We’ve all read Bible verses in appeal letters and brochures, right? It’s one of the classic tactics of fundraisers to stick scripture into a request to reminds us how it’s our duty as Catholics to give. If you’re running an appeal or campaign, you likely want to do add a few verses into your material.
But what if I told you there is a right way — and a wrong way — to use the Bible in your fundraising?
I’ve got good news for Catholics who want to use Bible verses to inspire people to give: You can quote the Bible without looking cliche’. In fact, I do recommend quoting scripture in your appeals. However, there are rules that you must follow so you don’t sound like the typical fundraiser just pulling at our faith to get to our wallet.
Using the Bible in Your Fundraising
Let’s start by facing the fact that the common practice of using the Bible to get people to donate risks watering down the meaning of these beautiful verses. This is not something you want to happen with your Catholic cause.
Take the often-used classic verse from 2 Corinthians: “God loves a cheerful giver.” This verse gets right to the point that we should give because it’s what God wants us to do; plus when we do it, we should be happy about it! But, using this verse can pull potential donors in the opposite direction. They may get upset and, consequently, choose not to give.
The reason why quoting Bible verses may backfire is because fundraisers often use them as shortcuts with their appeal. By the time we do receive the appeal letter, we rarely know much of what the charity has been doing or how it’s made a difference. To know this, we’d have to hunt for the annual report, but who wants to do that? Instead, the fundraiser hopes that reminding you of your Catholic duty will trigger a donation.
This realization turned a key for me. I noticed that using Bible verses can improve a donation request only if we followed four rules.
1. Don’t Make It the One Thing
Yes, God likes a cheerful giver, but that doesn’t mean the giver should be giving to you. Therefore, don’t assume that the quote immediately connects the person reading your letter with your charity. Provide the reader specific reasons why they would be happy to give to you. You can do this by clearly outlining the results their donation will help achieve.
On the go? You can download the audio version of this article to your mobile device. Click the link below and start listening now.
2. Make It Unique
Catholic charities often use the same Bible verses when writing their appeal. In contrast, successful fundraisers know they must differentiate themselves from everyone else. Therefore, when they pick a verse, they choose one that relates to their mission and makes them stand out from the crowd. The most important question to ask yourself is this—is this verse quote most applicable to me?
I suggest using resources such as Cruden’s Complete Concordance to the Holy Bible to help you find new Bible quotes.
Note: if someone knows of a Catholic alternative, please let me know in the comments section below.
3. Ask Around
Starving charities wait the last minute to run an appeal. Successful charities are willing to plan ahead and make sure they’re sharing their story correctly. They often solicit feedback by asking your volunteers and donors what Bible verses and parables you should use. It’s a good path to both learning how people see you and fundraising more effectively.
4. Think Enough About Money
You must understand that too much focus on the Bible verse can make us overlook everything else about fundraising, especially for those of us who want to focus solely on the faith aspect of our work. I recommend you ought to think enough about the money aspect of your appeal so that you can continue to do what you love without worrying too much. Always remember that the faith-driven person raises funds to help more people, so don’t shy away from this fact.
You have to wonder what it takes to start a religious order from the ground up. You’ve got to be equipped with a lot of spiritual, mental, and physical resilience to handle all the ups and downs. It has to be quite similar to the path an entrepreneur takes. The definition of an entrepreneur is someone who “assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” How fitting is that for the description of a founder of any new Catholic cause?
Over a year ago, a friend sent me a copy of a fascinating biography on Saint Ignatius of Loyola. It was entitled, Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits. (Unfortunately, this book is out of print.) What struck me was that it took a different angle than most books about a saint. There was a chapter in the book named, Saint Ignatius as Fund-Raiser. The author of this chapter, Fr Thomas Clancy, researched the activities that Saint Ignatius took in the last 10 years of his life to build a sustainable foundation for the Society of Jesus.
As a fundraiser, this caught my attention immediately. There’s no magic solution that’s going to raise the money you need or guarantee your Catholic cause’s success. When you set out to build a new project or cause, you do so with the knowledge that many who have gone before you have failed.
That said, this biography of how Saint Ignatius was successful taught me that he focused on five rules which you too can cultivate that will significantly increase your chance of success in fundraising.
