How to Fundraise after a Disaster (Hurricane Harvey & Irma)

The level of destruction by Hurricane Harvey has been biblical. Like me, you have been following what’s been happening in Houston and the surrounding areas this past week. Residents have been pounded with rain, winds, tornadoes, and flooding. Now Hurricane Irma is on its way.

Fundraise Hurricane Harvey

As we watch the rescue efforts, we are all looking for ways to do our part. Perhaps you are thinking of:

Praying a novena
Travelling to Houston to help
Sending food and water
Connecting with locals in your area to organize a relief response
Donating money to a charity
Raising funds to support people you know

Today, we see the aftermath and look to rebuild. Many people have taken to social media and the internet to raise money.

While fundraising can help, I have learned how to raise money a much more effective way. Here are five strategies that I am currently using.

1. Focus on long-term fundraising.

While it’s good to ask for donations, organize your fundraising so you can ask today and in a few months. Check out this article for more details.

2. Ask for contact details as well as donations.

While you will get a surge of donations today, this response will wane quite quickly. Get people to stay informed on what’s happening by asking for the email, allowing you to ask for donations later on. Read this article to learn the benefits of asking for contact details.

3. Tell your story.

People are inspired to give when you share with them how things are moving forward. Keep people updated on how you are are rebuilding after the disaster. This motivates people to give. Read more about this topic here.

4. Don’t just ask for money.

Only a fraction of people will be able to donate. However, they can do other things, like provide resources and volunteer. Also, they may be able to donate later on. So make sure to get people involved in other ways. Check out this article on how to do this.

5. Thank people.

Make sure to thank people for their contributions. While the focus is helping people, it’s important to remember that relationships and community are as important as money. Take the time to thank people as intimately as possible (not just via a social media post). Read more about thanking people in this article.

Conclusion – Fundraising in the aftermath of a disaster

When it comes to fundraising after a disaster, we need to remember it’s not just about raising as many funds as possible. Suffice it to say, getting Houston back to normal will take time. Therefore, looking at fundraising in the long-term is more effective than just a short-burst of asking for money.

Focus on building relationships with the people God is placing in your life. This is the good that comes from these terrible events. As a result, you will build a network of friends, volunteers, and donors that will help you in the coming months and years.

Question: What’s your best fundraising strategy for rebuilding after a disaster? You can leave a comment below.

Why Telling Your Story Improves Your Fundraising (DRAMATICALLY)

You strive to be a saint because doing God’s will is why you get up every morning. Though right now, at this very moment, there are key distinctions between you and a saint. The first is that a saint is already in heaven. The second is people know a saint’s story. You have to wait for the first, but you can start today on telling people your story.

I don’t want you to leave for heaven right now, but I do want people to know your story. Why is sharing your story so vital to your mission, charitable cause, non-profit, or however you describe the work you do? It’s because while you are here on earth, a pilgrim en route to the Kingdom of Heaven, your is what will get you there.

Your story is the compilation of everything you’ve done for God, and everything he has done for you. Most importantly, your story explains to everyone how you got there so they can learn how to get to heaven too.

Take for example this video I filmed of my train trip to Rome. I thought nothing of it at the time, but by recording what I was doing, I could share with you on a personal level my story at a personal level. Plus, you get to see how I find myself on a night train headed to Moscow! How did that happen?

Stories are profoundly important. We can celebrate a saint’s life because we know what he or she did while here on earth, like us. For some saints, we a lot about their story. Others we know only a few words or lines. Though with each story, long or short, we the ups and downs that the saint faced and how they prevailed. We know what trials they faced. The struggles. The persecutions. We know what they did in response, and we know the final result. Heaven.

Though with each story, long or short, we the ups and downs that the saint faced and how they prevailed. We know what trials they faced. The struggles. The persecutions. We know what they did in response, and we know the final result. Heaven.

And thanks to their stories, we can learn and follow their path.

Your story is how you evangelize people’s support to your work

Pope Paul VI explains best why your story is the best form of evangelization.

To evangelize is first of all to bear witness, in a simple and direct way, to God revealed by Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, to bear witness that in His Son God has loved the world.

But evangelization would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man’s concrete life, both personal and social.

Evangelii Nuntiani (Evangelization in the Modern World) – Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Paul VI

So, yes, I’m talking about evangelizing. This term that gets always referenced yet too often we scratch our heads asking, “Well, how am I supposed to do that?” Pope Paul VI tells us exactly how to evangelize: through your life. Your story and life are one in the same.

Remember, you are a saint in progress, and your story explains how you overcome struggles and follow God to reach heaven. The life you are living at this moment is your journey to God, and it needs to be shared.

Stories are the bedrock for great Catholic fundraising

So how does your story relate to fundraising? It’s straightforward. People donate not because you asked them to give. People give financially because your story inspires them to do so. They see how you are bringing Jesus Christ to the people around you.

Therefore, if you are not receiving as many donations as you’d like, it’s may be because you are not sharing your story (e.g. evangelizing) enough. Not enough people know who you are, what you are doing, and inspired by your life which mirrors Jesus Christ.

