My fundraising started to kick into high gear when I better understood how it connects with my Catholic faith. When we talk about faith in the context of fundraising, we often hear lines such as, “You just have to have faith. It’ll all work out.” “Do not worry about fundraising. What is supposed to happen, will happen.”
What do these phrases mean? Better yet, are they helpful?
Personally, I think such phrases demonstrate an incorrect approach to how we — as Catholics — should connect faith and fundraising.
In the wake of the scandals which continue to plague the Catholic Church, I’ve been interviewed multiple times by news outlets asking the same question, “How will Catholics respond?” The question is focused on the aspect of financial giving. Yes, Catholics are most definitely considering how to take action. However, you and I both know that taking financial action – which is appropriate – is not the most important.
And yes… it’s the fundraiser saying this – money is not the most important action! You and I can respond in greater ways than reducing the amount we donate.
We should look at the Second Vatican Council on how to respond. One of the pillar documents, Apostolicam Actuositatem, was written by the Council Fathers and lays out the blueprint for what the laity must do, especially during a scandal.
We’ve all read Bible verses in appeal letters and brochures, right? It’s one of the classic tactics of fundraisers to stick scripture into a request to reminds us how it’s our duty as Catholics to give. If you’re running an appeal or campaign, you likely want to do add a few verses into your material.
But what if I told you there is a right way — and a wrong way — to use the Bible in your fundraising?
I’ve got good news for Catholics who want to use Bible verses to inspire people to give: You can quote the Bible without looking cliche’. In fact, I do recommend quoting scripture in your appeals. However, there are rules that you must follow so you don’t sound like the typical fundraiser just pulling at our faith to get to our wallet.
Using the Bible in Your Fundraising
Let’s start by facing the fact that the common practice of using the Bible to get people to donate risks watering down the meaning of these beautiful verses. This is not something you want to happen with your Catholic cause.
Take the often-used classic verse from 2 Corinthians: “God loves a cheerful giver.” This verse gets right to the point that we should give because it’s what God wants us to do; plus when we do it, we should be happy about it! But, using this verse can pull potential donors in the opposite direction. They may get upset and, consequently, choose not to give.
The reason why quoting Bible verses may backfire is because fundraisers often use them as shortcuts with their appeal. By the time we do receive the appeal letter, we rarely know much of what the charity has been doing or how it’s made a difference. To know this, we’d have to hunt for the annual report, but who wants to do that? Instead, the fundraiser hopes that reminding you of your Catholic duty will trigger a donation.
This realization turned a key for me. I noticed that using Bible verses can improve a donation request only if we followed four rules.
1. Don’t Make It the One Thing
Yes, God likes a cheerful giver, but that doesn’t mean the giver should be giving to you. Therefore, don’t assume that the quote immediately connects the person reading your letter with your charity. Provide the reader specific reasons why they would be happy to give to you. You can do this by clearly outlining the results their donation will help achieve.
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2. Make It Unique
Catholic charities often use the same Bible verses when writing their appeal. In contrast, successful fundraisers know they must differentiate themselves from everyone else. Therefore, when they pick a verse, they choose one that relates to their mission and makes them stand out from the crowd. The most important question to ask yourself is this—is this verse quote most applicable to me?
I suggest using resources such as Cruden’s Complete Concordance to the Holy Bible to help you find new Bible quotes.
Note: if someone knows of a Catholic alternative, please let me know in the comments section below.
3. Ask Around
Starving charities wait the last minute to run an appeal. Successful charities are willing to plan ahead and make sure they’re sharing their story correctly. They often solicit feedback by asking your volunteers and donors what Bible verses and parables you should use. It’s a good path to both learning how people see you and fundraising more effectively.
4. Think Enough About Money
You must understand that too much focus on the Bible verse can make us overlook everything else about fundraising, especially for those of us who want to focus solely on the faith aspect of our work. I recommend you ought to think enough about the money aspect of your appeal so that you can continue to do what you love without worrying too much. Always remember that the faith-driven person raises funds to help more people, so don’t shy away from this fact.
