We’ve probably all done this: We start a fundraising campaign by immediately looking for people to ask. We go full charge into hunting for donors without considering, ‘How well do they know me?” and ‘Why am I asking?’
What if we stop and consider a more Catholic approach? I use the term ‘Catholic approach’ because it’s not usually appropriate to ask anyone, especially strangers, for donations when they don’t even know who you are, wouldn’t you agree?
Take Jesus for example.
If we consider how Jesus started his ministry to proclaim the Kingdom of God, we learn two tips about fundraising. Yes, even Jesus collected funds, and he had a unique approach. [Matthew 23:23, Luke 8:1-3, Luke 10:7]
Before he dove into his mission, which included asking for donations, he did two important first steps that we should replicate. First, he paused to reflect on what he was going to do, and then he checked that his apostles were clear about what the mission was.
Before we run around asking for funds, we should do the same as Jesus. It’s important to start any campaign with first, checking that you’re clear with what you want to do and second, confirming those around you are clear about that, too.
1 – Start with a clarity of mission.
Before you run off and look for supporters and funding, pause for a moment and get clear with exactly what your mission aims to accomplish.
While you may think you’ve figured this out, you’d be surprised how unclear that might really be if you dig a bit deeper. Even Jesus took 40 days to prepare himself for his mission. He knew what awaited Him, but He also knew the importance of being spiritually, mentally, and physically prepared.
I recommend that you pause, just as Jesus did, and take at least 40 hours to review your mission and your path to that goal. You could even take this time to fast. Reconnect yourself with God to make sure you are fully prepared to move forward.
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2 – Make sure people know who you are.
You should never assume that people know what it is that you do. Even if it looks obvious, people will always have questions. Like Jesus, you want to make sure that those who work or volunteer for you are equipped to clearly share your mission with people during a fundraising campaign.
Remember that Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” [Mark 8:27]
By getting those around you on the same page, you’ll save time and effort later, especially during gift requests, because you and your team will know how to answer these questions. When people know exactly what you do, and you clearly answer their questions, you both soothe their misgivings and encourage them to be more eager to support your mission.
Taking ‘the Jesus approach’ to your fundraising.
We all want to rush fundraising and get straight to work in the vineyard, but fundraising starts with a clear understanding of what you do and how those around you communicate it to during a campaign. Even Jesus, the Son of God, took time to do these two important steps.
Consider taking the same approach as Jesus before you launch your next campaign. The result will be that you’ll have more confidence in both your work and your ability to communicate it to others.
Question: What’s the first step you usually take when fundraising? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Let’s get serious because you wouldn’t be reading this if you were not looking for better ways to improve your fundraising. I want you to be successful and accomplish all you want with your mission. To do just that, I want you to take your fundraising to the professional level.
But before we talk about professionalism, I want to put this word into context with our Catholic faith. When we often talk about professionalizing anything in the Catholic Church, we can quickly think of suits, flow charts, graphs, colorful brochures, policies, and procedures. That’s not what I am talking about here.
When I say go ‘pro’ with your Catholic fundraising, I mean keeping your eyes on the bigger picture; Jesus Christ. I say this in all seriousness because there is a small but vital distinction to be made with your fundraising.
Step 1. Get on with your mission, with or without donations
You and I know that what matters most is doing God’s will. This means to be part of his Kingdom and to tell all nations. It also means to save lives and souls. Therefore, let’s stay focused on these goals when we fundraise rather than the amount you raise in your next campaign. Why? God is more interested in you fulfilling your vocation than you raising funds to do your vocation. To be more bluntly, you following God is more important than raising funds, wouldn’t you agree?
That’s what going pro with your fundraising. Press on with or without funds.
I continuously see Catholics never following their vocation because they are waiting for the funds to come first. They think that if God wants them to do something, then He will first provide the money. No, that’s not correct. That’s not going pro with your fundraising.
Get started without the funds. Show people what you can achieve without donations. Inspire them what you can do even before they choose to support you. Then, when you do get their donations, go above and beyond. Meaning, turn everything to the next level. In other words, keep going pro.
Step 2. Overcoming you biggest roadblock – you
As I help more and more Catholic agencies (and I’m helping a lot) with their fundraising, I see the most significant distinction is here.
The ones that do best with their fundraising have their eyes on their mission and keep going. They are always looking to move forward with or without donations. They never stop. Their faith is in Jesus, not in a major donor that will appear at any moment.
