We’ve probably all done this: We start a fundraising campaign by immediately looking for people to ask. We go full charge into hunting for donors without considering, ‘How well do they know me?” and ‘Why am I asking?’
What if we stop and consider a more Catholic approach? I use the term ‘Catholic approach’ because it’s not usually appropriate to ask anyone, especially strangers, for donations when they don’t even know who you are, wouldn’t you agree?
Take Jesus for example.
If we consider how Jesus started his ministry to proclaim the Kingdom of God, we learn two tips about fundraising. Yes, even Jesus collected funds, and he had a unique approach. [Matthew 23:23, Luke 8:1-3, Luke 10:7]
Before he dove into his mission, which included asking for donations, he did two important first steps that we should replicate. First, he paused to reflect on what he was going to do, and then he checked that his apostles were clear about what the mission was.
Before we run around asking for funds, we should do the same as Jesus. It’s important to start any campaign with first, checking that you’re clear with what you want to do and second, confirming those around you are clear about that, too.
1 – Start with a clarity of mission.
Before you run off and look for supporters and funding, pause for a moment and get clear with exactly what your mission aims to accomplish.
While you may think you’ve figured this out, you’d be surprised how unclear that might really be if you dig a bit deeper. Even Jesus took 40 days to prepare himself for his mission. He knew what awaited Him, but He also knew the importance of being spiritually, mentally, and physically prepared.
I recommend that you pause, just as Jesus did, and take at least 40 hours to review your mission and your path to that goal. You could even take this time to fast. Reconnect yourself with God to make sure you are fully prepared to move forward.
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2 – Make sure people know who you are.
You should never assume that people know what it is that you do. Even if it looks obvious, people will always have questions. Like Jesus, you want to make sure that those who work or volunteer for you are equipped to clearly share your mission with people during a fundraising campaign.
Remember that Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” [Mark 8:27]
By getting those around you on the same page, you’ll save time and effort later, especially during gift requests, because you and your team will know how to answer these questions. When people know exactly what you do, and you clearly answer their questions, you both soothe their misgivings and encourage them to be more eager to support your mission.
Taking ‘the Jesus approach’ to your fundraising.
We all want to rush fundraising and get straight to work in the vineyard, but fundraising starts with a clear understanding of what you do and how those around you communicate it to during a campaign. Even Jesus, the Son of God, took time to do these two important steps.
Consider taking the same approach as Jesus before you launch your next campaign. The result will be that you’ll have more confidence in both your work and your ability to communicate it to others.
Question: What’s the first step you usually take when fundraising? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
How do you succeed in fundraising for your mission, cause, or vocation? You’ve likely asked this question countless times. As a fundraiser, my life’s mission is to get as much money as possible into the hands of Catholics just like you who are doing great work.
I get my best inspiration for running successful campaigns from the saints. When we think of saints, we often forget that they at times had to fundraise. I recently came across the story of St John the Almsgiver. My good friend Nathan, who runs the fantastic website the Almoner, referred me to this saint.
St John is an excellent example of a saint achieving great results by using money.
Born in the 6th century, he entered religious life after his wife and child died. He eventually was elected bishop during the Byzantine era and then gained prominence in the West. He was an original patron of the order of St. John of the Hospital, the Hospitallers, which still exists today as the Knights of Malta.
Saint John the Almsgiver wasn’t shy about accumulating wealth and using it to spread the faith. In fact, he was so good at it that it has become his hallmark. I find this fascinating because John reached sainthood all the while using money to help him.
Here are four lessons you can learn from Saint John about how to raise funds and use money to further your mission.
Lesson #1 – Have a positive and inspiring attitude
Saint John was known to be amiable to all: advising, encouraging, assisting, acting as peacemaker, reconciling enemies, and striving to act virtuous in every moment.
By his positive attitude, he opened many doors, particularly around circles of influence and prominence. John became well known and respected by the leaders of the Byzantine empire, private individuals, the emperors, and the nobles and governors. This helped him spread the Catholic faith and raise funds.
Lesson #2 – Set the example and give generously
John recognized that he had to inspire others by his own life in order for them to get involved in his causes, particularly the St John Hospitaliers. To do so, he donated considerable amounts of time and money to causes of the Church. He also gave advice to people through stories from his own life but also by the lives of the saints and Scripture.
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He would say about the martyrs of the Church,
‘If some men have given their own blood in the service of Christ, we ought to give of our possessions to the poor and needy, so that we may receive our recompense from the just rewarder, God.”
John was a strong believer in the phrase, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows in blessings will also reap abundantly.” John sowed every day of his life and — as a result — was able to surround himself with money.
Lesson #3 – Be both confident and patient
John understood that we can be impatient, especially when it comes to asking for support from others. He, however, balanced that urge with the confidence that God will always provide by opening doors.
He knew that he could always make requests to the Lord, but also avoided being impatient for his prayers to be granted, by being ready to grant other people’s requests.
Instead of being focused solely on his mission, he quickly fulfilled the requests of others, remembering the words of our Lord, “The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” [Matthew 7:2] and those of the prophet: “As you have done, so will it be done to you.” [Obadiah 1.15]
His patience and confidence resulted in gathering large groups of people and wealth around him.
Lesson #4 – Double your fundraising through humility
This lesson comes from the true story of John, who lost all his wealth just as Job did. John had bold plans for spreading the faith, and thought he was doing a great job by raising funds and distributing them. God, however, took everything away.
Instead of scolding God and his circumstances, John learned that being wealthy often boosts our ego and makes us haughty, even if it is for the greater glory of God. When this unexpected downturn happened, John took the opportunity to humble himself as he patiently endured it.
Scripture teaches us that poverty humbles a man, and King David recognized this truth when he said, “It was good for me to be afflicted, in order to learn Your statutes.” [Psalm 119:71]
Though John lost his wealth and could no longer help others, he recognized that God was the same during troubled times as He was in good times, and as He was with Job.
Therefore, John stayed faithful to the Lord.
And after a short time, God doubled John’s possessions.
Raising funds like a saint
St John the Almsgiver teaches us that accumulating wealth for your mission starts with you, rather than with hunting for donors. The way John behaved with others and followed Christ is what earned him his name: the Almsgiver. People who witnessed his dedication to his work, to his prayer life, and to others were then moved to give him money.
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.