The simple solution is to tell your story more often. In fact, to be a fantastic Catholic fundraiser, the objective is to share it every day.

Storytelling is the foundation for great fundraising because as I said people donate to what inspires them. They don’t donate because you asked. If you aren’t telling people on a consistent basis how you are bringing Christ into the world, then how are you inspiring them? That’s the missing link in having a successful campaign and long-term growth.

The simple reason so many Catholics aren’t raising funds

I am overwhelmed by how many incredible Catholic apostolates, orders, parishes, schools, and organizations I meet who are petrified to tell their story. Yes, you heard me correctly. They are scared cold to say what they are doing.

In fact, they are more scared to share their story (how they are saving lives and souls) than to ask people for donations.

They come to me asking to help them find donations because they think that is the challenge. They think that money will solve their problems and get them to the next level. When I offer them a full-proof plan for raising funds but explain that it first starts with sharing their story, they freeze. It’s insane. I cannot explain it because they are doing God’s work, but something inside of them is keeping them locked in.

Why are they looking for donations when they cannot even speak about what they do? Fear. Fear of actually doing God’s work and then getting donations to do even more. Fear of inspiring people. Fear of helping more people. Fear of doing something that is beyond their imagination.

Yes, I’m completely serious. People – especially honest, faith-filled Catholics – are scared to let Christ lead them within them knowing exactly where they are going. In other words, you have to have faith that no matter what happens, Jesus will take care of you.

This, my fellow Catholic, is hard. I know because I’m this way. You are likely, too. Following Jesus is no simple task. It’s scary at times to trust him.

Telling your story today will help you fundraise immediately

We mask our inabilities to follow Jesus with the excuse that we need money first. Catholics tell me often, “God is calling me to do [insert vocation], but I’ve got to get the funds first.” I hear this almost every day. Catholics think they need to fundraise first. It’s the exact opposite.

You need to go out in the world are do your mission and telling your story, 365 days of the year, and then, you can successfully fundraise. You don’t need money. You don’t need a major donor backing your work. You just need to get up and start today.

Take for example the major Catholic charities that are bringing in millions each year. What are they doing throughout the year? Telling their story, and that’s why they are so big. It’s also how they got big in the first place.

They regularly told their story – like so many saints – and gradually grew. Saint Ignatius, Saint Bernard, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Saint Benedict were so successful in spreading the Gospel and building their religious orders because they constantly told their stories. I’m sure you can name a local charity that does the same.

You may object to what I am saying. You may be thinking that you need money to tell your story. You may argue that these big charities are successful in telling their story because of the money they are raising. Well, you’re wrong. You don’t need lots of money to tell your story.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Saint Paul, 2 Corinthians 12

Your step by step guide to telling 1,000,000 Catholics your story, for free

As Pope Paul VI says in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelization in the Modern World, we must use social communications to spread our stories.

Our century is characterized by the mass media or means of social communication, and the first proclamation, catechesis or the further deepening of faith cannot do without these means, as we have already emphasized.

You have to use social communications (social media) to tell your story, and the best part: it’s free. That’s one of the miracles of being a Catholic the 21st century.

You can talk about your faith to more people than ever before. Back in the day, to share your story by video, you had to get on TV. That could be difficult to do, and if you want to start a station, it was costly. Now, you can start your own YouTube channel in minutes, which costs nothing and upload your videos.

To share your story by audio, your only option in the past was to get on the radio. Again, this could be costly and difficult to do. Now, thanks to the internet and social media, it’s free and accessible to everyone. You can setup your channel through iTunes, SoundCloud, or Stitcher in minutes.

To share your story by text 10 years ago, you would have to write a book, find a publisher, and hope they’d distribute it for you. Now, you can share your story via a blog and share it with the world for free. You can also write and publish an e-book and distribute it online. Again, for free. Do you see the recurring theme? No more costs of publishing, printing, and distributing. It’s all free.

In the past, to give regular updates or ask for donations, you had to spend loads of money to mail newsletters and magazines to people. Again, this was an incredibly costly method and therefore limited to the people who could afford it. Now, anyone (meaning you) can update people for free via email using email services like MailChimp, ConstantContact, Aweber. What’s even better: you can do it instantaneously. You don’t have to wait days for them to receive your update. Nor do you have to wait to hear a response.

You also have services that allow you to host live video conferences/seminars (also called webinars) where you can gather a group of people in real time to talk with one another. I’ve been on webinars that have had over 1,000 people attending. It was a fantastic experience.

I would like to share one last signification point about social communications. You have numerous social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Medium, Tumblr, LinkedIn) to share with people what you are doing by text, audio, and video.

You have all these free services with the ability to reach nearly every Catholics on planet earth. You are no longer constrained by geography, money, or resources. All you need is a laptop, electrical source, and internet connection to tell your story.

Can it get any easier? Do you see the miracle in front of you? Pope Paul VI is demanding you get plugged in and start spreading your message about Jesus Christ. Go. Tell all nations. Now.

Your story will help you find donors and gifts

So what’s stopping you from telling your story and inspiring thousands, if not millions of people? What’s stopping you from taking your cause to the next level? It surely isn’t money.