The Catholic agencies who seem to never get out of their struggles, or even pick things up, slow down or completely stop when fundraising doesn’t go as planned. Meaning, their level of commitment to their vocation is dependent on money.
Your biggest roadblock is you thinking that external resources are going to pick things up. They may or they may not, who knows? If someone were to give you a big fat check, what would you do? You probably wouldn’t know what to do, and that’s the problem. You are not doing enough already to even know what to do with donations. So, focus on you, your ideas, your will, your focus, and get moving, because I know that God is already blessing you with the tools necessary to move forward.
Let’s take this even further because when I make this point, I often get pushback, otherwise known as excuses. Catholics often think that in order to do their mission, they have to have money. This is particularly the case when they have none. Well, I fully disagree. If you don’t have money, and you believe 100% that this is what God wants you to do, he probably wants you to move forward without money. My grace is sufficient, as Jesus said to Paul when he was grumbling.
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. – 2 Corinthians 12:9
Therefore, stop grumbling and get moving. Stop making excuses. Find alternative ways to move forward without the donations you think you need. Change your plans to fit your current situation. If you dream of opening a religious house or retreat center where you can help hundreds of people, but you don’t have the money to do so, start with helping one person. If you are already helping one person, help another one.
I guarantee you that Jesus will help you along the way, so give him the time and space to do so. Remember, we are on his time, not ours. Share your story with everyone around you and inspire them. Get people to trust you with your actions so they can are willing to trust you with their money.
Step 4. Understand the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’
This is an important point. You must not forget this point when you go out and fundraise. There’s a distinction between want you need and what you want. You want money, but you don’t need. You need God, and you’ve got him. Please don’t mix these up, so just go. He will give you all that you need. You just have to show up (every day) and keep your eyes and ears open to spot the people and resources God places in your life.
I am completely serious that God is giving you everything you need right now. You however are unfortunately spending too much time focused on what you don’t have than looking at what you do have.
That’s what I mean by going pro with your fundraising. If you can move your mission forward without money, just imagine what you can do with donations, am I right? If you do have some funds, keep going on what you have, learn to keep those donors, and find ways to get a few more at a time.
I often tell Catholics who start with fundraising, “If what you are doing is God’s will, you must believe that he will never leave you out to dry. Instead, believe he will give you everything you need. Just get started, move forward and always keep your eyes and ears open.”
Question: What is one action you can do today to go pro with your fundraising? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
I’m sure you want to start your fundraising strong in the New Year but, as the weeks pass, you find yourself too busy with other tasks and then fall behind. Eventually, you lose motivation.
Falling behind with my fundraising has happened to me, and it’s why I don’t bother setting funding targets anymore—at least not the usual way. When I think of raising funds for a Catholic charity, school, parish, diocese, religious order, or lay apostolate, I know some missions are just too important to entrust to a faulty fundraising approach.
Instead, I use a proven fundraising approach which structures itself around the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. That way, I protect myself from the many pitfalls and failings of typical fundraising.
This approach has taken me years to develop, and I’ve seen it work not only in my activities but also in the campaigns of countless Catholic causes with whom I’ve shared it.
Some people will say that the best way to raise funds is to plan a capital campaign and frantically tell everyone you know to donate. But that method is way too time-consuming, fatiguing, and probably a lot of you work, wouldn’t you agree?
We’re talking about the things that matter most: your mission. Why would you run around aimlessly in the hope of finding donors and, at a much faster speed, burn yourself out? Instead of losing steam, you just need to use a method that actually works.
What Your Day Should Look Like as a Fundraiser
An effective fundraising method must factor in what you do in your day-to-day. In fact, it’s that simple. If you focus on the right tasks during your day, you set yourself up to raise funds.
Your day must factor at least five tasks which parallel the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
1. Start with prayer. Unless you begin your fundraising with prayer, you are sure to fall off track. Your intentions should be focused on asking God for the ability to keep your eyes and ears open to the resources and people God is placing before you.
2. Respond to day-to-day contacts. Use Email, letters, and phone calls to respond to people you’ve been in touch with over the past week and month. You must always remember that donations come from the hands of other people.
3. Build awareness about your mission. Leverage your social media, website, and email to build visibility. I frequently say that you must have people’s attention and trust before they will say ‘yes’ to a donation request. Keep spreading the message of your work.
