Like every job, fundraising requires guidance and persistence. Whether you are a novice or expert, you will always have questions and learn something new. Also, you will discover that dedication to this craft, particularly during the most challenging times, always pays off.
I remember one moment at the start of my fundraising career. I did not have much experience in grant writing, yet I had to submit one for an important project that required a significant sum of money.
I researched for weeks how to write a compelling application and asked several people for their help. After submitting it, I then had to wait several months before receiving a response. I tried to keep my mind off it, but I could not. I wanted to know if they approved the proposal. What was taking the trustees so long to think about? I wondered. Surely they reached an answer by now.
Eventually, I did receive my response. The trustees accepted my application and gave the full amount. My colleagues, wide-eyed, cheered and high-fived one another. This was a big moment for us all. This money was a turning point for the charity.
How did we arrive at this exciting moment? I’m sure there are a thousand reasons, but four stood out for me as I took the time to reflect on what brought us here. Each is a valuable lesson for any fundraiser.
Lesson 1: Have the right support around you
I recommend you not fundraising alone. My most successful years have been when I have surrounded myself with experts and resources. God has called you to do incredible work. What you do helps so many people. I hope my help offers you ideas, direction, and momentum that carry you forward to raise all the money you want.
Iron is sharpened by iron; one person sharpens another.
A key reason for me making a website, writing a book (click here to learn more), offering training workshops, and speaking to charities in person (click here to learn more) is because I know you will have incredible results with support.
I recommend that you stay connected with me by subscribing if you have not already to www.CatholicFundraiser.net. You will have access to free resources to keep you moving forward. I am always sharing new ideas and tools to provide you the best recommendations and insights into Catholic fundraising.
Lesson 2: Continuously grow and learn
Remember that the expert in anything was once a beginner. Fundraising takes dedication and time to be an expert. I hope you, therefore, take the time to continually learn how to fundraise better because raising money can make a tremendous difference in your charity, parish, or community.
And if you think you know enough already, or you are happy with the way things are, Stay open to new ideas. Sometimes the old way of fundraising is less efficient and more costly. Take a look at how technology is transforming how people work and communicate. These changes are also bringing better ways to raise money.
Getting fundraising right is a continuous process, and you will learn and develop your approach in time. It will be challenging at times but also exciting, especially as you become more and more successful.
Lesson 3: Do not get discouraged
You will experience countless failures, therefore don’t be discouraged. I have had my fair share of bad weeks and months. You may find at times that no one is donating to you. But that doesn’t matter. You don’t raise money for everyone to donate. No. You do it because you believe in Christ and the people you are helping. And if you keep pressing on, you’ll snap out of your losing streak.
You will run into two main kinds of issues in fundraising;
(1) not raising enough money to fund everything
(2) not finding enough prospects to keep growing fast enough
Most charities recognize the first one and stay focused on it. However, the second issue is the cause of the first. It is also most often overlooked. Therefore, I recommend that you keep pressing forward by attracting people’s attention and finding new prospects. Soon enough, you will be back on track.
I wrote an article on how to keep growing your prospect list which you can read by clicking here.
Remember that God always places the right people in your life. We, however, get easily distracted and don’t always see them. Therefore, keep your eyes and ears open. Listen. Listen. Listen.
Lesson 4: If you feel uncomfortable, you are fundraising correctly
Fundraising can make a tremendous difference in the life of a Catholic charity. It also remains for many charities an activity they don’t want to do. We are not excited about the idea of fundraising. For most of us (including me), raising money can cause anxiety.
However, no matter what the obstacle is, if you want to move forward, you have to pick up the cross and press on. When you feel uncomfortable about fundraising, I suggest turning to the saints.
I wish that Saint Bonaventure when writing the life of Saint Francis explained how Saint Francis rebuilt three churches. Did he raise money? Did Saint Francis ask volunteers to help him? Did he raise money to pay people? What we did accomplished this along with so many other marvels.
Saints achieve the unbelievable while facing tremendous obstacles. Saint Benedict built a monastic system. Saint Martin of Tours evangelized Western France and organized a network of monasteries. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux made the Cistercian Order flourish while keeping the Church unified. Saint Claire of Assisi helped Saint Francis transform Italy.
Saint Theresa of Avila became an influential mystic, even after falling ill and incapable of walking. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, during the last decades of his life, spent a considerable amount of his time raising money to build schools across Italy.
Saints always find ways to accomplish things greater than themselves. It’s apparent that God did not create us to do easy things. He’s made us for greatness, like Him.
Final thoughts about fundraising
Whatever you set out to do, raising funds usually takes more than hope. These four lessons apply to any environment: Believe it’s possible, believe you are uniquely equipped to succeed, and stay focused on accomplishing what God calls you to achieve.
Question: What lessons have you learned from fundraising? You can leave a comment below.
This article was also published on Tito Edward’s Big Pulpit.