Setting yourself up for success
Saint Ignatius of Loyola first put himself in a position to succeed by surrounding himself with the right people and environment. He was a man on a mission during the final 10 years of his life. Between 1547 to 1557, he was laying the foundation for what would sustain Jesuits for many centuries ahead. He was tied to his desk as the order continued to increase in size, and therefore it required more funds to support all its schools, missions, and men.
Saint Ignatius surrounded himself with a copywriter, secretary, and a register to help him press on. During these years, the number of correspondences he wrote increased dramatically. Nearly 96% (or over 6,000) of the letters and correspondence that Ignatius sent in his life were written during this time and concerned money and finance.
By reviewing what he wrote, we can uncover the Five Essential Rules that Saint Ignatius followed to be successful in building the Society of Jesus from the ground up.
What did he write and how did he write asking for money?
Rule #1 – Believe in the value of your work
St Ignatius first teaches us that we have to be convinced of the value of our missions. If we cannot communicate to people our commitment and enthusiasm for our work, then the work will die.
For Ignatius, he saw education as the best hope for the Church and the world. He viewed colleges as better means to teach the faith than preaching. He also saw colleges not only producing educated men and women but also committed Christians. Ignatius’s commitment to education was serious and not made lightly. In fact, he was so committed to building schools that he compromised his vow to poverty when he recognized that schools could not be sustained only by alms, but also by fixed incomes.
“Two things are necessary to spread the Kingdom of God: money and a contempt for money.” – Cardinal William Allen, 16th century English Cardinal
Rule #2 – Let your light shine
You must be in the news, send letters, and publish books as often as you can. Ignatius knew that the business of fundraising was not simply asking people for money. To get people to donate, he realized that he first had to get people’s attention.
The primary publicity was the good works of the Jesuits, but Saint Ignatius knew that people had to hear about them. Ignatius was a tremendous fan of putting things in print and distributing it. He viewed letters as one of the chief means to spread the news about the Jesuits, and he required his fellow Jesuits to continuously write letters to people outlining their work and how it was making a difference.
He wanted to keep the Jesuits in the public eye. This helped get potential donors interested in founding a college. He also saw this publicity as a great way to increase vocations.
We live in an age of communication. As Catholics with big dreams, we have to master the technologies that help us spread our messages and attract the attention of people. We have to tell the world about the work we are doing and get people involved.
Rule #3 – Know your clients and be patient
Saint Ignatius was adamant about the vanities of life. After his conversion, he believed in the uselessness of amassing riches. Ignatius however realized as he grew older that if he wanted to build his colleges, he had to rely on those around him, especially those with money. Heavenly success, especially with the big dreams he had, depended on human favor.
He began to see good qualities in being wealthy and the importance of helping those with wealth to use their money for good. He therefore established his credibility and authority with them, thereby allowing him to raise funds for himself and help others change their lives.
Saint Ignatius insisted that we had to do favors for our actual and potential benefactors in order to get them involved in our work. We can too easily denounce the rich and powerful. In an ideal world our fundraising would be more democratic. A drive for 10 million dollars would be met by a million people giving ten dollars each. But that almost never happens. We have to live and serve God in the real world, and in that world we cannot do without big donors.
At the same time, we cannot forget those who can give smaller gifts, especially in our modern age, which allows an even a wider pool of donors. We live in an opportune time of the internet to amass support from large numbers of people.
Want to listen to this article instead? Save the audio to your phone and listen on the go. Check out my audio version.
Rule #4 – Manage your assets carefully
Ignatius was thoroughly impressed with the work ethic of merchants. While deploring their goals of increasing wealth, Ignatius tells fellow Jesuits:
“Do not ever permit the children of this world to show greater care and solicitude for the things of time than you show for those of eternity. It should bring blush to your cheek to see them run to death more unhesitatingly than you to life.”
Ignatius sought to emulate the energy and enterprise of merchants rather than over indulge in long prayers and senseless mortifications. Early Jesuits sometimes referred to each other as merchants. Zealous Jesuits were even called good merchants. Back then Jesuits had to be merchants and bankers, and knowledgeable about money and negotiations in order to run schools; their endowments were often tied to land requiring management on their behalf.