If what you are doing is of God and for God, he will surely take care of you. Take what I am saying to heart and start telling your story today.

Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not. – Exodus 16

When you start sharing your story, they will do three things. First, they will be grateful to hear from you. Two, they will be inspired to share your story with their networks of friends, family, and fellow parishioners. And three, a certain number of those people will be inspired to support you the next time you ask.

This is how you fundraise in a Catholic context in the 21st century. This is how you take your apostolate to the next level. These are the seeds you plant so that God can grow them for you. Do God’s work, and he will help you do even more.

Here is the Pray, Pray, Pray, Ask approach for telling your story:

PRAY: Stop everything you are doing and get a pen and paper. Now, take 15 minutes and reflect on what your mission is. Ask yourself: Who are the people you wish to help and what concrete actions are you taking to serve them? Write the response.

Take two minutes to read this article on the spirituality of fundraising and how to make sure you start in the right direction.

PRAY: Take 15 minutes to reflect on all the people who make your mission possible. This includes the people and groups who help you do your work. Remember that help can come in many ways, not just financially. They can provide time, energy, knowledge, material, and connections. Write down their names and what each of them does.

Check out this article on the different roles people play with your fundraising and how they can help you attract more donors.

PRAY: Take 15 minutes to reflect on the three ways you can tell your story. Is it through audio? Video? Text? Live event? What are the four social platforms (blog, vlog, podcast, social page, etc.) you can use to tell your story? Write a weekly plan for what modes (audio, text, video) you will tell your story and what social platforms you will use.

My recommendation is always to have a website and email list. These are the two building blocks every Catholic organization should have. From there, you can add social media platforms.

Learn more about how to plan your next story with this article on how to inspire Catholics to donate.

ASK: The time is now to take action. Share your story once a week with the people who help you do your mission through these four channels you selected. Ask them to reply, share, and comment on your story each time you share it with them. Then, from time to time, ask them to give a gift or to purchase an item.

Check out this article on how to keep an authentic voice when asking for donations.

Question: What is the best way you can start sharing your story with more Catholics?

Getting back on track with your fundraising goal

Welcome, July! We just passed the halfway point of 2017, and I have to ask a simple but important yes or no question, “are you on track with your fundraising?”

I will make the bold assumption that you are behind. Maybe even far behind. Why? Because like most Catholic fundraisers, executives, and directors, you realize that fundraising is more challenging that you expected. After looking back at the past six months, you have come to the conclusion that raising funds doesn’t just happens by chance.

More than likely, you are behind because of one of the following reasons. (Actually, it could be a few of these reasons. Maybe even all of them.)

1. You don’t have as much time as you hoped to fundraise

2. You don’t know where to find donors

3. You don’t know whom to ask

4. You don’t know how to ask

5. You have a hundred other things to do and cannot focus on fundraising

6. You fell behind early in the year and didn’t know how to get back on track

7. You are overwhelmed by the competition for people’s donations

These are just seven possibilities among many. What other challenges are you facing? You can let me know by leaving a comment below.

How would you like to solve these challenges today?

For the first 26 weeks of 2017, I have submitted an article each week on how to fundraise more efficiently in the Catholic context. If you are subscribed to my website, you receive these articles directly into your inbox along with private access to additional resources to keep you moving forward.

If you are not subscribed, you can do so here and benefit today from these resources.

I send an article a week because the key to success with fundraising is simple. It’s all about perseverance and implementation. Implementation happens when you persevere, week after week, and move forward with your fundraising goal.

If you don’t believe me, check out Luke 8:15.

I post an article every week because I know that continually giving you new ideas also gives you more encouragement, more focus, and better chances of succeeding. Therefore, you have the solutions for solving all your challenges.

To get back on track, you have to change

You now have a choice. For the next 26 weeks of the year, you can change your trajectory and get back on track with fundraising. But to do so, you cannot do what you did for the past 26 weeks. The key to success in fundraising is not about finding that one, magical donation. That’s unfortunately how most Catholic organizations fundraise, which is why they are behind. They now have just 6 months to hopefully find it.

The key to success in fundraising is not about finding that one, magical donation. That’s unfortunately how most Catholic organizations fundraise, which is why they are behind. They are hoping to find it before Christmas.  Well, the odds are stacked against you. By fundraising this way, you are placing everything you do at unnecessary risk.

Rather, success is a direct result of pigheaded determination and discipline. This doesn’t mean you constantly ask for donations. It means you gradually improve how you look for donors, how you ask them, and how you nurture the relationships.

My promise with this website is that you will learn how to fundraise for your charity, non-profit, school, or religious order resulting in the finest, most efficient, and most Catholic approach possible.

This way you can save even more lives and souls.

At CatholicFundraiser.net, you will get the tools to become an expert in three crucial areas: communicating, fundraising, and stewardship. Mastery in each of these areas is necessary to make you raise money with success.

Fundraising success is at your fingertips

You can profoundly improve your fundraising if you commit to one hour per week in which you do nothing else but work on making fundraising more efficient. With the ideas and content provided via this website, you will learn exactly how to spend that hour.

