problem and structure their appeal along the lines of, ‘donate now… or else people starve/die!’

As Catholics, we know that panic and panic are not gifts of the Holy Spirit. We may be distraught, but God is calling us to respond to challenges with wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.

Therefore, when you write, be positive, hopeful, and motivational. I recommend you share stories of how you are transforming the world. Then, when you do ask for donations, ask people to help keep the momentum. People are more inspired to donate when they hear great things are being accomplished.

People donate to great charities; not mediocre ones. Be a great one by communicating great stories in great ways.

4 – The four parts to a compelling fundraising letter

I recommend writing letters, emails, pamphlets, and speeches in a simple four-step structure.

Part 1 – Have one message in your fundraising letter which you wish to share with your audience. Make this subject you focus on throughout your content.

Part 2 – Facts provide the context around your message, allowing you to expand on it in greater length. For example, if your core message is that you have an event coming up, the detail facts could be the specifics of the event.

Part 3 – Create a desire. You must understand what your audience wants from you. Do you know why they are listening to you? What factors cause them to respond? By identifying their interests, you can present your message with the appropriate desire.

For example, if you wish that people attend your upcoming event, you can communicate the reasons for why they would attend. Are they more interested in the venue, the speaker, the other people attending, the time of year?

You may assume that people want to attend an event because of a particular venue, food, or keynote speaker but this is not always the case. By knowing what triggers people to want to come to my events, I have been able to attract many people. Additionally, I have been able to keep my costs significantly low because I know expensive dinners often do not attract people I am inviting.

Part 4 – Clearly verbalize your call to action three times. You must clearly state what it is you wish them to do. Remember, you are addressing your audience because you want them to do something. Don’t assume that people know what you are asking them to do. You have to tell them directly and make clear how they go about doing it.

Continuing with the same example of an event, you must explain (1) an invitation is being made and (2) the details for how people can confirm their attendance are clearly given. And (3), if they have questions, you should outline how they can ask for further details.

Conclusion

Remember, we are always students even after doing something for years. Writing a fundraising letter is an art form that can be adapted, shaped, and improved. I recommend to frequently reread prior communications and ask the question: how could I have been clearer?

There are hundreds of Catholic charities competing for donations, and many secular charities are also asking for money. Therefore, being heard in a noisy world requires effective writing.

Question: What steps do you take to write an inspiring fundraising letter?

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Misconceptions about Online Fundraising

When I began to fundraise, I would run from event to event trying to recruit new donors and raise funds. As you can imagine, this strategy is tiresome after a while. Soon, I no longer had nights and some weekends to myself because those precious moments are also when most people are available to meet with me. Was I following misconceptions that really didn’t work?

I quickly felt drained and unmotivated by my work. Even my friends and family were feeling the stress because either I wasn’t with them or when I was, I was too tired to be fully present. Something had to change.

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I looked into different ways of attracting donors that didn’t require me, or my team, running around. I wanted to find a way where we could meet people, find donors, reach our fundraising goal, stay focused on our work, and, most importantly, enjoy time with family and friends. My research led me to look at the benefits of using more efficiently the internet and social media for attracting donors.

The Power of the Web

I discovered that with a few adjustments, I could attract more people to a website and social media than I had been by meeting people at their parishes or community centers. I thought this was a breakthrough because, among all those people connecting with us online, there were bound to be new donors.

Now, I had to answer the next big question: how do I get them to donate?

Like most organizations do, I placed prominently the donate button on my homepage for everyone to see and waited patiently for the donations to roll in. As more and more people visited my site each month, I thought the donations would be pour in eventually. This unfortunately never happened. I learned that an increase in website traffic and social media engagement doesn’t result in more donations.

At first, I was worried that I would have to return to the old way of fundraising, running from one event to another. I didn’t want to go back to that lifestyle, so I did some more research.

I found Pope Pius VI’s Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelisation in the Modern World’ words inspiring:

“The Church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilize these powerful means [mass media and means of social communication] that human skill is daily rendering more perfect. It is through them that she proclaims from the housetops.”

Pope Paul VI wrote this in 1976, just at the start of the technology boom. He inspired me to dig deeper. I had a hunch that he was right. I just had to keep going, and, after a little more trial and error, I found the answer. It was a eureka moment. I had been making false assumptions about how the internet works.

