Monsignor Thomas McGread, a priest in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, is well known for his work across the United States in fundraising. He developed an approach called The Stewardship Model, which has helped parishes, dioceses, and national organizations (such as the United States Bishops Conference) raise millions of dollars. You could say he’s the #1 ranked priest in the United States when it comes to how to fundraise for the Catholic Church.
He’s been successful because he’s developed concepts and practices that make being good stewards a tangible reality. Thankfully for you and me, Deacon Donald R. McArdle, CEO of Catholic Stewardship Consultants, documented his approach in the book, Grateful and Giving. This book was written in conjunction with
This book showcases parishes, dioceses, and national organizations that have been changed through strong and faithful stewardship programs.
I’d like to highlight for you some of the key steps in his program that can serve your fundraising, whatever its level, too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
[Tweet “Saint Louis de Montfort reminds us to pause before charging forward.”]
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.
Most of us start with the idea that to raise funds we have to find donors all the time. Therefore, the hunt begins, and the fundraising strategy focuses on finding people and getting them to donate. Sounds like a logical approach to reach your target, but in fact, it’s not at all.
If you are fundraising like this, you’re running up a steep mountain, and in no time, you’ll run out of breath.
Fact: to find donors is difficult, and asking people for money is nauseating.
Well, it is for me, especially when the idioms we use when fundraising are: ‘it is better to give than receive’ and ‘God likes a joyful giver.’
How awful to say these lines every day in hope that people will send us gifts?
My response to this kind of fundraising is if it’s so great to give, why then are charities always asking? Why are they not giving more to Catholics, prospects, and their donors? Sure, I do not argue that they are doing wonderful work through their mission, but to those they ask for donations, charities lean heavily on the receiving end. In my view, that puts them at risk of capsizing the boat.
I think this constant asking for money puts you, the fundraiser, in an awkward situation. I applaud you for using the funds to help others, but is that enough to inspire Catholics to donate to them? I don’t think so, and I have a better approach. My view is that it’s better for everyone to give, especially charities.
To find donors, shock Catholics by giving more to them (even before you ask)
My approach to fundraising is heavily influenced by the concept, ‘it is better to give than to receive.’ This is challenging for us fundraisers because our job is to collect donations. But just because something is a paradox doesn’t mean it’s not true. If anything, the truth is hidden within what looks complex. You just have to keep looking.
This concept of giving to your Catholics (especially your current donors) has everything to do with fundraising because more donations don’t always come from finding new people. In fact, the majority of donations will come from the people whom you already know.
You just have to look more closely.
Just because you meet someone, explain what you do, and they don’t give, doesn’t mean they will never be a donor. In fact, you have more chances of them becoming a donor than repeatedly asking new people.
Donors are people who recognize the importance of what you do. They have similar values to you. They have a similar vision. They see your plan for doing good as a way forward. Therefore, the way to find donors is to take a step back and first find people who share your passion, share this with them as often as possible, and don’t drop the relationship just because you didn’t score a donation.
Donations happen when you take the time to build relationships with Catholics.
This is the where most Catholic charities fail. They find a group of Catholics who have a general interest in their work and immediately ask. If the response is “no thank you”, the charity forgets about them and goes looking for another group (or parish) to ask.
This becomes a never-ending cycle of finding and asking.
I think this is wrong because you associate your relationship with someone on whether or not they immediately give. I’m going to assume that, as a fellow Catholic, you see the fault here. We as Catholics don’t base our relationships on what we can get out of others.
Utilitarianism is a civilization of production and of use, a civilization of “things” and not of “persons”, a civilization in which persons are used in the same way as things are used. – Pope John Paul II, Letter to Families, 1994
We as Catholics are to base our relationships on the dignity of the other person. We focus on willing the good of the other.
Your number one priority to increase your number of donors is retention. Retention is keeping a donor year after year. Most Catholic organizations don’t look at retention, and that’s why each year they are frantically looking for donors to reach their end of year target.
They have no idea how many of last year donors gave this year. They don’t know why they stopped giving. They don’t know why they continue to give.
