How to Ask for Gifts and Get Donations

What more could be said about engaging with prospects and donors? We all know what it comes down to. We all know that the ask is the biggest, scariest, and most important, the one action that can change our Catholic mission in an instant.

While hesitant about how to properly ask for a gift, Catholic leaders and fundraisers consider communicating with prospects and donors as super important. However, strangely enough, they shy away from developing any deep conversations. They instead hide away and ask only when desperation kicks in. Even after they’ve asked, they rarely follow up and obtain a definitive answer.

They would rather play scenarios in their heads. “Why have they not responded to my request?” “When will they get back to me?” “What do I do now?”

How to ask for gifts

It’s the cycle of doom that will leave with you raising nothing.

Why no one is giving and never will give to you

They do this only because they sabotage themselves when it comes to authentically communicating with people. The most stubborn Catholic charities avoid altogether authentic conversations and engage in dialogue only when it comes time to ask for money.

And if they do overcome these hurdles, it’s because the donor is the one who’s seeking them out.

It stands to reason that authentic communication with people is the one topic that should require the least explanation. Yet this article ends up being the longest because although fundraisers, board members, and leaders think they understand communicating, they obviously do not. If they did, Catholics would be lining up to make donations to them.

For now, unfortunately, the majority of Catholic charities and apostolates still have not realized the single need to communicate in an authentically Catholic voice, allowing them to attract more attention, find more prospects, gain more donors, and raise more funds.

Think about why Catholics donate:
to give back,
to make an impact,
to connect,
and to catch up on a cause they know and care about.

In the process, donors find out what other Catholics are doing; what causes they are championing; what ideas they’re hatching; and where they’re going. Catholics want to see change happening and the Kingdom of God at work. Which means you better communicate messages that are relevant, engaging, and useful.

The roadblock is you’re asking as if you’re in 1985, not 2017

Now, if it were that easy, this would be a short post. Hire better copywriters and share better messages, and you’d be good to go. The problem is that three forces have made it more difficult for even the most talented storyteller to deliver authentic messages to Catholics. These are (1) the number of Catholics, (2) the evolution of the Catholic laity, and (3) charities’ responses to these changes.

The very reason that fundraisers want to have a presence in the Catholic Church – the sheer number of Catholics – makes running a campaign an immense challenge. Over a billion members (70 million in the USA and even more in Europe) worldwide, all the campaign material causes a conundrum. With thousands of requests streaming into parishes and competing for attention, it’s unlikely Catholics read or listen to each request, even if it is incredibly compelling and authentic.

This brings us to our next issue: the evolution of the laity. Since the Second Vatican Council, we’ve seen an increase in the laity’s involvement in the Church, particularly with donations. Yet Catholics are human. We have a limited span of attention. We lose focus quickly. Our personal tastes change. We move from city to city, state to state, even country to country. We get married, have kids, and change jobs. So we are not always connected with what is happening in the Church.

The old-fashioned fundraising approach to getting people’s attention by letters and pulpit appeals are long gone. Catholics toss letters in the trash, and they zone out after Mass when the appeal occurs.

More than likely the majority of Catholics in a certain geographic location are completely unfamiliar with the local Catholic charities. It’s not that they don’t care. It’s because they are new to the area, focused on their job and family, and already committed to overflowing responsibilities already in front of them. Adding anything else to the plate seems ludicrous.

Catholic charities know that times have changed. They understand that people’s lives change, though the demographics they target and their methods of targeting them have not. Why do most not change? The answer is clear. They are more committed to their ineffective methods of fundraising than they are to their mission. As a result, the result is their mission is suffering. The people they assist and care for are also suffering.

The solution is to generously share authentic stories with Catholics

That is why it has never been more important to produce quality and authentic streams of communications that Catholics want to interact with – a charity’s future visibility depends on its donor and prospect engagement levels.

Unfortunately, the engagement that fundraisers most want to see is not the same as those of Catholics. Fundraisers want Catholics to respond to their requests. That is why they put so many out there. What they don’t realize, however, is that Catholics respond to a voice that echoes that of a Catholic – what a novelty, right?

How then are we supposed to communicate in an authentic Catholic voice that gets people to donate? By staying vigilant. By accepting that you have to interact with Catholics every day in your authentic voice. And by getting to know your community like your own family.

How do you do that? You tell them stories they want to hear. You give openly and generously.

I wrote a more detailed article on how to to do this which you can access here.

What are three ways you can communicate more authentic stories with Catholics in your community?