You strive to be a saint because doing God’s will is why you get up every morning. Though right now, at this very moment, there are key distinctions between you and a saint. The first is that a saint is already in heaven. The second is people know a saint’s story. You have to wait for the first, but you can start today on telling people your story.
I don’t want you to leave for heaven right now, but I do want people to know your story. Why is sharing your story so vital to your mission, charitable cause, non-profit, or however you describe the work you do? It’s because while you are here on earth, a pilgrim en route to the Kingdom of Heaven, your is what will get you there.
Your story is the compilation of everything you’ve done for God, and everything he has done for you. Most importantly, your story explains to everyone how you got there so they can learn how to get to heaven too.
Take for example this video I filmed of my train trip to Rome. I thought nothing of it at the time, but by recording what I was doing, I could share with you on a personal level my story at a personal level. Plus, you get to see how I find myself on a night train headed to Moscow! How did that happen?
Stories are profoundly important. We can celebrate a saint’s life because we know what he or she did while here on earth, like us. For some saints, we a lot about their story. Others we know only a few words or lines. Though with each story, long or short, we the ups and downs that the saint faced and how they prevailed. We know what trials they faced. The struggles. The persecutions. We know what they did in response, and we know the final result. Heaven.
Though with each story, long or short, we the ups and downs that the saint faced and how they prevailed. We know what trials they faced. The struggles. The persecutions. We know what they did in response, and we know the final result. Heaven.
And thanks to their stories, we can learn and follow their path.
Your story is how you evangelize people’s support to your work
Pope Paul VI explains best why your story is the best form of evangelization.
To evangelize is first of all to bear witness, in a simple and direct way, to God revealed by Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, to bear witness that in His Son God has loved the world.
But evangelization would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man’s concrete life, both personal and social.
Evangelii Nuntiani (Evangelization in the Modern World) – Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Paul VI
So, yes, I’m talking about evangelizing. This term that gets always referenced yet too often we scratch our heads asking, “Well, how am I supposed to do that?” Pope Paul VI tells us exactly how to evangelize: through your life. Your story and life are one in the same.
Remember, you are a saint in progress, and your story explains how you overcome struggles and follow God to reach heaven. The life you are living at this moment is your journey to God, and it needs to be shared.
Stories are the bedrock for great Catholic fundraising
So how does your story relate to fundraising? It’s straightforward. People donate not because you asked them to give. People give financially because your story inspires them to do so. They see how you are bringing Jesus Christ to the people around you.
Therefore, if you are not receiving as many donations as you’d like, it’s may be because you are not sharing your story (e.g. evangelizing) enough. Not enough people know who you are, what you are doing, and inspired by your life which mirrors Jesus Christ.
The simple solution is to tell your story more often. In fact, to be a fantastic Catholic fundraiser, the objective is to share it every day.
Storytelling is the foundation for great fundraising because as I said people donate to what inspires them. They don’t donate because you asked. If you aren’t telling people on a consistent basis how you are bringing Christ into the world, then how are you inspiring them? That’s the missing link in having a successful campaign and long-term growth.
The simple reason so many Catholics aren’t raising funds
I am overwhelmed by how many incredible Catholic apostolates, orders, parishes, schools, and organizations I meet who are petrified to tell their story. Yes, you heard me correctly. They are scared cold to say what they are doing.
In fact, they are more scared to share their story (how they are saving lives and souls) than to ask people for donations.
They come to me asking to help them find donations because they think that is the challenge. They think that money will solve their problems and get them to the next level. When I offer them a full-proof plan for raising funds but explain that it first starts with sharing their story, they freeze. It’s insane. I cannot explain it because they are doing God’s work, but something inside of them is keeping them locked in.
Why are they looking for donations when they cannot even speak about what they do? Fear. Fear of actually doing God’s work and then getting donations to do even more. Fear of inspiring people. Fear of helping more people. Fear of doing something that is beyond their imagination.
Yes, I’m completely serious. People – especially honest, faith-filled Catholics – are scared to let Christ lead them within them knowing exactly where they are going. In other words, you have to have faith that no matter what happens, Jesus will take care of you.
This, my fellow Catholic, is hard. I know because I’m this way. You are likely, too. Following Jesus is no simple task. It’s scary at times to trust him.
Telling your story today will help you fundraise immediately
We mask our inabilities to follow Jesus with the excuse that we need money first. Catholics tell me often, “God is calling me to do [insert vocation], but I’ve got to get the funds first.” I hear this almost every day. Catholics think they need to fundraise first. It’s the exact opposite.
You need to go out in the world are do your mission and telling your story, 365 days of the year, and then, you can successfully fundraise. You don’t need money. You don’t need a major donor backing your work. You just need to get up and start today.
Take for example the major Catholic charities that are bringing in millions each year. What are they doing throughout the year? Telling their story, and that’s why they are so big. It’s also how they got big in the first place.
