3 Pitfalls Catholics Should Avoid When Fundraising

When you drive, you see signs on the side of the road indicating dangers up ahead.

“Road Work Ahead”

“Slippery When Wet”

“Railroad Crossing”

When you fundraise, you should also see signs of dangers ahead. These signs usually come in the form of hunches, advice, and experience.

Today, I want to share three warning signs for fundraising. You could say these signs indicate the pitfalls to avoid. Each is extremely important and should not be overlooked:

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Other articles you might be interested in:

“Who Really Cares” – Who Donates and How to Ask Them to Give

3 Common Questions about Fundraising Answered

Fundraising Tips from Saint Augustine of Hippo

Make sure to get your free copy of ‘The 10 Commandments of Catholic Fundraising’. It’s a book that highlights the ten tasks you should do to keep you focused on your mission and hit your fundraising target, every time.

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Question: Which saint, Catholic document, or Church teaching has given you great advice on how to raise funds? Please leave your comment below.


Greetings my fellow Catholics! Today, we are going to be talking about three pitfalls to fundraising. What to really, really avoid doing on your next appeal or campaign. What you really do not want to do. So we’re going to be covering that over the next few minutes but first, a quick introduction. 

 My name is Brice Sokolowski, the founder of CatholicFundraiser.net, a website and apostolate completely dedicated to helping Catholics just like you with their fundraising. Whether you’re an individual or apostolate just starting out or you’re well on your way and you’re just looking for fresh ideas for a current campaign, I can assist you. That’s my specialty. That’s what I do.

Before we start today’s topic, let me mention my free guide, The 10 Commandments to Catholic Fundraising. Make sure that you click and download, absolutely free, these 10 recommendations,  that come from me and everything that I’ve learned from not only my own professional fundraising work but from the experiences of others, on what really works when it comes to fundraising. My10 Commandments of Catholic Fundraising will be right there, ready for you to download for free, print out, and share with everybody that you’re going to be working with. It’s very, very useful, so don’t let this opportunity pass because learning how to fundraise correctly is a huge chunk of the whole journey into fundraising. 

Now let’s dive into today’s topic, and I’m looking at my notes, which are also going to be included on my website. The link is below and today’s topic is, Three Pitfalls to Avoid in Fundraising. What do you not want to do? 

Point number one, first and foremost, is that you never (never, never, never, never) want to ask anyone for a donation that you do not know or do not know you. Avoid asking strangers. I know it sounds like everybody else is doing it. Well, there’s a lot of bad fundraising out there and good fundraising doesn’t do this. So if you think you’re limiting your chances of fundraising and raising money, you’re not. I can honestly tell you that the majority of donations always (repeat, always) come from people who know their apostolate.  Avoid giving yourself additional work and frustration and just don’t ask for donations from people who don’t know you. Don’t ask people that you don’t know. That’s point number one. 

My second point is, indirect is unpersuasive. Meaning, avoid falling back on the generic donation request. For instance, sending out your newsletter and in the back is the usual donation form. Sure, you can do this every now and again, but that’s not going to be a reliable way to raise a lot of money. In general, I would avoid those types of fundraising. (Yes, you can have the form, but it should be part of  actually doing a campaign.) Avoid being indirect and impersonal. The better way of looking at it is flipping it around and becoming more personable! You should know and use the person’s name. Try to be as direct and one-on-one as possible. Try to make each appeal letter feel as unique as possible for each individual. This goes right back to my point, avoid being impersonal and you’ll be more persuasive. Don’t just lump everybody into one big bucket: Donors, non-donors, donors you haven’t met yet, people that you kind of know, people that have been around you for years. Don’t try and lump them all together and say, look, let’s just make one appeal letter for everybody. Really avoid doing that. And avoid being indirect or generic. If you’re asking for a donation, make sure that they know it. Say it: I’m asking for a donation. 

My third point is to avoid not explaining why you need the money. Be clear on this. It’s not enough to say that you’re a nonprofit. It’s not enough to say that you’re a Catholic apostolate. It’s not enough to say, You’re Catholic and I’m Catholic. You must be much more specific on why you need the funding. It’s not enough to just say, we’re going to be fixing the building or we’re fixing the air conditioning. Even that’s not really being specific enough. If you are going to be fixing a roof, tell them what the point is of fixing the roof! Obviously fixing the roof ensures everybody’s safe underneath. Well, what is everybody doing under that roof? That’s more or less the Why, the specifics of why their money is needed. You can’t just say we need to fund buying a building before specifying what’s going to actually happen in that building. If you don’t, it’s going to be really hard. Avoid the pitfall of being bland and generic. I know most appeal letters and campaigns avoid doing all the things that I say to avoid avoiding. So you might be thinking, nobody’s doing this. Actually, there are a lot of Catholic apostolates doing what I’m saying and they’re very (very) successful. That’s the benefit of looking at things from the inside and knowing what works. Compared to when you’re on the outside and assuming that well, everybody’s doing it, so it must be working. That is not very good thinking especially when it comes to fundraising. 

Those are my three pitfalls to avoid in fundraising. If you have any questions, just reach out to me! Also please share this with an apostolate that you think might benefit from the advice, share this with your leadership team, please, spread the message, and reach out if necessary. May God love you and I hope to speak to you soon!

Want to fundraise more for your Catholic apostolate?

Make sure to get your free copy of ‘The 10 Commandments of Catholic Fundraising’. It’s a book that highlights the ten tasks you should do to keep you focused on your mission and hit your fundraising target, every time.

Click here to subscribe

Brice was born and raised Catholic. After enjoying a successful career in technology consulting with Accenture and PriceWaterhouseCoopers in cities across the United States (Dallas, San Francisco, Paris, Abu Dhabi, and London) around the world, he left it to help his Catholic diocese in London, England with a fundraising campaign. The campaign went on to raise over $60 million, the largest sum ever raised for the diocese and in the United Kingdom.

Learning from professional fundraisers, he figured out the basics and then left the diocese to focus on what he loves most: building Catholic charities that change the culture, save lives, and save souls.

Brice currently lives in Texas and travels the world helping Catholics fundraise. This website is where he shares what he is doing and how he is raising funds for Catholic causes and missions. That way you can move more quickly with your next appeal.