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Yes, people did engage with my online content because they were interested in what I do; however, they were not (at least not yet) ready to donate. I learned four misconceptions about the internet which have helped me use it more effectively in getting donations.

Misconceptions about Online Fundraising

Here are four misconceptions I learned about the internet and fundraising:

[Tweet “A resourceful article about the 4 misconceptions about online giving to help you increase donations.”]

Misconception 1: Just because you have a donate button doesn’t mean people will give.

In reality, you will be lucky if 1%-3% of the people who visit your website will give. People don’t browse your pages looking to give. Rather, they want to learn about your work and how to get involved. They want to connect with you, not give you money.

Therefore, if you focus on engagement, offering them ways to physically get involved, rather than financially, you can, later on, ask for a donation.

Misconception 2: The internet is impersonal and not useful in building relationships.

With how technology has evolved in recent years, the internet has become even more personal. With social media and web applications, you can connect directly with people, regardless of their location or numbers. Some applications even allow you to chat instantly through your website.

By leveraging technology like you would a phone or video camera, you can directly communication with someone, offering them what they really want, a relationship with you and your work.

Misconception 3: I don’t have time for the internet and websites. I have to focus on my work.

Your job involves connecting with people, sharing your message, inspiring them to help you, and transforming lives. The internet helps you do this on a much larger scale because it is available to anyone and everyone, 24/7 wherever there is a connection.

Also, the days of expensive and laborious web design are long gone. Today, a website can be developed and maintained with minimal cost and effort. Also, connecting with people online is less expensive than depending on events, phone calls, and mailings.

Misconception 4: The internet and social media are just not for me.

The internet offers you the ability to connect with over one billion people. Would it not be prudent to assume that among this vast number there are Catholics who would be interested in you and your work? With a little bit of work to set up your online presence, you can connect with all of these people.

Embracing the change which the internet brings expands our capacity to reach more people. Check out the article I wrote on why changing the way you fundraise is important.

[Tweet “Would it not be prudent to connect your Catholic organization with the billion people surfing the web?”]

How to actually raise funds using the internet

After learning these four misconceptions, the next question was: If I can attract lots of people to my work through the web, how can I get them to give eventually?

I turned my attention to improving the two things a website does well: instigating a connection with lots of people and then allowing me the opportunity to build a relationship with them. With the help of website applications and social media platforms, I turned my online presence into a portal of interaction. Instead of asking people to donate, I invited them to my events, asked them to volunteer, and gave them free resources so they can get involved.

If you are a parish, diocese or religious order, check out my previous article on the 5 simple steps you can take to improve your website. It offers practical and concrete recommendations for getting started.

Therefore, instead of running around meeting people, the internet was finding them for me and getting to me where I was. I no longer had to run from one event to another. Instead, I could meet people face to face, build a relationship, and then ask for donations. This was the biggest lesson I learned. People were only ready to donate to me after having met me in person or built a level of trust in what I do.

[Tweet “I found this article helpful. Learn how to actually raise funds using the internet.”]

As I met more people passionate about my work, their trust in what I do picked up as did donations. This was fantastic because in trying to fix one problem, I also improved other elements of my organization. All my events were fully booked. I had an army of volunteers. Most importantly, I and my team were not running around anymore because people were coming to where we were.8

Next steps – changing how we connect with people

I’ve been perfecting how to leverage the internet to attract donors for a while now. The other day I was reviewing the website statistics for a charity I help. Last year they had difficulty filling up their biggest event of the year. It’s the hallmark event that, if goes well, increases their visibility to a lot of people, especially large grant makers, key influencers in their work, and major donors. So, they wanted to make sure everything went smoothly.

For the past year, we had been building their online presence. As a result, the event was fully booked a month in advance and had a substantial waiting list. Also, because we were not worried about getting enough people to attend, we then focused on using real-time video to broadcast the event live via social media. Now, an event that had been planned to have 200 people attend will be seen by thousands. We were bound to make this the most successful event possible, planting as many seeds as possible for future donations.

The bottom line is this: You can either continue running from event to event to meet people where they are, eating up your personal time (sometimes on Sunday when you should actually enjoy the Sabbath with friends and family), as you look for donors, or you can embrace the opportunities the internet provides. You may think that the web means instant donations without meeting people. It doesn’t. Increasing your donors and donations still come from meeting people, connecting with them, and asking them to be part of your future.

Though the real difference is this. Instead of chasing people for donations, people will find you and want to donate. It’s here where the magic happens, so be prepared to welcome many more people on your journey.