Additional Help: Check out what the Catechism says about social media and communications in CCC 2493-4.
4. Ask for donations. Reflect on how the Catechism teaches us that the first movement of a petition is asking forgiveness. What is it that you truly are asking for forgiveness? That you are bothering someone with your request, or that you aren’t the best charity and that you are still learning the ropes.
Additional Help: Consider what the Catechism says about asking for things CCC 2631 as a reliable benchmark for making a genuine request.
I suggest spending at least two hours a day completing all of these tasks. If you cannot find that much time, start with whatever you have available. Then add more time each week.
I got into the habit of doing these five actions and saw a big difference in my fundraising results. I was much more focused, and in just a few weeks, I uncovered the many opportunities God was placing before me. It was quite incredible. I hadn’t seen all the blessings God was giving to me before, but then I was more self-aware of all the people and opportunities.
My approach before was to run and chase money and people. Now, my approach was focused on God, recognizing the gifts and people he placed before me and acting on them. There was now much more collaboration with God’s will and mine when it came to fundraising. My morale was much higher too. I was joyful when speaking with donors and prospects. They saw this and were even happier to make donations.
How You Can Improve Your Fundraising Today
Life’s too short for typical fundraising approaches which almost guarantee you failure. The good news is that you can shortcut the heartache, stop counting on luck, and finally succeed. Better yet, you can spend more time doing what you want to do: saving more lives and souls.
I recommend you follow this day-to-day approach which and immediately move your fundraising in the right direction. You can also start by using this simple pray, pray, pray, ask method to move you in the right direction.
Pray – Take time to reflect on what your average fundraising day looks like. Read Genesis 29:20 and reflect on the patience of Jacob. In our modern times, we get anxious and want everything now. Take time to be patient and attentive to what is happening around you and whom God is placing in your life. How observant are you?
Pray – Reflect on when you can find 2 hours a day to do these tasks. Once you find the time, mark it in your diary. What gets put in your calendar usually gets done. If you don’t have 2 hours, start with whatever time you can make, mark that time in your diary, and move forward. Then, over time, try to increase your time dedicated to fundraising.
Pray – Start each of your fundraising days with prayer. You can use the daily readings or a reflection of a saint. Imagine yourself being aware of all the gifts that the Holy Spirit will provide for you that day, and see yourself recognizing them.
Ask – Go forward and take action with each task. Then, make sure to ask those people that God is placing in your life. Follow-up with the people whom you are waiting for a response. Most importantly, speak to the new people God places in your life.
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.
Fundraising is on every Catholic’s mind when it comes to carrying out their mission. We all know it must be done, but most of us don’t want to think about it. Worse, we wait the last minute to do anything about it, therefore limiting our ability to be successful.
This is unfortunate because fundraising is really important! Being successful with receiving donations can open so many new possibilities with spreading your cause. Even more, it doesn’t have to be as painful as you think.
The sad reality is that most Catholic causes fail at reaching their funding targets. This year, most of the hundred Catholic orders, schools, apostolates, dioceses and parishes which I collaborate with have either delayed or canceled their campaigns because they never got around to putting the wheels in motion.
So what is the secret to reaching your funding goals?
Whether your funding goal is large or small, it all comes down to having a disciplined approach to fundraising year round. There are two distinct types of fundraising which allow you to do so: active and passive. Active fundraising is the actions you most associate with fundraising. In other words, it’s when you are actively seeking donations and making gift requests.
[Tweet “Whether your funding goal is large or small, it all comes down to having a disciplined approach.”]
Passive fundraising is driven by the actions you take to update current donations, cultivate prospects, and plan your next fundraising campaign (active fundraising). To put it simply, passive fundraising focuses on planting and watering seeds, while active fundraising is all about harvesting what has grown.
As Saint Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6)
Your entire year – meaning 365 days – therefore should have these two seasons: active and passive fundraising.
When many Catholics get started with their fundraising, the common first steps focus on writing a case for support, sending letters, and asking people for donations.
While all of these actions are necessary for fundraising, you must take several steps back before completing them. Passive fundraising is all about preparing yourself, prospects, and your current donors before you do seek to raise funds.
Most Catholic charities, however, overlook passive fundraising, which is one of the leading causes of their failure in raising funds.