My approach to fundraising is laid out in straightforward language with practical examples spelled out from every angle. The most critical angle being Catholic. And the best part is that you’re not going to work harder; you’re only going to work smarter.

So, I offer you this opportunity. If you are ready to dramatically improve your fundraising, subscribe to my website if you haven’t done so already. You can do so by clicking here.

And, if you are willing to make a giant leap, I am offering you the chance to catch up with your fundraising goal in the next 26 weeks.

Question: What is the biggest challenge you are facing today with fundraising and how can I help?

The Alms Book is Your Definite Guide to Fundraising

I passed through Dallas, Texas last week, and I had the privilege of stopping by the Catholic radio station, KATH 910 AM Guadalupe Radio, to speak with Dave Palmer about my book, Alms: Your Definite Guide to the Ins and Outs of Catholic Fundraising.

To get a free copy of the book, jump to this page. (Warning: there is a LIMITED supply. So, first come, first serve.)

You will really like this interview because Dave and I talk about how to overcome some of the biggest obstacles when it comes to asking for donations.

I also shared my story of how I got started in fundraising for Catholic organizations. A few years ago, I quit my job in consulting to help my diocese raise $60 million. Soon after, I started helping Catholic charities in my community with their fundraising.

Since then, I’ve never looked back.

Today, I help over 20,000 Catholics each month through my website. I also travel the world to share my thoughts and ideas. Next month, I am speaking at a conference hosted by Caritas Internationalis, which is the Vatican’s arm of charitable services and raises over $1 billion a year.

How did the Alms book get written?

I’ve learned to trust God and follow my vocation to help as many Catholics as possible with their fundraising. It sounds like a crazy vocation, and in the beginning, like Abraham, I was scared. I thought, “was this what God really wanted me to do?”

I lacked the faith and trust to respond, but little by little (with the help of daily Masses and rosaries), I persevered.

As I learned to believe more and more (kind of like what Fr. Michael E. Gaitley talks about in 33 Days to Merciful Love), things took off.

Now, I teach Catholics how to overcome the hurdles of combining faith and money.

How to fundraise for your Catholic cause

In the interview, I highlight the importance of focusing your attention on God and not on money. You have to always remember that you don’t need money. You may think you do, but you don’t. You need God.

Then, when you got your bearings right and are moving forward, it may be the right time to fundraising.

This is when you use what I can the Generosity Factor. You have to demonstrate a giving attitude which inspires people to give. You can learn more about this concept in the interview and in an article I wrote: The Generosity Factor: The Fastest Way to More Donations.

The Alms book is your definitive guide to Catholic fundraising

The book is structured so that anyone can move quickly with raising funds. Even if you don’t have donors, and you don’t know where to start, this book will help you move forward.

I also talk about the importance of being 100% Catholic. Too often Catholic charities, organizations, religious orders, dioceses, and parishes shy away from their Catholic identity because they are afraid it’ll scare donors.

In my experience, the opposite is true. Catholics (and even non-Catholics) are most inspired to give when they see authentic Catholicism.

So be Catholic!

You can pick up a free copy today (remember: there’s a limited supply… ) and move your Catholic work forward.

Get your free copy of Alms (before I run out).

Question: What’s your biggest hurdle with fundraising today?

Alms Book Fundraising

Book Review: ‘Imagining Abundance’

Imagining Abundance by Kerry Alys Robinson offers a personal account of the lessons learned when running major capital campaigns for Catholic universities and institutions.

The book focuses heavily on the practical side of fundraising in the Catholic context. Plus, it is less than 100 pages, so it’s a quick read, allowing you to move forward quickly.

Kerry, a director of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management and a Catholic fundraiser, offers a valuable look at what it takes to fundraise in the Catholic context.

I enjoyed reading this book because Kerry offers real life examples of how to deal with money and faith. Every recommendation is validated from a situation she experienced.

She also makes every effort to share practical advice to help move you go even further with your fundraising.

12 Strategies from Kerry Alys Robinson’s book Imagining Abundance

Here are 12 strategies I found helpful from reading Imagining Abundance. I’m confident these can help you too:

Everyone is called to be a giver. Central to Christianity is the conviction that one finds life by giving it first away. Therefore, remember that everyone, not just the wealthy, is called to be philanthropists. Meaning, don’t just look for major donors because that is not the Christian approach.

Be careful with your language. Eliciting generosity and responding generously deserve reverence, not disparagement. Come from a position of abundance, not scarcity.

Be aware of your values. We all have different approaches to money. Is it holy or sinful? Just recognizing the difference perspectives people have will help mitigate the ups and downs of fundraising.

Don’t separate fundraising from your mission. Do not exclude fundraising from the other parts of your mission because the divide will negatively impact everything you do. Recognize the value that fundraising brings, and even though challenging for many, you and your team must find a balance.

Don’t guilt trip people. Obligatory giving or giving out of guilt always signal a weak and unhelpful approach to fundraising. Avoid saying phrases like “we need … if not …”

Fear is the antithesis of faith. Yes, raising money can be scary, but don’t focus more on the fear than on the faith that raising funds will help you do even more with your mission.

