Everything you do with fundraising begins with your community. Your community consists of every person you bring into your mission. This includes donor, non-donor, volunteer, inquirer, lapsed donor, and even the people who you meet each day. By focusing your attention on building your community, you take them on the journey which is realizing your mission. This community will then be inspired to support you financially.
It’s important to build a community because if you don’t surround yourself with people who are passionate about your work and cause, then you will have difficulty fundraising.
If all you do is surround yourself with major donors, you won’t be as successful because you need more than just people with deep pockets. Your mission is not dependent on the money you raise. Your mission is dependent on God and how he wants you to carry out your vocation. Because you cannot carry forward our vocation alone, you must recognize the different talents that people have who come into your life. Then, you determine what led you together and how you help one another.
Start building your community today
Get started with your community by gathering the people around you. It is your responsibility to invite people into your community, what activities they do, and when to approach them for a donation request. As I mentioned, your community’s purpose is not to surround you with financial donations every month. That may be one aspect of your community, but it happens when the other activities are in place.
There are several ways you can build your community. You can connect members with other members.
- You connect members with other members.
- You get people to share their thoughts and views in discussions. This can be a live event or online.
- You share knowledge and wisdom so that everyone becomes better informed about your work.
- You educate your community about what is happening.
The atmosphere you build inspires them little by little as they discover more about your work. With time, more people get involved and eventually take action. This action can, of course, be through a financial gift. Each community member takes one step at a time to become more involved in your work.
For more ideas on this topic, read this article which outlines 5 activities you can get people to do.
Build a two-way dialogue
Also, your community must have its own voice and identity. I am a fan of having a constructive dialogue with your community because it’s fantastic way of learning what inspires people. If you know what inspires them, you’ll know how to better ask for donations.
While you are the leader who organizes how and when people meet, I recommend taking a step back and allowing others to express their opinions. This is not to say that they dictate which direction you take. You definitely set the boundaries.
One of the best ways to learn what people think is by conducting surveys. I talk incessantly about surveys, and there is a reason for this. Surveys work incredibly well in fundraising. I’ve been using them for years, and I’m still finding new ways for improving my fundraising with them.
Knowing how to engage with your community will help you fundraise better.
Along with listening and connecting with your community, the people around you must grow in knowledge about your mission, the purpose, and the results. You do this by updating them on a consistent basis about what’s happening.
Never assume that because you said something once it’s clear to everyone. Just because you have a page on your website titled ‘Our Mission’ doesn’t mean people know what you do. You have to continually tell people who you are, what you do, why you do it, where you are going, and how you will get there.
For more on this topic of surveys read this article which outlines how to use them step by step.
The Benedictine rule for building community – Listen
I remember attending a lecture at a Benedictine abbey just outside of London, England. The abbot was discussing a specific rule which allows the youngest monk the chance to speak openly with his fellow monks, particularly the abbot.
Saint Benedict added this rule because he understood that sometimes God speaks to us through the youngest or least expected person. Take for example David, Ruth, Moses, Abraham, Rahab, John, and Mother Mary. Look at all the Marian apparitions, as Mother Mary is always more comfortable speaking with children.
It’s usually the person we least expect who has something profound to share. You never know who in your community has something valuable to say, therefore always have an open ear.
Feedback from your community also allows you to recognize what you are doing right. When people are complimenting you on your style, especially when it comes to fundraising, you know you are on the right track. It’s that simple. Your community helps you take a step back, reflect on your work, and keep moving forward. Even when you receive criticism, this negative feedback can confirm whether you are or not on the right track.
Therefore, let people share with you what they think.
Perfect the art of listening by reading this article.
Encourage your community to take action
Another important activity in your community is that they must frequently be asked to take steps forward. It’s not enough to have a group of people around you and hope they will eventually act. This is especially true when it comes to donating.
You have to ask people to take steps forward. Otherwise, you will be waiting a long time before people do.
Whether you are looking for one donor or one thousand, you start with asking your community to take steps forward. Ask each member to regularly take one small way after another. Yes, this all takes time, but this is part of growing your mission, especially with fundraising.
By asking your community to take steps along their journey with you, you connect your mission with theirs. They become co-owners in your work. Then when you do ask for a donation, they more often than not will say yes.
Learn more about how to take action by reading this article on what a Catholic fundraiser should do every week.
An exercise on how to start building your community
Here is a simple Catholic approach to building your community and moving your fundraising forward.
Pray – Take a moment to recognize all the different people in your community. This includes volunteers, donors, colleagues, contacts. Take time to reflect on how you have connected with each person . Read chapter four of Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He provides wonderful instructions of how to communicate with people and thank them for their generosity.
Pray – Review how often you connect with your community and share information and knowledge. Write ideas on how you can share more with them about what is happening so they can learn how things are going.
Pray – Review how often you invite your community to have a voice in what is happening. Regularly take feedback through surveys. Thank people for their opinions and decide on the ones you see most valuable. Let people know that you use their feedback. This makes sure your community knows that you are listening and taking action.
Ask – Each month ask your community to get involved. Diversify your requests so that people don’t get the impression that all you want is their money. For those who are new, ask them to attend an event. For those who have been in your community for some time but you’ve never met personally, ask them to volunteer with you.
For those people who have been very active but not donating, ask them for a financial gift. And for those who have been giving for some time, ask them to increase their contribution or sign up for regular giving.
Over time, when you ask every community member to take one step forward, your momentum will pick up, and as a result, your mission will move significantly forward.