For instance, instead of immediately asking for donations and sponsorships, think of the different ways you can spread the news about the great work you are currently doing and how the community is already benefiting. This helps build awareness and trust in what you are doing. With these in place, people are much more inclined to donate when you do ask.
Another way you can passively fundraise is to focus your attention on your current donors and network. Update them on what you’ve been doing, the impact you’ve had, and ask for what they’d like to hear about from you. Deliver regularly stories, facts, and examples of how their support and involvement are helping you carry out your mission.
[Tweet “Focus your attention on your current donors and network.”]
I call this passive fundraising because what you are doing is attracting people’s attention to the impact your mission is having, which as a result, is building trust in your work. Again, awareness and trust are two critical factors that must be present for people to donate (even increase their current giving). It’s important to remember that people give not because you ask but because they are inspired by the great work you do. Therefore, inspire them, continuously.
People who know you will be even more impressed by how the Holy Spirit is working through you, and in turn, they will want to get more involved in your work.
Improving your storytelling is perhaps one the best things you can do to have better results with your passive fundraising. In addition to sharing great stories, your success in fundraising will be dependent on how committed you are to do this. Therefore, get into the habit.
Being Successful in Fundraising Means Being Disciplined
Habits are a significant pillar of the Catholic Church. Look at every religious order, and you will find that they each follow a set of daily routines. If you have big plans for your cause, charity, order, organization, implementing the right habits will serve to improve how you raise funds.
[Tweet “Implementing the right habits will serve to improve how you raise funds.”]
Leaders and fundraisers can set goals, assign tasks, monitor daily progress, and keep everyone on the same page throughout the duration of a project. The result is building your network of happy donors who want to continue supporting you and a list of prospects who will welcome the opportunity to support your work.
Success in raising funds starts with passive fundraising. Again, I quote the line from Saint Paul because it’s so relevant with fundraising: I planted. Apollos watered. God grew. If you want your fundraising to last, there has to be ample time to plant and water seeds.
Everyone wants to hit their fundraising targets, but too few want to take the time to plan for success. While setting a goal is easy to do, it can be very hard to accomplish.
One of the most significant challenges to reaching your funding target is the commitment to the right habits. Yes, habits are essential to your fundraising. This is because when you don’t see instantaneous results, you can quickly get discouraged, change your target, change your approach, or cancel the campaign altogether. Therefore, having the right habits before you begin is imperative.
When it comes to reaching your funding target, you cannot do it without a number of support systems. This is why I am so adamant about people subscribing to my website, CatholicFundraiser.net, because I offer the weekly support you need to overcome discouragement and continue moving forward. I also provide you tools and resources to track your progress, adjust your messaging, and of course, improve how you ask for donations.
When looking at raising money, much of the focus is on finding people to ask and then asking. However, the foundation of a great campaign is always internal. I recommend you focus your attention on what Jesus told us to do. Seek and find. Knock, and the door will be open. Ask and receive. Consider organizing your campaign in these three parts: seek, knock, ask. (Luke 11:9)
Therefore, yes it’s important to ask, but you also have to seek and knock.
Your first task is to consider where you will look for donations. Because you’ve been spent considerable time with passive fundraising, knowing whom you will ask is clockwork. You already have your long list of donors and prospects ready to focus your attention.
Then, you take ample time to knock on each person’s door and share with them your request. This means knocking on each person’s door, one after another, and making a personal invitation. One to one fundraising is the only way to go because it works, it’s genuine, and Catholics enjoy this approach the most.
Last, you must make a clear and compelling ask. This too is easy because you’ve spent plenty of time sharing your story during your season of passive fundraising that everyone already knows what you do and sees the impact you have. While the finer details of this task are crucial in reaching your funding goal, the overarching focus should be to seek, knock, and then ask. This is a structured and Catholic approach to your fundraising.
When it comes to reaching your funding target, discipline throughout the year is the defining factor. When you get into the habit of passively and actively fundraising, you will have tremendous success. Also, regardless of what your target is – a hundred dollars or hundred million, you must always have a passive and active season with your fundraising.
As 2017 comes to a close, review the following approach below to see how you can plan your passive and active fundraising seasons. Both will be pivotal in helping you stick to your fundraising and hitting your goals.
Pray – Take a moment to read 1 Corinthians 3:6 and consider how Saint Paul went about planting and watering seeds. Take a piece of paper and map out when you can have two seasons to your fundraising.
