10 practical reasons to change how you fundraise
I think one way we can improve Catholic fundraising is by reviewing how open we are to changing our approach.
At one point or another, we have all been in a situation where we wanted to change but found it difficult to do so because change takes time and effort. It also requires us to pause and have clarity on what needs to change and how to carry that change forward.
Pausing to reflect seems impossible these days. For most of us, we live in a constant rush, rarely having the time to step back and assess our day-to-day situations.
Also, in practice, we agree that change is an essential part of life, but how often do we just shrug a new idea off? Most often, we judge an idea without much consideration. We process the idea through a simple, automated decision process: “I like” or “I don’t like”.
Sadly, when presented with a new idea, organizational leaders or managers can all too easily operate in a similar way, responding with, “I’ll think about it.” Instead of taking the time to pause, reflect and ask the question, “How can we improve what we are doing?”, it can be easy to simply carry on with old routines. This method of leadership can cause deep frustration within the organization as people feel they aren’t being heard or appreciated.
It’s human nature to get caught up in the way we do things, but this habit seldom leads to any change happening because we disregard an idea before fleshing it out. We sometimes don’t take the time to step back, reflect, and consider our options. Nor are we always open to the idea of consulting others, taking on their suggestions, refocusing, and moving forward. These actions require that we consider how to change and stick with it.
Not changing also limits our capacity to benefit from new forms of working. I know of one religious order that spent thousands of dollars on flying everyone to one location for meetings. I understand that meeting face-to-face periodically is important for international religious orders. However, what is daunting is that the nuns had never heard of or used Skype, Google Hangouts, or What’s App. In fact, they’ve never had a video conference call.
The same applies to the fundraising methods used by many Catholic organizations. Many of their methods, used for decades, are inspiring fewer and fewer members of the public to give due to changes in the social and cultural landscape. Very few leaders are accepting these realities and considering alternative solutions.
Because we don’t actively embrace change, we usually don’t consider it until a situation has gotten so out of hand that we absolutely must change. Take for example the many fundraising campaigns initiated on the basis that funds have run out, and the charity is on the brink of closing. How often have we heard these kinds of appeals?
As I mentioned, we don’t take on change because it is demanding, and therefore we devise reasons not to change which sound legitimate. In actuality, these excuses are red herrings. I have listed ten common statements why fundraisers are not willing to change.
Top 10 Reasons Catholic Organizations Don’t Change
1. It’s not in the budget
2. Nobody here can do the extra work to get it going
3. It’s going to decrease our quarterly numbers
4. It’ll never work
5. Nobody does it like that now
6. It’s not practical
7. Things are working the way they are
8. We’ve never tried anything like that before
9. That’s never been approved by the leadership
10. That’s not the way we do things around here
You will notice that none of them refer to the mission of your Catholic organization. None of these reasons consider how you might achieve or strengthen your goals or zeal.
Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice; accept correction, to be the wiser in the time to come.”
Take for example the teachings of Jesus. Though he speaks in simple parables, his stories have profound meanings if we stop, reflect and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us. As a result, we change. This practice is called Lectio Divina, and I highly recommend it. When we do consider what the Holy Spirit is telling us, we are open to the different perspective which he is pointing us toward, thereby renewing our commitment to Christ.
This is why it is crucial to have both prayer and a spiritual director in your organization. Prayer and guidance allow you to determine how to calibrate yourself and stay focused on what’s essential, not on what’s easy.
St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church, is someone who inspires me because he recognized the need to change how the Catholic Church operated during the 11th century. Bernard, as an enclosed monk, wholeheartedly took up writing letters and using messengers (both new methods of communicating) to spread his messages and inspire followers.
He wrote incessantly, even writing, “Oh, woe is me! It is impossible to find in all of Clairvaux sufficient clerks for your servant’s needs.” He also crossed the Alps three times, taking advantage of the network of roads which connected him with the Catholic communities and his monasteries.
By embracing change, St Bernard embraced both his monastic vocation and mission to spread the Gospel, thereby achieving his goal: to renew monastic life and Christianity across Europe.
As Catholic fundraisers, if we want to attract donors and support our organizations, we will accept the realities and embrace change.
You can assess how ready you and your leaders are for change by reviewing the ten responses I mentioned. If you find that you do say any of them, I recommend evaluating how you prioritize your work because none of these statements has your Catholic mission at its center.
If Bernard were alive today, I am sure he would learn the new ways of communication via social media and mass media to attract followers. He would have an iPhone and leverage the power of text, voice, and video to reach millions of people and spread the message of Christ.
“To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” – Cardinal Henry Newman (1801-1890)
The mission stays the same, though not necessarily the way we accomplish it. The focus of change is to improve the way Catholics fundraise to strengthen Christ’s mission here on earth. The mission is not about staying in our comfort zone. The people whom we help (the hungry, the lonely, the tired, the scared, the unloved) are not in comfort zones; therefore why should we be?
As Saint Bruno said in his motto for the Carthusians, “Stat crux dum volvitur orbis” – “The Cross is steady while the world is turning.”
Discussion Question: What change do you think is required in your organisation?
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