In fact, they don’t know much at all about their donors. These are serious problems that must be resolved quickly.
You have to switch to a different approach to your donors. With the technology that we have today, there’s no reason you cannot contact each one individually and get to know them.
Email costs nothing.
Phone calls cost very little.
All you have to do is manage your list of donors. That’s it.
Will it require some time and effort on your side? Absolutely. But the return on receiving long-term sustainable funds is exponential. I know no better way to increase your funds than this way. As you keep more of your current donors, you spend more time to find donors that help you grow rather than just replace donors that leave.
So the question is: do you know the percentage of last year’s donors who are giving this year? If you don’t, or if it takes you a while to find it, I recommend you start accessing this information more quickly.
Example: I’m not lying. Check the numbers for yourself!
To show you how important retention is, let’s do the math. For every one donor that stops donating, you have to find two just to increase your number of donors. So if you have 100 donors, and 50 stop giving, you have to find another 100 to increase your donors to 150.
This means you spend 50% of your time getting back to your original number of 100 donors, and the other 50% of your time growing your number of donors to 150.
That’s pretty inefficient.
It is a lot more work to find new donors than it is to keep the ones you have. Therefore, we can assume you are spending about 75% of your time looking for 50 donors to replace the ones you lost, and 25% of your time actually looking for ones to increase your fundraising level. This is why I said in the beginning that if you are just looking for new donors, you are climbing up a mountain and this strategy is exhausting. Instead, focus on who God has already given you.
Consider this Catholic approach to relating with your donors
My recommendation is to focus your time on your current donors. Build relationships with them. Learn who they are. Thank them often. Listen to them. Find ways to get them more involved than just financially.
When you make every effort to keep your donors, you don’t have to find two new donors to grow. Therefore, you can spend more time to find donors.
You just have to find one after another. That’s much easier to do.
The Catholic way of developing relationships with donors and increasing your donor base requires more prayer, more attention to the person, and more willingness to depart from the formalities of conventional fundraising.
Pray – Take a piece of paper, separate it into 12 columns, one for each month, and reflect on how you can express your gratitude to your donors each month. How can you say thank you without attaching a donation request to your message?
Pray – Whether it’s offering Mass for your donors, saying a rosary, or praying for them at adoration, find your ways to bless them. Also, tell them that you are doing it. Share with your donors the different activities you do for them. Have them get involved.
Pray – I also recommend that you intercede for your donors. The best way to do this is by asking them for feedback and doing small tasks for them. Ask, “how can I better serve you and thank you for your generosity?” Then, take action.
Ask – Ask your donors to stay donors. Keep track of your retention. Follow-up with each donor. Track when their year anniversary of donating is coming up and reach out to them in advance. Let them know how thankful you will be if they continued giving. Then start looking for more donors, as you will have more energy and time to do so.
Question: How long does it take you to find your retention rate?
The level of destruction by Hurricane Harvey has been biblical. Like me, you have been following what’s been happening in Houston and the surrounding areas this past week. Residents have been pounded with rain, winds, tornadoes, and flooding. Now Hurricane Irma is on its way.
As we watch the rescue efforts, we are all looking for ways to do our part. Perhaps you are thinking of:
Praying a novena Travelling to Houston to help Sending food and water Connecting with locals in your area to organize a relief response Donating money to a charity Raising funds to support people you know
Today, we see the aftermath and look to rebuild. Many people have taken to social media and the internet to raise money.
While fundraising can help, I have learned how to raise money a much more effective way. Here are five strategies that I am currently using.
People are inspired to give when you share with them how things are moving forward. Keep people updated on how you are are rebuilding after the disaster. This motivates people to give. Read more about this topic here.
4. Don’t just ask for money.
Only a fraction of people will be able to donate. However, they can do other things, like provide resources and volunteer. Also, they may be able to donate later on. So make sure to get people involved in other ways. Check out this article on how to do this.
5. Thank people.
Make sure to thank people for their contributions. While the focus is helping people, it’s important to remember that relationships and community are as important as money. Take the time to thank people as intimately as possible (not just via a social media post). Read more about thanking people in this article.