Pray – Take a comment to ask God how you can better passively fundraise. How can you better share your story? God is asking you to do great things in his name. Review the people who are currently in your life and the gifts they are giving you. How can you bring them closer to your mission without asking for donations?
Pray – Reflect on how you respond to the new people in your life. God is always bringing people into your life for a purpose. How often are you considering why someone enters your life, the talents they have, and how you both can work together to bring your mission forward? Too often we look only for people with ‘deep pockets’. Don’t let money be your focus. Instead, let the Holy Spirit guide you and your new relationships.
Ask – Take time to map out your year and define when you actively and passively fundraise. Write down the different tasks you will accomplish each week, so you get into the right habits. Follow your approach which will give you plenty of time to plant and water seeds. Then, when it is time to fundraise actively, recognize the different opportunities God has grown for you.
Question: What is your plan for succeeding with fundraising in 2018?
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.
[Tweet “Faith doesn’t mean that donors will magically show up one day.”]
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.
[Tweet “Faith means getting clear on what you want. That’s step one.”]
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.
[Tweet “You don’t need money to start realizing your vocation, cause, or mission.”]
Again, a small distinction that has a tremendous impact. Fundraising is used to expand your reach, but it is never the catalyst or what keeps you afloat.
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
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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?
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.
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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.
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The second way you can thank people is after meeting them. Whether it is the first encounter or a “catch-up” after an event, make sure you say thank you. It’s also good to mention one or two comments they said that stuck with you.
The third way you can thank someone is after they do something for you. This is apart from a donation. What comes to my mind are volunteers. Volunteers are a bedrock of support for your work, and they should be thanked after they help you.
The fourth wayis when you become a pro. This thank you happens at the specific moments which you know are fundamental moments in your relationship with a person, especially if they are not yet a donor. You can do this with a handwritten card, a phone call, and personal email. People don’t expect these messages, but when they receive them, they are extremely grateful.
Always remember: Catholics want to give, but they want to give to Catholic organizations who they know will do more than just take their money.
Putting your ‘Thank You’ into practice
Exercise on how to get better at saying thank you.
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?
One of the questions I most often get asked is, “Where do I find donations?” Not surprisingly, everyone is looking for the shortcut and equally unsurprisingly is this fact: There are no shortcuts. The questions I wish more people would ask me is, “what should I do to receive more donations?”
Fundraising requires action. The more actions you take, the better your chances in getting that break you’re looking for and reaching your goal.
Yes, fundraising does involve asking, but it also requires a mix of disciplined, consistent, and persistent actions which are more of a determining factor in raising funds than any other combination of things.
My book, Alms: Your Definitive Guide to the Ins and Outs of Catholic Fundraising, focused heavily on what those right actions are. Right now, I want you to know that most Catholics fail in fundraising because they are not taking enough action and also taking the wrong kind. To put simply, they don’t take fundraising into consideration throughout the year, and they are asking the wrong people.
Fundraising, especially in the Catholic context, requires so much more than asking for money. It also requires massive action in spreading your message, attracting people’s attention, building relationships, and maintaining relationships.
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It requires diligent and consistent work to find potential donors, and that is why you have to work at your fundraising continually. It’s not enough to run a campaign twice a year, pass out leaflet and letters, and sit back and hope people respond.
This distorted version of hope used in fundraising is directing our aspirations on worldly things and removes responsibility on the actor (the person who is hoping). They hope people donate also translates as: “I have asked. Now I don’t have to do anything else but wait and see what happens. I leave everything to God.” That’s not how hope works.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:6
Like Paul and Apollos, we have to do our part.
The “do nothing” style to Catholic fundraising
This “do nothing” approach to fundraising is exactly what it sounds like. You don’t take action to move yourself or your vocation forward. You don’t learn or adjust how you reach your funding target.
Unfortunately, people who don’t do anything to raise money relate this lackluster attitude with putting everything in God’s hands. Until the money comes, Catholics who don’t want to do the work stay as apathetic and inactive because for them the real sign that God wants them to pursue this work is if someone gives them money.
Excuse me? I guess God’s graces was not sufficient to keep them happy about their vocation. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Last I checked, that’s not how saints lived. They didn’t sit around waiting for clear signs and money to fall in their laps. Nor did the apostles.