Alms Book Fundraising

Be confident and positive. Do not give in to the negativity from critics even when it comes from smart, capable people whom you admire. A cynic is one who has given up but not yet shut up. On your side, don’t give in or give up.

Avoid negativity. Limit contact with negative people whenever possible. Again, fundraising is difficult enough.

Remember that money matters. People (and likely yourself) have a strong connection to money, and this can be an invitation to sacred and meaningful conversations.

Don’t dilute the importance of giving. Philanthropy and fundraising can be profound expressions of what is most deeply meaningful in life. Therefore, don’t dilute the subject or avoid the depth of these matters. Dive deep, especially with major donors.

The starting point of great fundraising is gratitude. Be grateful for people’s financial donations but just as important, be thankful for their time, presence, intellectual expertise, experience, talent, wisdom, compassion, mercy, stamina, joy, encouragement, and faith.

Donors are subjects, not objects. Like you, they want to contribute to something meaningful and life-giving and fruitful. Acknowledge these and treat people with care.

Kerry ends the book with a positive reflection of what’s possible, which is much needed in the Church today. Too often we can think that there is no money, no donors, and no opportunities. The reality is we must imagine abundance it exists.

Kerry encourages us to think big, be positive, and never give up.

Discussion question: What about you? What do you find to be the best strategy for being a fundraising in the Catholic context?

[You can leave a comment below.]

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Book Review: ‘A Spirituality of Fundraising’ by Henri Nouwen

The book by Henri Nouwen, A Spirituality of Fundraising, is often considered a classic and a reading requirement for anyone looking to raise funds.

No more than 60 pages, Henri condenses great reflections and necessary skills to be successful in fundraising within the Catholic context. By success, I (and he) refer to strengthening your mission, inspiring people around you, and reaching your fundraising target.

 

When I began fundraising, I approached it from a technical and secular angle because everything that I read and heard was in these contexts. Henri’s book was one of the first sources that I discovered which showed how to connect faith and fundraising.

Henri Nouwen constantly references to Scripture and champions that fundraising isn’t just about raising money. He sees it in the bigger picture, recommending fundraisers see their work as a ministry.

From this faith-focused approach, Henri helps you move forward quicker by building your confidence, clarifying your focus, and reaffirming that your work is an important part of your Catholic cause.

Alms Book Fundraising

12 Recommendations from Henri Nouwen

There are many great takeaways by Henri Nouwen. Here are my top 12.

Fundraising is precisely the opposite of begging. Rather, you should think, “I have a vision that is amazing and exciting. I am inviting people to invest in my mission through the resources that God has given them – their energy, prayers, and money, in this work that God has called us to do.”

Be confident and clear with your invitation. This is because you trust that your mission and vision are like trees planted by streams of water that yield their fruit.

Make it more than just a request. When asking for donations, aim to convert people through your mission. Allow them to experience a profound shift in how you see, think, and act. I go into detail about this subject in my article, How to Keep an Authentic and Catholic Voice when Asking for Money

Invest people’s money if it is a match. Take people’s money and invest it in your vision only if it is good for their spiritual journey and health.

Be confident. If you lack confidence and are weak in your invitation, you will disconnect fundraising from your mission, and this is a serious risk.

Have a healthy relationship with money. You will never be able to ask for money if you do not know how you relate to money. Have a solid, clear, and healthy relationship with money. Don’t fear it.

Minister to the wealthy. Don’t look to rich people just for money because many of them are lonely and need as much ministering as poor people. You must minister to the rich from your place of wealth – the spiritual wealth you have inherited as a member of the Body of Christ.

Speak with the Holy Spirit. Approach potential donors in the Spirit of Christ when asking for money. By doing so, you do so with an attitude of confident freedom.

Show the opportunity. Asking for a donation is about giving people an opportunity to put their resources at the disposal of the kingdom.

Offer a community. Give your donors, potential donors, and followers a community to join because it is one of the greatest gifts that you have to offer. Just as someone has money to give to you, you have friendship, prayer, peace, love, fidelity, and affection to offer them.

Have a convincing plan. Show potential donors a strategic plan that convinces them that their money will help increase the productivity and success of your work. (I write about how to do this in the article, How to Plan for Fundraising Success

Be patient and execute. With the right environment and patient care, seeds can yield a great harvest, “thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:20)

Discussion question: How do you think we can best link spirituality and fundraising?

[Please leave a comment below to share with me and other Catholic fundraisers.]

 

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First 100 Days of 2017: The Biggest Lessons Learned

What are the big lessons of the first 100 days of the year? I get to meet hundreds of Catholics each month who are doing incredible projects. Whether it’s starting a new charity or expanding one, Catholics are working hard in the vineyard to bring Christ to the world.

As a fundraiser dedicated to helping them achieve their goals, particularly the financial ones, I am privileged to learn what works best in getting people to donate.

 

I also get to see what doesn’t work. Not all the Catholics I meet have success when fundraising, unfortunately. They start out strong but then lose steam. Today, I want to talk about the three biggest lessons I have learned this year from the Catholics who are succeeding in fundraising.