Conclusion – Fundraising in the aftermath of a disaster
When it comes to fundraising after a disaster, we need to remember it’s not just about raising as many funds as possible. Suffice it to say, getting Houston back to normal will take time. Therefore, looking at fundraising in the long-term is more effective than just a short-burst of asking for money.
Focus on building relationships with the people God is placing in your life. This is the good that comes from these terrible events. As a result, you will build a network of friends, volunteers, and donors that will help you in the coming months and years.
Question: What’s your best fundraising strategy for rebuilding after a disaster? You can leave a comment below.
I want to walk you through a typical week for me so you can learn the Catholic habits of how to fundraise effectively. Yes, there are actions you can do that will make your fundraising more Catholic and more effective. Plus, by showing you what I do each week, you will learn two valuable lessons.
The first is that I do not chase money. I don’t run around, day after day, looking for who has large sums of cash to give. Nor am I constantly asking people for gifts. This also applies to the websites I design, the letters I write, and the emails I send.
I don’t bombard people with the omnipresent donate button, along with its partner in crime: the exclamation mark. “Please give!” I don’t fundraise like this because it is a secular and ineffective approach. It scares people away, and it is absolutely exhausting.
If you don’t believe me, I recommend you check your response rates and ask your readership what they think.
The second important lesson is that I am not only asking two times a year like most Catholic charities. I ask throughout the year. This may sound contradictory to my first lesson, but it’s not. Even though I’m not focused on asking for money every day, I’m constantly identifying when to ask someone or a group and what is the best approach.
I segment my campaigns to specific groups of people rather than use general campaigns which ask everyone all at once. I have a campaign specific to major donors because rather than wait months to ask them in a bi-annual campaign, I ask them at the best possible time.
Another group I like to segment is lapsed donors. Again, you don’t want to wait months to lump them into your yearly campaign.
Pitfalls to avoid in your day to day fundraising
With that said, each day of my week is designed to build relationships and ask specifics groups of people at the best time possible. As a result, you move your fundraising forward much quicker.
This proactive approach to fundraising is more effective – meaning you raise more funds – than waiting for your annual or semi-annual appeal to happen. It’s important to constantly be active because you will keep your momentum throughout the year. Then when your annual appeal does happen, you’ll be much more prepared to launch a successful campaign.
I also think this approach is much more Catholic because you are focusing on building relationships before asking for donations. The idea that someone will give just because they are Catholic is false. You also take advantage of people when you only see them as ‘another Catholic’.
The Catholic organizations that run general campaigns once or twice a year also put themselves at serious risk. For eight to ten months of the year, they aren’t meeting people, building relationships, spreading messages, identifying prospects, or asking for donations. Instead, when the bi-annual appeal is about to happen, they spend the majority of their time running around doing all of these at once. You are doing too much all at once.
Another downfall of this approach is you come across as intrusive and pushy. Catholics know when they are being sold something fast and quick, and most turn away when it happens.
What a fundraiser should do each week
What you want to do is have a weekly plan that keeps you moving forward. The plan that I will show you is a working template that you can modify depending on where you are with your fundraising. As a whole, this a fantastic framework to make sure you are not missing anything and executing on a consistent basis.
Your week should include the following ten actions. I’ve talked about these ten actions relentlessly on my website, videos, and resources. These are also the ten actions that I promoted in my first book, Alms. I recommend buying a copy of Alms because it goes in granular detail about each of these. You should also download the 10 Commandments to Catholic Fundraising e-book which also outlines these tasks.
When you execute these ten tasks for fifty-two weeks a year, you will move forward with your fundraising at a record pace.
Pray – You have to take an active approach to your prayer life when fundraising because you can so easily get tunnel vision on money, forget about Jesus, your mission, and your community. Make prayer a habit.
Thank people – You have to thank people more often than simply after they donate. Find reasons to send thank you messages and acknowledge that their involvement is continually helping you.
Connect with people – Go out and meet people for the sake of meeting them. This is especially true when someone has organized an event in your field of work. And remember, the focus is not to find donors. The focus is to connect.