If you have questions about improving your web and social presence, send me an email and let’s get you moving forward today.

Discussion Question: What misconceptions do you have about the internet? In what way could this be a sign for you to leverage the web more?

Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

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Showing Your Value Increases Donations

7 fruitful ways to increase donations

Take a moment to reflect on this question: “Why do people donate to me?” Then, consider how incredible it is to have your donors support you.

You are inspired by Christ to pick up your cross and follow him, and others are encouraged to help you do so. Whether you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the poor or help the sick, you transform the world through your work, and people are inspired to help you keep going.

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When it comes to fundraising, you can quickly hit a wall. You confront the reality, “how do I get people [or more people] to support me and my organization financially?” You know how important your work is, but you sometimes struggle to find donors and ask them for financial assistance.

I’ve been in this situation before. To find a way out, I would pray that someone would donate! Most often, unfortunately, people didn’t respond to my appeals. Nor did they want to learn more about what I was doing. It was a disheartening situation to find myself in, alone on an island. I was doing great work, yet I couldn’t find enough people to keep my momentum. I asked, “What else could I do?”

Thank goodness those days are behind me. After testing many methods, I’ve discovered seven actions that you can do to get people to donate. But before I explain what these seven actions are, I what to share with you what I’ve learned about why people do and do not give.

Why people don’t give

I’ve learned that people, on average, don’t respond to appeals and requests. Just take a look at the success rates of any charitable campaign. The number of no’s always exceeds the yes’s. Direct mail, in particular, usually only has a 2% success rate, while a campaign appeal at a Mass will often achieve 25%. These fundraising tactics are losing their effectiveness year after year because people are tired of these interruptions (especially during Mass!).

Second, sharing the Catholic faith does not mean someone will give to you. Remember, Catholics support a range of causes. One Catholic might donate to overseas work but not to a local refugee center. That’s okay because we all have different passions for different kinds of work. So don’t get upset if someone doesn’t give to you. It’s not personal. You just haven’t connected with someone who will.

In conclusion, people don’t give because they either don’t know what your organization does, or they don’t have an affinity for your kind of work.

Why people do give

People give because they have connected with you and your organization’s mission. Your story becomes their story. This happens because they have an affinity for your work. They are interested in knowing what you do, how you do it and what impact it has on the world.

People reach this level of engagement when you develop relationships, not donations. In conclusion, you look for individuals who are passionate about your cause and can relate.

[Tweet “People give because they have connected with you and your Catholic charity’s mission.”]

As a fundraiser, therefore, one of your key duties is to communicate the value of your mission and keep an eye out for people who connects with it. Successful fundraising happens when people recognise the importance of your mission. Once you’ve built a valued relationship, donations will start coming in.

The 7 ways to increase donations

Creating value through interaction is far more important than asking someone to donate in 30 seconds. Here lies the opportunity. By presenting your value, rather than the ask, you inspire the person to donate even without directly asking them to give.

Your goal is to share this value with everyone. You can do so by the following seven steps.

Show that your organization is…

1. A Valuable of Source of Information –

Become the number one source for information on your kind of mission work. Whether you work with the physically challenged or shelter the homeless, offer everyone who comes into contact with you relevant, frequent and resourceful information on your organization’s activities. By doing so, people will recognize your organization as one that consistently offers great resources on subjects that matter most to them.

Remember, it’s not just about your work. It’s also about sharing what you do. Offer short guides, training booklets, fact sheets on key topics that can be read quickly and passed around to friends and family. Provide accessible information that keeps everyone engaged with you.

I wrote a post about how to communicate to people when fundraising which you may find useful.

2. A Valuable Source for References –

Similar to a library, reference what is happening in your field of work. If people see you as the number one source for knowing what is happening, they will keep coming back to you. Therefore, always direct them to useful material, even if it’s not your own.

Your focus is to increase people’s knowledge and interest in your work. You do so by referencing everything that is of value to them, including other organizations’ websites, books, seminars, conferences, speakers, and podcasts, etc. People will keep coming back to you because you are the central hub for what is happening. They like you because you connect the dots for them. And when people spend more time with your organization, the higher the probability they will donate to you.

3. A Valuable Source for News –

Many times, I have to go to multiple sites to learn what is happening in the news about a certain topic. It’s tiring. Find many organizations work in the same space, yet few provide the overarching update that helps me make sense of it all.