The lessons I’ve learned in the first 100 Days of 2017 have been so valuable to me that I thought it would be cool to open up my notebook to you and shared these big lessons.

The Three Big Lessons of Fundraising in 2017

If you’d like to be a better fundraiser (or even if you’re just curious to learn what makes a success Catholic appeal or campaign), you will gain a lot from these insights.

Lesson 1: Be Disciplined

When fundraising for an exciting Catholic project, you can often think that the applause you get from friends, family members, and other Catholics will turn into financial support. These accolades rarely convert into donations. That’s why you must be disciplined in your fundraising.

To do so, I recommend you set a time in your diary each day to reach out to people, communicate your message, connect with them, and from time to time, ask. If you don’t lock time in your diary to do so, you will forget, and as a result, nothing will happen.

I offer a guide, How to Fundraise in 10 Easy Steps, which will help you structure your fundraising.

Lesson 2: Simplify your Fundraising

I have found that Catholics are most successful with fundraising when they simplify their approach. Meaning, they break down their fundraising into small, simple steps, and move forward one step at a time.

The steps are as followed. They learn how to fundraise correctly, allowing them to move forward not based on assumptions. Then, they start doing consistently, as I mentioned in lesson one. The third step is they learn to master fundraising. They never stay complacent with doing the same thing year after year. They always look to be better because they know this will make fundraising easier and more successful.

To learn how to master fundraising, I recommend subscribing to my website if you are not already. Each week, I dive into a different topic, offering you the best of what is working.

Lesson 3: Be Organized with Donor Data

The third lesson comes from a religious sister who is responsible for the fundraising of a prominent Catholic school in the United States. (She also graduated from Harvard.)

You must get your donor data in order. Also, you should use a user-friendly donor management system, as soon as possible. Along with this, you must get your processes in order. This includes donor acknowledgments, grant calendars, and appeals. If you have reliable processes in place, things will go smoothly whether you have 100 or 100,000 donors to manage.

I offer a structured approach for doing this which follows the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You will find the references make everything much easier.

What is the biggest lesson you learned this year about fundraising?

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How to Cut Your Fundraising Costs by 99% (and more)

In the ten plus years that I’ve been working, I’ve experienced dramatic changes in how I work. I used to travel to an office, wasting an hour commuting each way. Now, I can do everything I want in a coffee shop in the middle of the Alps.

It’s a bit crazy because I think that I am cheating. I’m reaping the benefits because I can spend a lot more time focused on my mission: making an impact in the world with my Catholic faith. Plus, when I am done working, I can immediately do something I enjoy, rather than spend another hour in a car or public transportation commuting home.

My father drove one hour each morning, and then another hour in the evening to work. He did this for 30 plus years. I don’t anymore.

Nor should you.

how to cut fundraising costs

The way we work is changing, and one of the biggest benefits of this shift is the costs of working are reducing significantly. This is great news for Catholic charities because you can dramatically reduce your fundraising costs. There is another benefit to the change: donors are more attracted to you when you can say, “Hey, we don’t spend a dime on fundraising!”

Here are five ways you can reduce your fundraising costs and attract more donors to your work.

Catholics love charities who maximize efficiency and reduce unnecessary expenditures. I have found that when you cut the costs and tell them how you are doing it, people donate more.

1. Paper – Go digital with your communications. More and more people are using the internet to do their day to day activities. This includes accessing content online to stay up to date with what’s going on with the world.

For your donors who pay online, you can ask them if they want to receive all their communications online. For those who pay via check and cash, you can ask if they’d be happy to do the shift.

2. Printing – You can cut huge costs by not printing as much. By sending your content digitally, it costs you the same amount (almost nothing) to send 100 copies as it does to 100,000. Remember the feeling of printing 1,000 flyers and then recognizing you go the date wrong. Well, with online content, you just have to refresh the page or send another email.

3. Postage and envelopes – Email and social media have introduced a low-cost revolution for sending messages to your followers, donors, prospects, and partners. Again, sending content costs almost nothing compared to the option of emailing your messages.

Here’s another massive upside to going digital. With the amount of time and money you are saving, you can focus more attention on posting handwritten, individualized thank you letters to certain people.

4. Staff – Most fundraising tasks can be automated by software.

Payments are processed through online gateways such as PayPal and Stripe. Designing and publishing newsletters are done with free and easy-to-use software such as Canva. Sending messages and updates to donors is done instantaneously with email services such as Aweber and Mailchimp. Relationship Management software like Salesforce (Charity Edition is free) and InfusionSoft manage all your interactions with donors and prospects.

These tools save you hours of work and more importantly, they help you build stronger relationships with people. You no longer have to treat everyone the same by sending costly and generic newsletters and donation forms in the post. A staff of 5 to 10 people can now be reduced to 1 person with a few software subscriptions.

5. Office space – You also don’t even need an office anymore. Just a laptop, internet connection, and mobile phone. You don’t have to have a room or hallway filled with filing cabinets of the donation forms, newsletters, and leaflets. All your information is safely stored and organized digitally for a fraction of the price.