Dream List – I’m a big believer that you have to intentionally seek out those people who will help you move forward. These are specialists in your field, people who can connect you with volunteers, major donors, and faithful supporters.
1-to-1 meetings – You have to book meetings and meet people. This includes major donors, faithful supporters, volunteers, influencers, and anyone else you think would benefit from hearing what your organization does.
Build your community – You have to grow your contact list each week. This one action will dramatically impact on how much you can increase your funding levels year to year.
Clean your database/contact list – Take time to make sure everyone’s name is correct along with their details. Avoid the horrible feeling of sending a person a message with their name misspelled.
Distribute free content – Give, give, give. For every donation you want to receive, my recommendation is to find ways to give seven times more. This doesn’t mean you have to give money, but do give people resources and information that they will appreciate.
Attend other people’s events – I’m sure there are other organizations out there that do things similar to yours. I suggest you connect with them and learn what they are doing. Learn also how you can help them succeed.
Ask – You won’t raise any funds if you do not ask any for money. You have to intentionally ask people for donations each week.
Now that you know the ten fundamental actions, you must schedule a time to do each one every week.
How to organize your week as a fundraiser
Here is a suggested week plan that you can use. Again, you can modify it as you wish and move activities based on your availability.
Regardless if you have two minutes or two hours, I highly recommend you spend time doing each task. Don’t drop one simply because you can’t find the time. It’s important that you get into the habit of doing each task, improving week by week.
Dream List (4)
One-on-One meeting (5)
Distribute free content (8)
Build community (6)
Connect with people (3)
Attend other events (9)
Clean database (7)
As I mentioned, you do not have to be confined to doing one task on a certain day. I suggest you make your schedule and find what works for you. What you will discover by doing this is your approach to fundraising is much more balanced. Meaning, you are not just focused on asking for money. You will be building better relationships along with more of them.
A fundraiser’s best resource: the Catechism
I continually stress the importance of using the Catechism’s section on prayer as a gauge for how balanced you are with your interactions. A Catholic fundraiser is always reflecting on how balanced and genuine his or her messages are. The catechism explains that there are four different kinds of prayer: petition, thanksgiving, adoration, and intercession.
You can think of prayer as our way of speaking with God, and if we spent our days only asking him for things (petitioning), we wouldn’t have as fulfilling a prayer life if we forgot the other forms of prayer. Therefore, you have to take the time to speak with God in the different ways.
The same goes with fundraising. If all you do is ask people for donations, you’d be unfulfilled because you will find your work repetitive and boring. So will your donors, prospects, and followers. People eventually get tired of you constantly asking them for money. “When is enough for them?” they’ll think.
Therefore, you have to mix it up so that your approach is more Catholic. When you do take this approach, you capture people’s attention more often, build closer relationships with them, and subsequently raise more funds.
Change of perspective
To help you get started, use this pray, pray, pray, ask approach to ground yourself.
Pray – Pause and reflect on your normal weekly fundraising activities. Write down what you do on a typical week.
Pray – Review my list of 10 actions and identify which ones you are doing and which ones you are doing. Reflect on how your approach may be perceived by others. Would they think you are focused most on asking for money, them, or the mission?
Pray – Open your Bible to Baruch chapter 3. This chapter reaffirms the law of Moses (10 commandments) as a unique gift of God to Israel, the observance of which is the way to life and peace. Remember that specific tasks, done consistently, can dramatically help keep you focused on what truly is important. Ask – Complete your own timetable and organize the ten tasks in a way that is most convenient for you.
Question: How will you schedule your upcoming week so that you have a much more effective approach to fundraising?
You strive to be a saint because doing God’s will is why you get up every morning. Though right now, at this very moment, there are two distinctions between you and a saint. The first is that a saint is already in heaven and you are on earth. The second is people know a saint’s story and not yours. You may have to wait for the first, but you can start today with telling people your story. Plus, I don’t want you to leave for heaven right now. We need more workers in the vineyard. Therefore, I want people to know your story so you can inspire them with your zeal for the Lord.