You have to wonder what it takes to start a religious order from the ground up. You’ve got to be equipped with a lot of spiritual, mental, and physical resilience to handle all the ups and downs. It has to be quite similar to the path an entrepreneur takes. The definition of an entrepreneur is someone who “assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” How fitting is that for the description of a founder of any new Catholic cause?
Over a year ago, a friend sent me a copy of a fascinating biography on Saint Ignatius of Loyola. It was entitled, Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits. (you can read a PDF version of this book here) What struck me was that it took a different angle than most books about a saint. There was a chapter in the book named, Saint Ignatius as Fund-Raiser. The author of this chapter, Fr Thomas Clancy, researched the activities that Saint Ignatius took in the last 10 years of his life to build a sustainable foundation for the Society of Jesus.
My fundraising started to kick into high gear when I better understood how it connects with my faith. The word “faith” gets thrown around a lot and unfortunately, it loses its meaning. I took a close look to understand what faith means and what it does not mean.
The common phrase about faith when you fundraise is, “You just have to have faith, and it’ll all work out.” In everyday terms, we often hear, “I’m living on faith.”
What do these phrases mean? When someone says them, I also hear, “Just sit back and do not worry. What is supposed to happen, will happen.”
My conclusion is that people associate faith with not having to do much. This is entirely false. Just read what the Catechism says about the subject. With regards to fundraising, having faith means, if God wills it, people will donate. So you don’t have to spend lots of time fundraising because faith will take care of everything. Faith will magically make happen what you want. This approach has you believing more in magic than in faith.
How faith works in fundraising
I do not want to dive too deep into a theological lecture about faith, but I do have a few comments which I think will help you find a more Catholic approach with fundraising. Let’s first start with a Catholic definition of what faith actually is because it doesn’t mean to wait for things to magically appear out of nowhere.
“the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”
Faith is the belief in things we yet cannot see. In the context of fundraising, you can say that faith is believing that donors and donations exist even though you cannot see them. It’s not that they will magically appear. They are just not in front of you at this very moment.
Therefore, faith doesn’t mean that donors will show up one day. Faith means that they are out there. This is a small but important distinction.
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So when someone says you just need faith that you’ll receive donations, don’t think that donors will come with open checkbooks to your door. Faith means what you are looking for is out there. That’s it. It doesn’t mean donors and gifts will come to you. To have donations come to you, that’s where the work kicks in.
Have faith in God, not money
To have faith work in fundraising, you have to be crystal clear on what precisely you believe but cannot see. I am not talking just about money and donors. Money is bi-product of what you want. I am talking about having a clear understanding of what God is calling you to do.
If he wants you to take care of the homeless, does that mean God wants you to build a shelter? To take care of the sick, does that mean God wants you to build a hospital? To be a missionary, does that mean God wants you to build a network of people around the world?
Faith means getting clear on what you want. That’s step one.
Be clear on your mission.
Then, when you move forward, you have faith that God will surround you with the people that will support you. Those people start appearing in your life, and you stop them to say, “Hey, I want to talk to you.” With your eyes fixed on your vocation, you start recognizing the people along your path. It’s not that people appear out of nowhere. Nor is it that people appear after you ask. They show up because God wants you to succeed. You just have to keep your eyes open. This is how fundraising works. Fundraising happens when you are already doing what God wants you to do.
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Again, let me be clear. Fundraising is a tool to help. It’s not the tool that makes it happen. You don’t need money to start realizing your vocation, cause, or mission. You have to already be moving forward. As you move forward in faith, fundraising can help you to keep going.
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Again, a small distinction that has a tremendous impact. Fundraising is used to expand your reach, but it is never the catalyst or what keeps you afloat.