Conclusion – Seize these opportunities today

Catholics are looking for charities that are reducing their fundraising costs. By doing just this, you will differentiate yourself from all the other charities and get a lot more attention. As a result, you will get more donations.

The digital age is a prime moment for anyone who wants to take the leap and learn. The rewards outweigh the learning curve by miles.

Question: How can you reduce your fundraising costs today? (leave your comment below)

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Fundraising Plan

How To Plan for Fundraising Success

We can easily become distracted from our goals when confronted with all the challenges that come our way. If we begin to worry about something, it’s natural that we focus our energy and thoughts on that problem rather than our initial goal. Unfortunately, if we do this too often, we eventually slip away and don’t succeed.

This happens to me when I fundraise. I start the year with a plan to raise a set amount of funds, yet as the year goes by, I find myself venturing into tasks that aren’t directly helping me raise money. Why? Because I get so scared about all the challenges that come at me. Fundraising is not an easy job, and when things aren’t working right, I can too easily freeze up and forget what I am doing.

That’s why it’s important to have a practical and straightforward plan when fundraising that you can stick with no matter what happens. Also, you want a plan which measures how well you are doing, helping you stay on track throughout the year. This way, when you see things are not moving forward, you immediately know to readjust your focus and get back to what you should be doing.

Most Catholic charities, unfortunately, don’t plan for success

When it does come to measuring and tracking performance, most leaders in Catholic organizations don’t consider these activities as essential. They focus instead on the pastoral, social, and human aspects of the work. I commend each of these, as they do have merit. However, the Bible is filled with numbers and measurements. It even has an entire book, Numbers, dedicated to measuring things. God’s name is even a number, The Holy Trinity. Therefore, taking proper measurements and tracking them should be considered.

If measurements are tracked, most Catholic organizations, however, focus on measuring outcomes, such as the amount of money raised. In my experience, I don’t think this is the right way to plan or monitor progress because the amount raised is based on previous results and assumptions of what you think you can and cannot do.

Instead, I’ve learned that a plan which measures tasks rather than outcomes allows my success rate to be much higher. This is because I focus on what I have control over (such as the number of meetings conducted, the number of gift requests made, or the number events hosted).

“If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.” – William Thomson, the scientist who calculated the correct measurement of temperature.

When you focus on donation sizes and money, you are getting into no man’s land. Sure, you can guess what someone could give, but this shouldn’t be the underlying factor for success. In the grand scheme of things, you don’t have control whether people say yes or no. What you do have control over is what you say, how you say it, and whom you speak with. Therefore, manageable tasks and frequently measuring them are the strong basis for a fundraising plan.

Success in Catholic Fundraising

What is a successful fundraising plan?

A plan aims to achieve and measure four objectives: (1) increase the number of people who are connected with your organization, (2) continually identify and cultivate prospects, (3) increase the number of donors, and (4) increase the amount raised.

“Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?” – Luke 14:28.

Let us take a look at how you achieve each of these.

Objective 1: Increase the number of people connected to you

Before someone donates to your organization, they must first learn about what you do. Therefore, your first goal is to increase continually the number of people who know what you do.

Key Actions:

1. Identify the words, facts, visuals and emotions that attract people to your organization. I wrote a blog which outlines seven ways how you can inspire people to connect with you.

2. Identify where the people who enjoy what you do spend most of their time and reach out to them. Do they live in a particular place? Do they attend a certain Mass? Do they read certain magazines, journals, or blogs? Rather than spend money on advertisements in a Catholic magazine, thinking that people will read it and visit your website, I recommend researching what mediums have the biggest impact.

3. Analyze your messaging and adjust regularly. Consider testing several styles to see which works best.

The best way to do both of these is to ask your current followers and donors how they connected with you and what inspired them to stay in touch. Then, you just replicate, replicate, replicate. If you do this over and over again, you will hone your message and attract a growing number of followers.

Key Measurements:

* Feedback from current donors and followers: where they came into contact with you and what inspired them.

* Track all traffic of your different channels: events, 1-on-1s, website, social media, referrals, connections. What are the trends and what factors are causing them?

Objective 2: Identify and Cultivate Prospects

Among your growing crowd of followers, you must identify and cultivate which ones are prospects for donations. Many Catholic organizations skip this step altogether and instead ask everyone connected with them to donate. I don’t recommend doing this because you, unfortunately, scare people away. People don’t like to be asked for money before a relationship and trust are founded.

Therefore, it’s important that you spend ample time on this task, allowing you to find the right people to ask. Also, you allow the people who have recently come across your organization the time and space they require to learn more. Or, if someone is still not that active with your group, you don’t bother them with a gift request, but instead, you can reach out for other requests, such as volunteering, attending events, or providing feedback.

Key Actions:

1. Collect quantitative feedback about followers – Track who comes into contact with your organization and how often. This can be the number of phone calls, emails, events, campaigns, pilgrimages, or other methods you use to connect with people.

2. Collect qualitative feedback from followers – Find ways to keep track of what people say and how you can respond. You don’t have to track everything, but I do recommend finding simple methods for collecting feedback.