Why is sharing your story so important? It’s because while you are a pilgrim on his way to the Kingdom of Heaven, your story tells how you are getting there. Your story is the compilation of everything you’ve doing for God and everything he does for you. More importantly, your story shares how others can follow your example, and the world needs more examples of people striving for sainthood, wouldn’t you agree?
Take for example a video I filmed of a train trip to Rome. I thought nothing of it at the time, but by recording what I was doing, I realized that I could share on a personal level my story. Suddenly, the trip became more than a simple train trip. It became less about me and more about why I was going, what inspired me, and what I hoped to accomplish in Rome. Surprisingly, these points interested a good number of people. But the important lesson I learned was that the simple actions I take in my life also can be shared to inspire others into action. When it comes to asking for donations, inspiration is fundamental, and the more you can do this, the better your fundraising will be. Therefore, share your story regularly.
Stories are profoundly important. We can celebrate a saint’s life because we know what he or she did during their life. For some saints, we know a lot about their story. For others we know only a few lines. Though with each story, long or short, we are inspired by the ups and downs they faced and how they prevailed. We know the trials, the struggles, and the persecutions.
Most importantly, we know how they responded and the result. We know all of this because we know their story, and thanks to their stories, we can learn and follow their path.
Your story is how you evangelize people’s support to your work
Pope Paul VI explains best why your story is the best form of evangelization.
To evangelize is first of all to bear witness, in a simple and direct way, to God revealed by Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, to bear witness that in His Son God has loved the world.
But evangelization would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man’s concrete life, both personal and social.
Evangelii Nuntiani (Evangelization in the Modern World) – Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Paul VI
[Tweet “Evangelization must take account of the constant interplay of the Gospel & man’s life. – Paul VI”]
So, yes, I’m talking about evangelizing. This term that gets always referenced yet too often we scratch our heads asking, “Well, how am I supposed to do that?” Pope Paul VI tells us exactly how to evangelize: through your life. Your story and life are one in the same.
Remember, you are a saint in progress, and your story explains how you overcome struggles and follow God to reach heaven. The life you are living at this moment is your journey to God, and it needs to be shared.
Stories are the bedrock of great Catholic fundraising
So how does your story relate to fundraising? It’s straightforward. People donate not because you asked them to give. People give financially because your story inspires them to do so. They see how you are bringing Jesus Christ to the people around you.
Therefore, if you are not receiving as many donations as you’d like, it’s may be because you are not sharing your story (e.g. evangelizing) enough. Not enough people know who you are, what you are doing, and inspired by your life which mirrors Jesus Christ.
The simple solution is to tell your story more often. In fact, to be a fantastic Catholic fundraiser, the objective is to share it every day.
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Storytelling is the foundation for great fundraising because as I said people donate to what inspires them. They don’t donate because you asked. If you aren’t telling people on a consistent basis how you are bringing Christ into the world, then how are you inspiring them? That’s the missing link in having a successful campaign and long-term growth.
The simple reason so many Catholics aren’t raising funds
I am overwhelmed by how many incredible Catholic apostolates, orders, parishes, schools, and organizations I meet who are petrified to tell their story. Yes, you heard me correctly. They are scared cold to say what they are doing.
In fact, they are more scared to share their story (how they are saving lives and souls) than to ask people for donations.
They come to me asking to help them find donations because they think that is the challenge. They think that money will solve their problems and get them to the next level. When I offer them a full-proof plan for raising funds but explain that it first starts with sharing their story, they freeze. It’s insane. I cannot explain it because they are doing God’s work, but something inside of them is keeping them locked in.
Why are they looking for donations when they cannot even speak about what they do? Fear. Fear of actually doing God’s work and then getting donations to do even more. Fear of inspiring people. Fear of helping more people. Fear of doing something that is beyond their imagination.
Yes, I’m completely serious. People – especially honest, faith-filled Catholics – are scared to let Christ lead them within them knowing exactly where they are going. In other words, you have to have faith that no matter what happens, Jesus will take care of you.