With all the activities you’re involved with, I am sure that there are regular news stories, prayer groups and meetings, events, campaigns, and conferences. Could you be the primary source for connecting all of this news and share it with people? The organization that becomes the news hub will be the same one that attracts the most donors.

4. A Valuable Connector of People –

Don’t let you or your team stay enclosed in your office, focusing solely on what you have to get done. Instead, reach out and consistently connect with others. Also, be the connector for individuals and groups in your area of work. I recommend that you and your team know every key person in your field. Become the key influencers.

As a result, people will engage with you because you seem to be (and are!) at the center of everything. All roads pass through you.

More so, you are happy to make introductions for people. You don’t keep contacts a secret or control relationships. Rather, you freely share who you know. Today, it’s only a matter of time when someone connects with another person. You might as well make it easier and speed up the process. Remember, we are made to connect with one another. We are not made to have a list of contacts in our phones which we guard for ourselves. Instead, share your contacts.

By helping others connect, they will stay in touch with you and share their contacts. As a result, the number of people engaging with you will increase, and therefore your number of donors will increase, too.

Show how your organization demonstrates…

5. The Value of Being Non-Judgemental –

Provide a safe space to dialogue about issues. If we cannot talk about the issues, how can we reach conclusions?

Too many people are quick to reject others for their opposing views, thereby shutting down dialogue. You, however, do not point the finger. This can be hard to do because of emotions, misconceptions, assumptions and personal preferences and issues.

Often, people disagree with one another because each cannot express their ideas clearly and persuasively. Be different. Take time to know the other person’s viewpoint, while presenting yours with clarity. Also, offer people the space to interact with you and the opportunity to discover more about your viewpoint. You’ll find that you can turn doubters into donors.

6. The Value of Trust and Reliability –

If you can complete the first five points, people will trust your organization and regard it as one they can rely on.

To reach this level, your team should be informed, committed and trustworthy. By doing so, many doors will open to you. This is when people start knocking to  ask, “How can I donate?”

Unfortunately, only a few Catholic organizations can claim to fulfill this category. This, however, is where the opportunity lies. Any group or person can leverage the current landscape and attract the trust of Catholics. Enjoy, because the road is open!

7. The Value of Passion –

Passion is your ultimate differentiator that will attract many donors. How many people commit themselves with such zeal that they show up every day, no matter what? There is tremendous value in being disciplined and showing up when others don’t.

You don’t have to be the best. You just have to keep pressing on with the courage and commitment to press on.  As GK Chesterton explained so eloquently, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

[Tweet “As GK Chesterton explained so eloquently, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.””]

When you and your team are grinding through the ups and downs of your mission, moved by the Holy Spirit, regardless how you feel or what the odds are, people will take notice and say, “Incredible. They are doing incredible work. How can I support them?” This for many organizations is their tipping point for donations.

Conclusion

If you can demonstrate these seven value points, you will both energize your staff and inspire people to donate. There is, however, one hurdle to jump. So often, we mix humility with shyness. We don’t want to talk about ourselves and ‘big us up’. It’s seen as being full of pride and not Catholic. We’d rather stay humble than mention how we did something incredible, like feed 1,000 hungry children in the past month.

The word humility derives from the word humus which means from the earth. Humus signifies lowliness or submissiveness. Although we may be humble, our mission is bold and confident. It’s part of Christ’s mission to bring his love to everyone. So we cannot be shy about the incredible mission God has asked us to complete. It’s life-changing, life-fueling and life-giving.

As Saint Ignatius said, “ite, inflammate omnia—go, set the world on fire.” He parallels Our Lord’s words, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” – Luke 12:49

[Tweet “As Saint Ignatius said, “ite, inflammate omnia—go, set the world on fire.””]

A Success Study – How the 7 Steps Can Work for You

I worked with one Catholic organization to fulfil these seven points. Together, we blew the dust off their value (they confused humility of spirit with the confidence of mission) and soon attracted the attention of people to their work, attending events and volunteering to help. Also, some signed up to be donors. Some even donated large sums of money. One donation was for $35,000. Then, two other donations came in: $15,000 and $9,000.

This is a great example of how presenting your value to people can have a significant impact on your fundraising.

Contact me directly if you want to learn more about how you can achieve the same kinds of results.

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Discussion Question: What is one way you demonstrate your value to people? Leave your comment below.

