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.
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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.
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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.
Why is it so hard to ask for legacies when you know people are considering what to put in their will? Will-writing is when you would think it would be the easiest to ask, don’t you agree?
You would think people would have productive conversations with fundraisers without wasting time on explaining the importance of giving. Everyone is already in agreement that giving is essential. We just have to find the right cause, the right organization, and the right solution to the donor’s desire.
Currently, the number of people over the age of 65 is 600 million. That number will balloon to 1.5 billion by 2050. With numbers like these, you would think fundraisers were excited about the possibilities.
However, the opposite is true, everyone – including fundraisers – are scared about breaching this topic.
Why Legacies are Brilliant for Charities and How to Get Them
Richard Radcliff explains how to overcome these obstacles in his book, Why Legacies are Brilliant for Charities and How to Get Them. A Catholic himself and long-time legacy fundraiser, Radcliff outlines step by step how you can make the most of legacies, which he advocates offer considerable opportunities to any Catholic charity willing to take the time and energy to follow his advice.
He begins by pointing out an interesting – but often forgotten – underlying fact about these donors over the age of 65. They are becoming less spontaneous with their giving as they have to support children and grandchildren. They may have money in their retirement account, but they are much more prudent about where it goes. This means that they are giving to fewer charities and focused on a more personal experience. Even more, they are considering how well they spend their nest egg.
The solution for any Catholic cause would then be to offer these savvy donors a solution that costs them nothing now but meets their requirements of making the most of their money. How does one do so?
Richard offers a step by step solution in his book. Today, I will outline the 7 steps I think will help you get people to leave your charity in their will, either through a cash sum or percentage of their estate.
7 Steps to Getting Legacies
Step 1 – Have a legacy vision that stands out. Richard explains that a bland line such as, “Please remember us through a gift in your will,” just doesn’t cut it. He recommends writing a sentence that is unique to your mission, inspirational, and memorable.
If you are enrolled in my Fundraising Boot Camp, I provide a complete overview of how you can do this. Click here for more info.
Step 2 – Consider planting seeds rather than going for a direct ask. Richard explains that legacy fundraising is different than normal fundraising. In his research of asking over 26,000 people in focus groups. An indirect ask is better received than a direct. Everyone is happy to know about the need and benefits of legacies to your charity, therefore share them without being ashamed.
Step 3 – Have your legacy communications be less formal and more focused on telling the story of how your Catholic cause has benefited people. Richard recommends having someone who’s benefited from your charity tell their story. This could even be a person who has already put your charity in their will and shares why they’ve done so. Also, keep your messaging is upbeat, positive, and inspirational.
Step 4 – Promote your legacy material year round, ideally through stories that focus on your legacy vision as it is short, inspiring, and memorable. Some recommended times to promote your legacy giving include anniversaries of your charity, reminders of how legacies have benefited your charity, seasonal messages, and after significant accomplishments.
Step 5 – Consider structuring your legacy campaign as such:
– A summary of the charitable outcomes and finances (use infographics)
– A one-page that describes ‘look at what we’ve done together’ (this messaging is critical)
– The legacy vision which shows that there is still more to be done
– Provide a way to take action (your contact information along with words to include in their Will)
Step 6 – Segment your audience and focus your communication to those who are committed donors, lapsed donors, eventers (those who keep showing up), and major donors. Richard highlights the important fact that statistically, a direct mail legacy campaign generates around a .5% response rate (please note: that’s half a percent). Richard strongly recommends you do not attempt to run a direct mail campaign because you will drive people away.
Step 7 – Listen. One of Richard’s strongest recommendations is to listen to donors. Listening can often be the best thing you can ever do, and they are far happier than they were before when you are asking for money. However, always be ready with your legacy material at hand and available. Again, it’s the indirect ask that works best. Provide them the information to take action, and leave the rest to them.
I leave you with one final thought. When running a legacy campaign, it’s best to offer people the tools to take action and get them to inquire about the possibility. Integrate your legacy messaging into thank you letters and emails, and make sure to ask softly.
Question: What recommendation do you have for asking Catholics to leave you in their will? 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.
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?
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.
Jennifer Fulwiler interviews Brice Sokolowski from CatholicFundraiser.net. In this Part 2 of the interview, Jennifer and Brice talk about how to fundraise in the Catholic Church, the fundamentals to follow, and why now is the best time ever to follow Christ and go big on your vocation.
Thank you for watching this video. I hope that you keep up with the week videos I post on the channel, subscribe, and share your learnings with those that need to hear it. Your comments are my focus, so please take a second and say ‘Hey’ ;-).
Jennifer Fulwiler interviews Brice Sokolowski from CatholicFundraiser.net. In this Part 1 of the interview, Jennifer and Brice talk about the Catholic Church, Mass, living abroad, the challenges of following God, and how to pursue your vocation.
Thank you for watching this video. I hope that you keep up with the week videos I post on the channel, subscribe, and share your learnings with those that need to hear it. Your comments are my focus, so please take a second and say ‘Hey’ ;-).