This, my fellow Catholic, is hard. I know because I’m this way. You are likely, too. Following Jesus is no simple task. It’s scary at times to trust him.
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Telling your story today will help you fundraise immediately
We mask our inabilities to follow Jesus with the excuse that we need money first. Catholics tell me often, “God is calling me to do [insert vocation], but I’ve got to get the funds first.” I hear this almost every day. Catholics think they need to fundraise first. It’s the exact opposite.
You need to go out in the world are do your mission and telling your story, 365 days of the year, and then, you can successfully fundraise. You don’t need money. You don’t need a major donor backing your work. You just need to get up and start today.
Take for example the major Catholic charities that are bringing in millions each year. What are they doing throughout the year? Telling their story, and that’s why they are so big. It’s also how they got big in the first place.
They regularly told their story – like so many saints – and gradually grew. Saint Ignatius, Saint Bernard, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Saint Benedict were so successful in spreading the Gospel and building their religious orders because they constantly told their stories. I’m sure you can name a local charity that does the same.
You may object to what I am saying. You may be thinking that you need money to tell your story. You may argue that these big charities are successful in telling their story because of the money they are raising. Well, you’re wrong. You don’t need lots of money to tell your story.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Saint Paul, 2 Corinthians 12
Your step by step guide to telling 1,000,000 Catholics your story, for free
As Pope Paul VI says in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelization in the Modern World, we must use social communications to spread our stories.
Our century is characterized by the mass media or means of social communication, and the first proclamation, catechesis or the further deepening of faith cannot do without these means, as we have already emphasized.
You have to use social communications (social media) to tell your story, and the best part: it’s free. That’s one of the miracles of being a Catholic the 21st century.
You can talk about your faith to more people than ever before. Back in the day, to share your story by video, you had to get on TV. That could be difficult to do, and if you want to start a station, it was costly. Now, you can start your own YouTube channel in minutes, which costs nothing and upload your videos.
To share your story by audio, your only option in the past was to get on the radio. Again, this could be costly and difficult to do. Now, thanks to the internet and social media, it’s free and accessible to everyone. You can setup your channel through iTunes, SoundCloud, or Stitcher in minutes.
To share your story by text 10 years ago, you would have to write a book, find a publisher, and hope they’d distribute it for you. Now, you can share your story via a blog and share it with the world for free. You can also write and publish an e-book and distribute it online. Again, for free. Do you see the recurring theme? No more costs of publishing, printing, and distributing. It’s all free.
In the past, to give regular updates or ask for donations, you had to spend loads of money to mail newsletters and magazines to people. Again, this was an incredibly costly method and therefore limited to the people who could afford it. Now, anyone (meaning you) can update people for free via email using email services like MailChimp, ConstantContact, Aweber. What’s even better: you can do it instantaneously. You don’t have to wait days for them to receive your update. Nor do you have to wait to hear a response.
You also have services that allow you to host live video conferences/seminars (also called webinars) where you can gather a group of people in real time to talk with one another. I’ve been on webinars that have had over 1,000 people attending. It was a fantastic experience.
I would like to share one last signification point about social communications. You have numerous social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Medium, Tumblr, LinkedIn) to share with people what you are doing by text, audio, and video.
You have all these free services with the ability to reach nearly every Catholics on planet earth. You are no longer constrained by geography, money, or resources. All you need is a laptop, electrical source, and internet connection to tell your story.
Can it get any easier? Do you see the miracle in front of you? Pope Paul VI is demanding you get plugged in and start spreading your message about Jesus Christ. Go. Tell all nations. Now.
Your story will help you find donors and gifts
So what’s stopping you from telling your story and inspiring thousands, if not millions of people? What’s stopping you from taking your cause to the next level? It surely isn’t money.
If what you are doing is of God and for God, he will surely take care of you. Take what I am saying to heart and start telling your story today.
Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not. – Exodus 16
When you start sharing your story, they will do three things. First, they will be grateful to hear from you. Two, they will be inspired to share your story with their networks of friends, family, and fellow parishioners. And three, a certain number of those people will be inspired to support you the next time you ask.