For Ignatius, founding a school or any Catholic agency for that matter required three foundations; the spreading of the faith, the purification of the Church on earth, and an increase of earthly resources to better serve the first two. As a consequence, Ignatius recommends that you must render an account of your stewardship and manage them carefully. You can do this through your annual report, updates to donors, and the study of best practices.
One of the reasons that Ignatius was a successful fundraiser was that he showed sincere gratitude to all whose donations enabled the Jesuits to do what they were founded to do: help souls. Chapter 4 of the Constitutions, which dealt with the colleges of the Society, is devoted to the obligation Jesuits have to pray for benefactors and the ceremonies by which they are to honor them and their descendants.
Similarly, you must help your donors: meet them in their hospitals, and attend their funerals and weddings. Ignatius learned that his supporters found it much easier to connect with him and the Jesuits when he took time to be part of their lives.
Taking steps forward with your fundraising
For your Catholic cause to succeed, whether you are starting out or looking to grow, your assumptions about fundraising and growth must be accurate. That’s why you should take to heart Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Five Rules and find ways to integrate them into your interactions with donors and potential donors.
The ability to fundraise effectively is one of the surest indicators of whether or not a Catholic will create a lasting order, school, parish or apostolate, regardless of the mission or vocation.
Regrettably, fundraising is also one of the most likely skills to be overlooked as one you should learn in the Catholic Church.
But the truth is, anyone can learn how to do it — with the right approach.
Use these rules to your advantage, and remember how St Ignatius placed them at the heart of his fundraising. With the right focus, you will dramatically increase your fundraising ability.
Question: What rules do you follow when fundraising? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
My fundraising started to kick into high gear when I better understood how it connects with my faith. The word “faith” gets thrown around a lot and unfortunately, it loses its meaning. I took a close look to understand what faith means and what it does not mean.
The common phrase about faith when you fundraise is, “You just have to have faith, and it’ll all work out.” In everyday terms, we often hear, “I’m living on faith.”
What do these phrases mean? When someone says them, I also hear, “Just sit back and do not worry. What is supposed to happen, will happen.”
My conclusion is that people associate faith with not having to do much. This is entirely false. Just read what the Catechism says about the subject. With regards to fundraising, having faith means, if God wills it, people will donate. So you don’t have to spend lots of time fundraising because faith will take care of everything. Faith will magically make happen what you want. This approach has you believing more in magic than in faith.
How faith works in fundraising
I do not want to dive too deep into a theological lecture about faith, but I do have a few comments which I think will help you find a more Catholic approach with fundraising. Let’s first start with a Catholic definition of what faith actually is because it doesn’t mean to wait for things to magically appear out of nowhere.
“the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”
Faith is the belief in things we yet cannot see. In the context of fundraising, you can say that faith is believing that donors and donations exist even though you cannot see them. It’s not that they will magically appear. They are just not in front of you at this very moment.
Therefore, faith doesn’t mean that donors will show up one day. Faith means that they are out there. This is a small but important distinction.
So when someone says you just need faith that you’ll receive donations, don’t think that donors will come with open checkbooks to your door. Faith means what you are looking for is out there. That’s it. It doesn’t mean donors and gifts will come to you. To have donations come to you, that’s where the work kicks in.
Have faith in God, not money
To have faith work in fundraising, you have to be crystal clear on what precisely you believe but cannot see. I am not talking just about money and donors. Money is bi-product of what you want. I am talking about having a clear understanding of what God is calling you to do.
If he wants you to take care of the homeless, does that mean God wants you to build a shelter? To take care of the sick, does that mean God wants you to build a hospital? To be a missionary, does that mean God wants you to build a network of people around the world?
Faith means getting clear on what you want. That’s step one.
Be clear on your mission.
Then, when you move forward, you have faith that God will surround you with the people that will support you. Those people start appearing in your life, and you stop them to say, “Hey, I want to talk to you.” With your eyes fixed on your vocation, you start recognizing the people along your path. It’s not that people appear out of nowhere. Nor is it that people appear after you ask. They show up because God wants you to succeed. You just have to keep your eyes open. This is how fundraising works. Fundraising happens when you are already doing what God wants you to do.