You have a message that you want others to hear. You are inspired to bring Jesus into the world, and you want people to be as inspired as you. Sometimes you ponder about the possibilities in front of you. You see all the people’s lives you will help. You see it right in front of you. Now the question is how to get them to donate.
However, reality sets in when you look at what’s around you. No one is listening to you.
Why? We live in a noisy world where everyone has a message and wants to be heard. Everyone is also asking for donations. You and a million other people want to do something great, and you all want people’s financial support. So how do you get people’s attention and money?
The most common approach seems to shout louder than everyone else. If you still don’t have their attention, shout even louder. On top of that, you likely won’t get many opportunities, so you scream the one message you want people to do: Please donate!
Stop screaming, “Please donate!” because people are not listening
As you cry for help, among the cacophony of every else’s pleas for money, you have to realize that the people live noisy, busy, and distracting lives. They are trying to find ways to keep sanity, so the last thing they want is a charity constantly asking them to donate. When they hear you do this, they shut you off. They throw your appeal letter in the trash. They tune you out during your parish appeal. They walk away without even considering what you have to say.
So, let’s face the cold hard fact. Breaking through the noise and getting donations are practically impossible. That’s why most fundraising campaigns fail. There’s just too much noise, and too many people don’t want to listen. They are looking for peace and quiet. Not more demands of their money.
You can hope that people will eventually donate, but this is a passive approach that won’t get you very far, especially if you have ambitious plans. You have to take a different approach and rise above the noise. I know because God doesn’t want you to stress. He wants you to be smart and do what he’s calling you to do.
If everyone is on the same interstate that’s jammed with bumper to bumper traffic, you’ve got to get off onto a side road to get to your destination. Let’s do just that.
In order to fundraise effectively in today’s Catholic landscape, you have to face an important. First, you have to understand that the strategy of hope fundraising doesn’t work. “Let’s pray people will donate,” or “Let’s hope this campaign works.” These approaches usually imply that you just wait and see what happens. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe in hope and prayer, but I think most people view hope and prayer in a secular way, not a Catholic way. Prayer and hope require action, not sitting around.
[Tweet “Prayer and hope require action, not sitting around.”]
Instead, I recommend you have an active approach to getting people’s attention that is much more aligned with our Catholic faith. If you want people to hear you, you simply have to speak in a gentle and consistent voice. When you combine these two factors together, consistently present and gently speaking, you have your best chance of being heard. Therefore, you want to find your consistent and tempered voice.
Who do you know that does this? God.
There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.
When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah?
– 1 Kings 19: 11-13
You won’t hear God screaming from rooftops. You won’t see him disrupting your day to day to get your attention. You won’t see him pushing himself in front of a crowd to be seen. You see and hear him only after you pause and recognize that he’s been with you the entire time.
You have to follow the same approach. You want to place yourself in the same situation when people finally pause and take notice of who’s around them.
From my experience, the best way to get someone to donate is to always be there with your calm voice until the moment presents itself. It’s the moment when the person is ready to take action. You can’t force someone to see you, listen to you, and then donate. You have to offer them the best possibility to do so.
[Tweet “Plan what you will say throughout the year to MAXIMIZE donations”]
It sounds so simple, but many Catholic organizations don’t take this action. They drum one monotonous voice twice a year, and it turns most people away.
Get into the habit of clearly articulating your voice with people on a consistent basis.
Breaking through the noise and being heard is harder than ever, but with a consistent approach to presenting your calm voice, you will be heard and rise above the static. It’s a paradox that works every time. You just have to be patient.
You don’t need to shout. You just have to keep tapping away. You have to know what you want to say and keep saying it. Week by week, month by month, and people will hear you. It’s only a matter of time that they trust what you say, and when that happens, and you are off to the races.
That’s why patience is so important. It’s also a fruit of the Holy Spirit, so pray to receive it. God gave you a voice. Use it wisely, spread the message of your mission, and patiently watch more people listen to you. Plant seeds, then add water and let God do the growing, but he can’t grow if you don’t plant.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6
A Catholic approach to getting heard
Today’s approach to Catholic fundraising requires a return to a traditional approach to being heard. This means following God’s approach to a calm and moderated voice when asking for people’s support. I recommend following these four steps which will help you find a more authentic voice when it comes to asking for money.
Pray – Take time to collect several examples of messages you’ve shared with people over the past six months. Reflect on how you got people’s attention by asking yourself, “was my voice clear, consistent, and tempered?”
Pray – Read chapters five and six of the Book of Sirach. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you have sincerity in speech and honesty in discourse. Write down your reflections on how you can have a consistent, present, and tempered voice.
Pray – Spend time quietly mapping out a 52-week plan for communicating your messages to Catholics. Make sure to balance your voice, so you aren’t just asking for donations. Focus on sharing information that helps people take action in your work. Also, consider the different mediums (the web, social media, email, letters, events) you will use to communicate your message.
Ask – Execute your 52-week communications plan. Be patient with getting your voice heard over the noise. Have faith that in time more and more people will turn to you.
Question: How can you make your voice heard when fundraising?