This is how you fundraise in a Catholic context in the 21st century. This is how you take your apostolate to the next level. These are the seeds you plant so that God can grow them for you. Do God’s work, and he will help you do even more.
Here is the Pray, Pray, Pray, Ask approach for telling your story:
PRAY: Stop everything you are doing and get a pen and paper. Now, take 15 minutes and reflect on what your mission is. Ask yourself: Who are the people you wish to help and what concrete actions are you taking to serve them? Write the response.
PRAY: Take 15 minutes to reflect on all the people who make your mission possible. This includes the people and groups who help you do your work. Remember that help can come in many ways, not just financially. They can provide time, energy, knowledge, material, and connections. Write down their names and what each of them does.
PRAY: Take 15 minutes to reflect on the three ways you can tell your story. Is it through audio? Video? Text? Live event? What are the four social platforms (blog, vlog, podcast, social page, etc.) you can use to tell your story? Write a weekly plan for what modes (audio, text, video) you will tell your story and what social platforms you will use.
My recommendation is always to have a website and email list. These are the two building blocks every Catholic organization should have. From there, you can add social media platforms.
ASK: The time is now to take action. Share your story once a week with the people who help you do your mission through these four channels you selected. Ask them to reply, share, and comment on your story each time you share it with them. Then, from time to time, ask them to give a gift or to purchase an item.
As you know, the Bible has a lot to say about money and generosity. But did you know it also records a planned gift?
A Planned Gift to Build the Temple
The story is told in I Chronicles 22 and 28. God would not allow King David to build his temple but told him that his son Solomon would build it after David’s death. In anticipation of this great construction project, David accumulated immense quantities of gold, silver, bronze, precious stones and exotic woods. He then bequeathed these assets to his son Solomon, along with God’s plans and instructions for the design of the temple. (Even in Bible times, it seems, donors could be demanding about how they wanted their planned gifts used…) The planned gift resulted in a temple of such magnificence that none has been built since to compare it to.
A Last Will & Testament in 970 BC
When King David prepared his BC equivalent of a will and dedicated assets and plans for building the temple, he prayed, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?
Everything comes from you and we have given you only what comes from your hand… all of this abundance we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, comes from your hand, and it all belongs to you” (I Chron. 29: 14 & 16).
What Does Biblical Philanthropy Look Like?
David’s prayer sets the chief biblical principle for all philanthropy. Since we are God’s creation, and all we have comes from him, anything we “own” really belongs to him. Our philanthropy then becomes a stewardship of giving back, during our days of life on earth and then at our death for generations who come behind us. We do so through a planned gift.
You Can’t Take It With You
The Bible is full of teachings about wealth, caring for the poor and needy, providing for our families, and giving to God’s service for both secular and spiritual purposes. Jesus had a lot to say about giving in the New Testament. You’ve probably heard his parable about the rich man who accumulated great wealth for selfish reason—and then lost it all when he died (Luke 12:16- 21).
Jesus proclaimed the truth that we cannot take our wealth with us when we die, so it’s better to use that wealth to benefit others rather than ourselves. In this way, Jesus said, we become “rich in spirit.”
Better to Give than to Receive
Perhaps nearly everyone is familiar with these words of Jesus: “It is better to give than to receive.” You’ve probably experienced the truth of this in your own life and seen it in others. The satisfaction we receive in return for our philanthropy greatly outweighs the gifts given. That is why a planned gift is so important.
The Apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthian congregation, encourages generous giving because it reaps generous blessings in return and because “God loves a cheerful giver” (II Cor. 9: 6-8).
What Paul didn’t say but we now know, backed by multiple scientific studies, is that the joy of giving leads to greater self-esteem, better health, and a longer life.
The Most Generous People on the Planet
Americans are probably among the most generous people on earth. Philanthropic giving is a multibillion-dollar enterprise in the United States. However, we only give approximately two percent of our wealth for charitable purposes and planned gifts, both while alive and at death. That’s quite a bit short of the 10 percent the scriptures teach we should give (Leviticus 27:30).