They regularly told their story – like so many saints – and gradually grew. Saint Ignatius, Saint Bernard, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Saint Benedict were so successful in spreading the Gospel and building their religious orders because they constantly told their stories. I’m sure you can name a local charity that does the same.
You may object to what I am saying. You may be thinking that you need money to tell your story. You may argue that these big charities are successful in telling their story because of the money they are raising. Well, you’re wrong. You don’t need lots of money to tell your story.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Saint Paul, 2 Corinthians 12
Your step by step guide to telling 1,000,000 Catholics your story, for free
As Pope Paul VI says in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelization in the Modern World, we must use social communications to spread our stories.
Our century is characterized by the mass media or means of social communication, and the first proclamation, catechesis or the further deepening of faith cannot do without these means, as we have already emphasized.
You have to use social communications (social media) to tell your story, and the best part: it’s free. That’s one of the miracles of being a Catholic the 21st century.
You can talk about your faith to more people than ever before. Back in the day, to share your story by video, you had to get on TV. That could be difficult to do, and if you want to start a station, it was costly. Now, you can start your own YouTube channel in minutes, which costs nothing and upload your videos.
To share your story by audio, your only option in the past was to get on the radio. Again, this could be costly and difficult to do. Now, thanks to the internet and social media, it’s free and accessible to everyone. You can setup your channel through iTunes, SoundCloud, or Stitcher in minutes.
To share your story by text 10 years ago, you would have to write a book, find a publisher, and hope they’d distribute it for you. Now, you can share your story via a blog and share it with the world for free. You can also write and publish an e-book and distribute it online. Again, for free. Do you see the recurring theme? No more costs of publishing, printing, and distributing. It’s all free.
In the past, to give regular updates or ask for donations, you had to spend loads of money to mail newsletters and magazines to people. Again, this was an incredibly costly method and therefore limited to the people who could afford it. Now, anyone (meaning you) can update people for free via email using email services like MailChimp, ConstantContact, Aweber. What’s even better: you can do it instantaneously. You don’t have to wait days for them to receive your update. Nor do you have to wait to hear a response.
You also have services that allow you to host live video conferences/seminars (also called webinars) where you can gather a group of people in real time to talk with one another. I’ve been on webinars that have had over 1,000 people attending. It was a fantastic experience.
I would like to share one last signification point about social communications. You have numerous social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Medium, Tumblr, LinkedIn) to share with people what you are doing by text, audio, and video.
You have all these free services with the ability to reach nearly every Catholics on planet earth. You are no longer constrained by geography, money, or resources. All you need is a laptop, electrical source, and internet connection to tell your story.
Can it get any easier? Do you see the miracle in front of you? Pope Paul VI is demanding you get plugged in and start spreading your message about Jesus Christ. Go. Tell all nations. Now.
Your story will help you find donors and gifts
So what’s stopping you from telling your story and inspiring thousands, if not millions of people? What’s stopping you from taking your cause to the next level? It surely isn’t money.
If what you are doing is of God and for God, he will surely take care of you. Take what I am saying to heart and start telling your story today.
Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not. – Exodus 16
When you start sharing your story, they will do three things. First, they will be grateful to hear from you. Two, they will be inspired to share your story with their networks of friends, family, and fellow parishioners. And three, a certain number of those people will be inspired to support you the next time you ask.
This is how you fundraise in a Catholic context in the 21st century. This is how you take your apostolate to the next level. These are the seeds you plant so that God can grow them for you. Do God’s work, and he will help you do even more.
Here is the Pray, Pray, Pray, Ask approach for telling your story:
PRAY: Stop everything you are doing and get a pen and paper. Now, take 15 minutes and reflect on what your mission is. Ask yourself: Who are the people you wish to help and what concrete actions are you taking to serve them? Write the response.
Take two minutes to read this article on the spirituality of fundraising and how to make sure you start in the right direction.
PRAY: Take 15 minutes to reflect on all the people who make your mission possible. This includes the people and groups who help you do your work. Remember that help can come in many ways, not just financially. They can provide time, energy, knowledge, material, and connections. Write down their names and what each of them does.
Check out this article on the different roles people play with your fundraising and how they can help you attract more donors.
PRAY: Take 15 minutes to reflect on the three ways you can tell your story. Is it through audio? Video? Text? Live event? What are the four social platforms (blog, vlog, podcast, social page, etc.) you can use to tell your story? Write a weekly plan for what modes (audio, text, video) you will tell your story and what social platforms you will use.
My recommendation is always to have a website and email list. These are the two building blocks every Catholic organization should have. From there, you can add social media platforms.
Learn more about how to plan your next story with this article on how to inspire Catholics to donate.
ASK: The time is now to take action. Share your story once a week with the people who help you do your mission through these four channels you selected. Ask them to reply, share, and comment on your story each time you share it with them. Then, from time to time, ask them to give a gift or to purchase an item.
Check out this article on how to keep an authentic voice when asking for donations.