Again, let me be clear. Fundraising is a tool to help. It’s not the tool that makes it happen. You don’t need money to start realizing your vocation, cause, or mission. You have to already be moving forward. As you move forward in faith, fundraising can help you to keep going.
Faith is also tied to hope. To go back to Saint Paul, he says that faith is the realization of what is hoped. Well, what do you hope for? Let’s open one of my favorite books, the catechism. I love being Catholic because everything is so clearly explained in the catechism. (If you don’t have one, I recommend purchasing one today.)
The Catechism states:
“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
Hope for me is that burning fire that keeps me going to pursue what I yet cannot see. Hope doesn’t come from me. It’s from God. When you are looking for those donors that you have not found yet, hope helps you keep looking. Fundraising deals with constant rejection. Sometimes you will get weeks, even months, of people saying no to your requests. Hope, however, keeps you going. It’s important to recognize that hope kicks in when we are striving for the right purpose.
If you desire to find people who believe in your work, who see what’s possible, and passionate about your cause, then hope helps you make the journey.
“With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones.” – Ephesians 6:18
Hope helps build your confidence that you will reach your goal. You can pair the word hope with perseverance. Each step of the way, hope is guiding you with how to inspire people. Hope doesn’t mean going from one lukewarm campaign after another, thinking the next one does better. I see this a lot. It’s a skewed version of hope. If you’re dragging your feet from one campaign to another, it means you evaluate your approach. I say this because the Holy Spirit is giving you the wisdom, knowledge, and guidance on how to improve.
“But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.” – Luke 8:15
Putting your faith in fundraising
My goal is not to show you how we can place faith in money. I want to move fundraising a bit closer to the truths of our faith. The challenge with fundraising is that it lives in its own bubble, separate from the virtues. This is the problem. You have to look at fundraising with the right perspective if you want to get better at it.
When we talk about faith in the context of fundraising, it doesn’t help to say, “have faith that donations will come.” That’s not going to get you moving forward. If anything it’s going to drain your desire to move forward with your mission. Money is not a necessity of life. We should not be sitting around waiting for it to appear. What is necessary is for you to find what your faith is actually telling you to do. This means finding your vocation, otherwise known as the answer to, “What does God want me to do?”
When you fundraise, you can be too focused on the idea that money is what will move you forward. When this happens, you become blind to what God wants you to do and who he places in your life. Sometimes he places donors where we least expect it. Sometimes he gives us guidance when we aren’t looking. We are so fixated with receiving money that we aren’t aware of what’s happening around us. We don’t see the people God is placing in our lives.
Always remember that every donation you receive comes from the hands of someone. Therefore, keep your eyes and ears open at all times. Get to know people. Build your community. Most
Therefore, flip your thinking on faith when it comes to fundraising. Start with getting clear with where God wants you to go. Then start walking in that direction. Don’t wait for the money to come. Just move forward. You don’t need money to start. Move forward and have faith that God will provide. As you move forward, watch who God places in your life.
My goal is that you look at faith through a different lens when you fundraise. This adjustment moves you closer to understand what God wants you to do and how fundraising can help. Here is my recommendation for how to do just that.
Pray – Take time to have clarity of your mission. Where does God want you to do? Read part three of the catechism, “Life in Christ,” and review all the footnotes. The footnotes are a great resource of wisdom to move forward with your mission. Journal your thoughts on how you see your life in Christ.
Pray – Answer the question: “What is it that I truly hope for?” Then, ask yourself how you will persevere in your mission and fundraising. Detail what your prayer life needs to be to support you. Find mentors who will give you confidence. Build a community of people around you. It’s important to have your hope be on your mission, not on finding donations.
Pray – Write your plan of action. What acts of charity will you complete for the people you meet? You don’t have to wait for someone to give you money to be charitable to them. Be the first in showing generosity. Charity helps you realize your faith and hope.
Ask – Take action with every person you meet. Whether it’s asking them to donate, volunteer, keep in touch, pray, or attend an event, take action to build the relationship. Keep a list of the people you meet. Grow this list and keep in touch with everyone. Remember, the most important relationship you will have is the one with Jesus. Keep him close to you.
Question: What could you do to have fundraising better fit within your Catholic faith?