In 2007 over $300 billion was contributed by Americans for philanthropy (including religious giving).
Yet the gross domestic product (GNP) for the same year was $13.8 trillion. This is just 2%.
If we had given 10 percent of our income and estates that year, that could interpret into $1.38 trillion for philanthropy. Just imagine all the good that could have been accomplished and all the joy returned to the givers if we had followed this principle of giving!
Let’s follow the example of King David, the teachings of Jesus, and the advice backed by modern science—and let’s give generously.
This article was written by Viken Mikaelian with Jerry Rohrbach, CFRE, ChFC. Viken is CEO of PlannedGiving.com which provides services for many Catholic charities and dioceses across the United States.
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Ever wonder how to inspire Catholics and get donors? Fundraising is done correctly when you focus on this one task: sharing your work’s purpose with people who will be inspired to support it. Bad fundraising focuses on asking people for money.
Therefore, focus on inspiring people, not on asking them for money. This may sound heretical to a fundraising purist, but I am not a typical fundraiser. I am a Catholic fundraiser, and in my experience, Catholics are moved to donate when they are moved by a story.
That’s how Catholicism works. We are a community of people, moved by God, to build his Kingdom.
Inspiring Catholics Increases Your Donors
You increase your number donors when you understand how to build genuine relationships with people. You do this by continually improving how you explain this one line: “People like you and me do [things like this].”
Inside the brackets, you insert your mission. It’s that simple.
The more authentic you can do this one step, the further you can move along with your fundraising. You will nurture more relationships each year and therefore have more opportunities to raise money.
You focus your attention on how to clearly share your purpose and how to genuinely build relationships because long-lasting relationships bring long-term contributions.
Your Secret Weapon: The 1-Pager
You can do this by using the secret weapon of fundraising: the 1-page storyboard. It’s not really even a secret, nor is it a weapon, but it really does work, yet almost no one does it. So it must be a secret.
This 1-pager organizes the important messages and facts that you should share with people. It’s a script which helps you do this clearly and concisely because you need to do it quickly and often. The 1-pager follows this structure:
[YOUR NAME OR YOUR CAUSE’S NAME] is the only
[WHAT YOU ARE – charity, parish, school] that provides
[WHAT SERVICE/SUPPORT YOU OFFER] for
[WHO YOU OFFER THIS TO] in/around
[THE AREA YOU WORK IN] who
[WHAT THE PEOPLE THAT YOU SERVE WANT] in a time of
[EXPLAIN THE PROBLEM WHICH YOU ARE ADDRESSING]
The parish of Our Lady of the Rosary is the only Catholic parish that provides weekly workshops for Catholic couples and families in the Springfield community who want to strengthen their family and prayer life in a time of constant disruptions and attacks in modern society against traditional family values.
Then, after you mention your short statement, you ask the person to get involved in three ways:
– You can subscribe to our mailing list to learn how to get involved
– You can attend an upcoming event
– You can volunteer at an upcoming event
Your 1-pager ends with you asking the following question, “Which option works best for you?” By doing so, you let the person take a moment to consider how they want to get involved.
You always want to invite the person to take action. Notice I am not asking for a donation. Why? Because most people don’t want to donate to someone or a cause they don’t know. However, once they know you and get involved, they will want to donate because they will see what great work you are doing.
Start Spreading Your Message and Inspiring Catholics
Now that you have your ‘secret weapon’, start spreading the message 365 days a year. Your focus should be on increasing the number of people you speak to every week, thereby increasing the number of people involved and their level of commitment.
I also suggest that you give a copy to your colleagues, directors, board, volunteers, and donors and ask them to memorize it. Yes, they must memorize it. Then, I recommend each of them to share this message with at least one person a day.
Within a year, you will have increased your network by at least 1,000 people, and I am sure among that group you will have 100 to 200 new donors.
QUESTION: What more incredible work could you start tomorrow if you had 100 new donors?
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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 orwhen I was, I was too tired to be fully present. Something had to change.
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.
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:
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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.
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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.
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.
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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