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Asking for Donations

How to Ask for Donations (And Get People to say YES)

What a great feeling it is to a donation, big or small. Or how about the rush of a successful fundraising campaign? I remember one in particular. It left my whole charity wide-eyed and cheerful! We were thrilled to be able to move forward with several exciting projects we had been planning.

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This rush, however, can short-lived. You see, being successful in fundraising, or for that matter receiving a large donation, is great, but once you start new projects, you then have to run another fundraising campaign and hunt for even more donations to keep your projects going.

Generating donations is, therefore, a never-ending cycle. Once you get one, you have to get another to continue supporting the growth that the first donation brought you. After the second, you’ve got to get a third.

You get the idea.

If you want to maintain momentum, then let me just tell you now – this cycle must, unfortunately, never stop. Fundraising must go on. The good news is that I have developed four steps to help you get a regular stream of new money coming in.

1 – Understand why donors give

First, try to understand why your current donors give. In all likelihood, it’s not because of facts or logic. Nor is it because of anything you said when you first asked them to donate.

Instead, they most likely give because of emotions. More so, they give to you because you understand their emotional needs for responding to a specific problem (which your organization specializes in) and have a plan for responding to it.

By learning what the common emotional needs of your donors, you can improve your organization’s story and clearly communicate it to potential donors.

Once you start doing this, you will begin to notice new people with similar attributes to your current donors. This will save you a lot of time because instead of running around everywhere, speaking to everyone and hoping someone will give, you already know exactly who would love to connect with your organization.

You will, in other words, know your target message to attract people who will have an affinity for your work. It may feel strange to think you have a specific donor type. However, every Catholic organization has a personality, and this personality, like any individual’s, attracts a specific group of people. Therefore, knowing who you best connect with and why you do helps you to connect with more people.

2 – Build relationships

It’s important to remember that every donation you receive comes from the hands of a person. Donations are a “people transaction”. People give because of the personal connection they’ve made with you.
Therefore, spend time making as many personal connections as possible. This may sound like a lengthy process but, trust me, spending quality time with people (especially one-to-one) is the best way to lay the path open for your next big donation.

Having already identified the emotional needs of your existing donors, you can communicate much more easily with potential donors.

All my large donors have been from people whom I spent quality time with. By the time it came to ask, we already knew each other very well, making “the ask” much easier. They wanted to support me, and I wanted them to share in the mission of our organization, working together towards a common goal.

3. Ask for donations in the right manner

With the first two steps I’ve mentioned thus far, you can establish the emotions, words, and relationships and began spotting potential large donors. These steps are the foundations for “the ask”.

I have no tips for entirely relieving the stress related to “the ask”, but I can offer you three points of advice for making the process easier and more effective.

The first is to recognize that, in my experience, the most successful donation requests involve interrogative questions, not verbs. Verb-led questions, such as “will you donate…” or “can you give …” push the person to make an immediate ‘yes/‘no’ decision. Sometimes the person will jump right into saying ‘maybe’. These are all dead-end responses because they don’t allow for open dialogue. You never want an immediate response.

Instead, you want dialogue. This is achieved by asking questions with “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “why”, “how” and “which”. Open questions allow a person’s response to be informed and reflective, encouraging him or her to draw on personal emotions and insight.

My second piece of advice is to not be afraid of proposing a specific amount or range.

Third, once you’ve asked, be patient and listen! It’s critical to stop speaking. Now is the time to be on the look-out, to discover what the person is thinking. Engage with them and let the conversation open up.

4. Aim for a definitive response

The final step is to leave the meeting with a definitive response. Now, it is time to encourage a clear ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. Never leave a meeting with a ‘maybe’. Though you may feel you’re pushing to get an answer, remember that you’ve already spent time building the relationship and the other person has too. He or she agreed to the meeting, knowing that a donation would be asked (be absolutely clear about this beforehand).

The amount itself may still need to be defined, but the person has heard your request, taken it to heart, and will now make a decision about how much if they’ve said “yes”. You don’t want to be chasing the person for weeks or months to get a decision. This will be tiring for both you and them, so I recommend you avoid this situation at all costs. It will help if you spend time building up the relationship before “the ask”.

What happens if they say “no”? That is perfectly fine and acknowledge this. This is not the end of the relationship, and make sure that it isn’t.

Discussion question: What do you think is the most important step in receiving a large donation?

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