Faith is also tied to hope. To go back to Saint Paul, he says that faith is the realization of what is hoped. Well, what do you hope for? Let’s open one of my favorite books, the catechism. I love being Catholic because everything is so clearly explained in the catechism. (If you don’t have one, I recommend purchasing one today.)
The Catechism states:
“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
Hope for me is that burning fire that keeps me going to pursue what I yet cannot see. Hope doesn’t come from me. It’s from God. When you are looking for those donors that you have not found yet, hope helps you keep looking. Fundraising deals with constant rejection. Sometimes you will get weeks, even months, of people saying no to your requests. Hope, however, keeps you going. It’s important to recognize that hope kicks in when we are striving for the right purpose.
If you desire to find people who believe in your work, who see what’s possible, and passionate about your cause, then hope helps you make the journey.
“With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones.” – Ephesians 6:18
Hope helps build your confidence that you will reach your goal. You can pair the word hope with perseverance. Each step of the way, hope is guiding you with how to inspire people. Hope doesn’t mean going from one lukewarm campaign after another, thinking the next one does better. I see this a lot. It’s a skewed version of hope. If you’re dragging your feet from one campaign to another, it means you evaluate your approach. I say this because the Holy Spirit is giving you the wisdom, knowledge, and guidance on how to improve.
“But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.” – Luke 8:15
Putting your faith in fundraising
My goal is not to show you how we can place faith in money. I want to move fundraising a bit closer to the truths of our faith. The challenge with fundraising is that it lives in its own bubble, separate from the virtues. This is the problem. You have to look at fundraising with the right perspective if you want to get better at it.
When we talk about faith in the context of fundraising, it doesn’t help to say, “have faith that donations will come.” That’s not going to get you moving forward. If anything it’s going to drain your desire to move forward with your mission. Money is not a necessity of life. We should not be sitting around waiting for it to appear. What is necessary is for you to find what your faith is actually telling you to do. This means finding your vocation, otherwise known as the answer to, “What does God want me to do?”
When you fundraise, you can be too focused on the idea that money is what will move you forward. When this happens, you become blind to what God wants you to do and who he places in your life. Sometimes he places donors where we least expect it. Sometimes he gives us guidance when we aren’t looking. We are so fixated with receiving money that we aren’t aware of what’s happening around us. We don’t see the people God is placing in our lives.
Always remember that every donation you receive comes from the hands of someone. Therefore, keep your eyes and ears open at all times. Get to know people. Build your community. Most
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Therefore, flip your thinking on faith when it comes to fundraising. Start with getting clear with where God wants you to go. Then start walking in that direction. Don’t wait for the money to come. Just move forward. You don’t need money to start. Move forward and have faith that God will provide. As you move forward, watch who God places in your life.
My goal is that you look at faith through a different lens when you fundraise. This adjustment moves you closer to understand what God wants you to do and how fundraising can help. Here is my recommendation for how to do just that.
Pray – Take time to have clarity of your mission. Where does God want you to do? Read part three of the catechism, “Life in Christ,” and review all the footnotes. The footnotes are a great resource of wisdom to move forward with your mission. Journal your thoughts on how you see your life in Christ.
Pray – Answer the question: “What is it that I truly hope for?” Then, ask yourself how you will persevere in your mission and fundraising. Detail what your prayer life needs to be to support you. Find mentors who will give you confidence. Build a community of people around you. It’s important to have your hope be on your mission, not on finding donations.
Pray – Write your plan of action. What acts of charity will you complete for the people you meet? You don’t have to wait for someone to give you money to be charitable to them. Be the first in showing generosity. Charity helps you realize your faith and hope.
Ask – Take action with every person you meet. Whether it’s asking them to donate, volunteer, keep in touch, pray, or attend an event, take action to build the relationship. Keep a list of the people you meet. Grow this list and keep in touch with everyone. Remember, the most important relationship you will have is the one with Jesus. Keep him close to you.
Question: What could you do to have fundraising better fit within your Catholic faith?