Key Measurements:

* Dream List (click here to learn how to make this list)

* Track Engagement – this includes email opens, email clicks, social media interaction, attendance at events/meetings

* Feedback – Monitor who is saying what about you, especially if they make hits that they would like to support you

* Number of prospects – This includes why you think they are a prospect for donating. Use the levers to guide you

Objective 3: Increase your number of donors

When it comes time to asking for donations, you will find that asking someone is much easier when you already know who the person is and why you think they can donate. As a result, there isn’t any guessing or unfounded hope. You’ll also avoid many difficult situations with your followers.

Therefore, the best way to ask for donations is to determine, as best as possible, whom to ask. Yes, you have to select people, but it’s not how most people do it, basing on how much you think the person can give. Rather, this is done through four actions.

Key Actions:

1. Successfully follow the first two objectives.

2. Collect feedback from current donors as to why they donated. They will tell you how to communicate most effectively when asking prospects for donations, rather than you falling back on generic fundraising terms.

3. Identify your best prospects from the level of engagement and feedback you have collected from them.

4. Based on what you know about each candidate, make a guess at what level you think they can give. There’s no exact science, but more than likely, if you’ve been doing your homework during the first two objectives, you have a good idea of what the person may be interested in giving.

I cannot stress this point enough. When you know what your current donors are thinking and why they support you, you know what conversations to have with prospects. You also avoid being pushy because you know who to speak to and how to talk.

Key Measurements:

* Number of current donors

* Number of new donors

* Number of requests

* Track conversion rate (the number of prospects asked divided by number who became donors)

* Keep track of the words, phrases, comments, photos, visuals that are inspiring candidates to donate

Objective 4: Increase Funds

I have found the most successful and quickest way to raise more funds is in two steps: ask my current donors to increase their donations and keep as many of them as donors every year. Therefore, the following two actions should be your focus.

Key Actions:

1. Building long-term relationships with your donors, and this doesn’t mean only your major donors. I make it a point to reach out to every donor because you never know who can give what.

2. Collecting feedback about what donors like, dislike, or what they would like to see more.

Once again, I cannot stress this point enough. Feedback is one of the most important tasks in fundraising. If you are not learning what people think, you run the risk of making false assumptions. Therefore, set time each year to ask donors what they think.

Also, ask major donors what inspired them to donate at a higher than average level. And, if someone has recently increased their giving, ask them why. You may think this is intrusive, but I have found that donors enjoy sharing their stories as much as you enjoy sharing yours.

Key Measurements:

* Average donation

* Feedback from all donors

* Names of donors who have indicated they’d like to support more (they usually make hints)

* Number of requests to increase donations

* Track conversion rate (saying yes to an increased gift)

* Feedback from donors who increased their donation

* Retention rate (how often donors renew their gift)

The most overlooked metric in fundraising is retention. Most fundraisers look at conversion, the percentage of people who say yes to their requests.

However, if you want a sustainable, long-term Catholic organization, the most successful way of achieving this is to have your current donors donate each year. Therefore, what you want above everything else when growing is to have a high retention rate.

If you currently have a low retention rate, meaning not many donors renew their support each year, I recommend you research why this is happening and find ways to increase this. You may find the reason to be as simple as donors are just not being asked to renew.

Case Study – I raised 5-figure donations at an event that cost me almost nothing to host

I hosted an event for an organization, inviting a mix of people: prospects, new donors, current donors and people on my dream list. Each person was hand selected from the information I tracked in my fundraising plan.

The focus of the event was simple: to share with the guests what we had accomplished, what we were doing currently, and what our plans were to move forward. Above all of this, our focus was to build relationships by personally speaking with each guest. There were no add-ons, auctions, music, gift request or expensive food. As a result, we drastically reduced the cost and preparation time for the event.

In preparation for the event, my team and I spent the majority of our time learning who each guest was and what questions we could ask them. During the event, we were able to build deeper relationships. We asked the prepared questions and learned what had inspired them to attend the event and how they would like to continue their relationship with us.

By working this way, we hosted an exciting and engaging event. Everyone felt welcomed, listened to, and left that evening more connected with us. As a result, a few weeks later when we followed up with each guest, we received several 5-figure donations and planted a seed for a future 6-figure donation. All of this happened as a result of us having a fundraising plan.

Conclusion

Most fundraising events or plans focus their attention on raising funds and getting people to sign commitment forms. I’ve spoken to over 1,000 Catholic donors, and again and again, they all want to give, yet they don’t want to be pushed into corners.

When you put in place this fundraising plan which focuses on building relationships, collecting feedback, and nurturing long-term support, you are preparing yourself for success. Also, when times get difficult and trust me, they will, you will know how to stay focused.

Therefore, I recommend taking a piece of paper and write your fundraising plan today. It doesn’t have to be longer that one side. The shorter the better. Then, I recommend you share your plan with your colleagues and leadership team, asking them to consider what it says and agree on it. By being all on the same page, you are setting yourself up for even greater success.

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Discussion Question: How do you plan your fundraising? (use comment box below to share your thoughts)

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