The “too scared, retreat” style
I’m not talking about a spiritual retreat. Nor am I talking a few days away to find your perspective and reboot from raising money. I am talking about those Catholics who completely walk away from fundraising the second it gets too hard.
They get scared and give up altogether. This is really unfortunate because the people who suffer the most in these circumstances are the those who would have benefited from the projects which would have been funded.
Like the Catholics who do nothing with their fundraising, these retreaters claim to be doing so because it’s not what God wants them to do. That’s right, because the last time I checked, God confirms with us what we are supposed to do in life by the amount of money people give us.
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Again, that’s not what is really happening. The Catholics who retreat from fundraising do so because their impression of what failing means is causing them to retreat. They don’t like the feeling, so they walk away. It’s not that God doesn’t want them to continue. The reason they back away is they are scared and disheartened.
Catholics who take the average level of action with their fundraising are the most common. They appear to be taking the necessary steps to reach their fundraising goals, but this level of action is also the same Catholics have been taking for decades. For decades Catholic fundraisers didn’t have to look for donors. They just went to where the Catholics were: Mass.
It is unfortunate that disrupting the Mass with donation requests has become common practice. When’s the last time you went to Mass during Lent and Advent and didn’t hear a homily about money?
You would think, with all the talk about the New Evangelization, we would stop this bombardment and focus on the faith during Lent and Easter, especially with so many lapsed Catholics returning to Mass. It’s the ideal time to inspire people with the Gospel of Truth. But no … someone decided it’s better to ask them for money. I also find it odd that I’m the only one advocating for this change.
Unfortunately, a majority of Catholic causes take this approach. The goal here is average – average impact, average evangelization, average funds, average reach. As long as average works, they are fine with it. They don’t want to cause problems for others or themselves as long as the funding levels remain predictable and steady.
However, the moment those average levels of activities result in fewer and fewer donations, they suddenly recognize that they are at risk. They block up because when you have been taking the average route to getting funds, you are more susceptible to challenges.
When that happens, you either think of retreating or doing nothing. This is catastrophic for all the people who depend on their cause for support. They suffer the most because average Catholic fundraisers don’t know what to do in the face of difficulty.
The Good: take action with your fundraising
I propose a new approach to fundraising. This approach takes seriously fundraising every day of the year because it can benefit your cause in so many ways. When I say every day, I don’t mean going around asking for donations all the time.
What I mean is you must approach each day as though your mission and its future depend on your ability to take action. If you want people to donate to you, then you have to go out every day and tell people you exist. You have to share with them your mission.
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Therefore, you’ve got to find them, let them know who you are and what you do. These are two incredibly important steps even before you ask for donations. Catholics don’t just give because you’re also Catholic and you’ve asked them.
They give because they recognize the benefits you are providing to their community. They see the long-term benefits of your work. They understand your mission and how you are accomplishing it. To achieve all of these requires constant action.
The world needs more Catholics to take better action with their fundraising because we all know that with more money, we can do more. I am not saying that money solves everything and will bring Jesus to more people. Not at all. I am assuming that if you have decided to fundraise, then you are doing so because you are already doing great work, and you recognize that with more money, you could even more.
If you have not yet done so, get on board with the many Catholics that are taking action with their fundraising by joining the CatholicFundraiser.net community. Click here to join now for free and take your fundraising to the next level.
So, if that is the case, why not take your fundraising seriously? Why not see it as a major component to impact the lives of more people, thereby saving even more souls? If God is calling you to do more of what you are doing, then let’s go and do it. My goal in life is to place as much money in the hands of saints because they’ll know how to spend it.
The Pray, Pray, Pray, Ask approach to Catholic fundraising
I invite you to take your fundraising more seriously and take action in moving your mission forward. If you have made that decision to ask people for funds, then you also have to decide to go pro with your work ethic.
You have to demonstrate stewardship to your donors and prospects every day. That means you show up every day to execute your mission. It means you have stories to share each day.
Here is a simple approach to taking action with your fundraising.
Pray – Take 10 minutes to reflect on the five actions you are delaying to take with your fundraising.
Pray – Reflect on what it is you fear most about doing these actions.
Pray – Read Proverbs 27, which speaks about taking care of today’s work. How can this perspective of taking action help you move forward?
Ask – Take immediate action on all 5 actions today.