While reflecting on what has driven the success of the Catholic organizations I’ve helped with fundraising, I have come to recognize some common characteristics that I want to share with you.
The organizations, religious orders, schools, or apostolates that keep the momentum going each week also raise the most funds. The habits and steps that they all share are simple and easy to repeat.
It’s not some magic appeal letter or mysterious major donor that has made the difference. They are the difference! By showing up each day and consistently taking action with their fundraising, they have reached their funding targets and even exceeded them.
In particular, I’ve seen three essential characteristics that can make the biggest impact. I recommend that, if you adopt the habit of applying all three, every week, then, you will get to where you want to go.
At some point with your fundraising – or you may have already experienced this – you will struggle to find donors.
Today is your lucky day. Because this article outlines exactly how you will never have to struggle again. In fact, in the next paragraphs, you will find ideas so good and practical that you can start applying them today and see immediate results.
When it comes to your Catholic nonprofit or cause, you simply don’t have the time to waste struggling to find donors, so let’s find your next 10 donors today.
First, I want you to take a step back and recognize that, even before you start looking for donors, you are probably juggling 100 other tasks that need to be done, plus another 100 hurdles getting in your way.
We’ve probably all done this: We start a fundraising campaign by immediately looking for people to ask. We go full charge into hunting for donors without considering, ‘How well do they know me?” and ‘Why am I asking?’
What if we stop and consider a more Catholic approach? I use the term ‘Catholic approach’ because it’s not usually appropriate to ask anyone, especially strangers, for donations when they don’t even know who you are, wouldn’t you agree?
Take Jesus for example.
If we consider how Jesus started his ministry to proclaim the Kingdom of God, we learn two tips about fundraising. Yes, even Jesus collected funds, and he had a unique approach. [Matthew 23:23, Luke 8:1-3, Luke 10:7]
Before he dove into his mission, which included asking for donations, he did two important first steps that we should replicate. First, he paused to reflect on what he was going to do, and then he checked that his apostles were clear about what the mission was.
Before we run around asking for funds, we should do the same as Jesus. It’s important to start any campaign with first, checking that you’re clear with what you want to do and second, confirming those around you are clear about that, too.
1 – Start with a clarity of mission.
Before you run off and look for supporters and funding, pause for a moment and get clear with exactly what your mission aims to accomplish.
While you may think you’ve figured this out, you’d be surprised how unclear that might really be if you dig a bit deeper. Even Jesus took 40 days to prepare himself for his mission. He knew what awaited Him, but He also knew the importance of being spiritually, mentally, and physically prepared.
I recommend that you pause, just as Jesus did, and take at least 40 hours to review your mission and your path to that goal. You could even take this time to fast. Reconnect yourself with God to make sure you are fully prepared to move forward.
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2 – Make sure people know who you are.
You should never assume that people know what it is that you do. Even if it looks obvious, people will always have questions. Like Jesus, you want to make sure that those who work or volunteer for you are equipped to clearly share your mission with people during a fundraising campaign.
Remember that Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” [Mark 8:27]
By getting those around you on the same page, you’ll save time and effort later, especially during gift requests, because you and your team will know how to answer these questions. When people know exactly what you do, and you clearly answer their questions, you both soothe their misgivings and encourage them to be more eager to support your mission.
Taking ‘the Jesus approach’ to your fundraising.
We all want to rush fundraising and get straight to work in the vineyard, but fundraising starts with a clear understanding of what you do and how those around you communicate it to during a campaign. Even Jesus, the Son of God, took time to do these two important steps.
Consider taking the same approach as Jesus before you launch your next campaign. The result will be that you’ll have more confidence in both your work and your ability to communicate it to others.
Question: What’s the first step you usually take when fundraising? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Let’s get serious because you wouldn’t be reading this if you were not looking for better ways to improve your fundraising. I want you to be successful and accomplish all you want with your mission. To do just that, I want you to take your fundraising to the professional level.
But before we talk about professionalism, I want to put this word into context with our Catholic faith. When we often talk about professionalizing anything in the Catholic Church, we can quickly think of suits, flow charts, graphs, colorful brochures, policies, and procedures. That’s not what I am talking about here.
When I say go ‘pro’ with your Catholic fundraising, I mean keeping your eyes on the bigger picture; Jesus Christ. I say this in all seriousness because there is a small but vital distinction to be made with your fundraising.
Step 1. Get on with your mission, with or without donations
You and I know that what matters most is doing God’s will. This means to be part of his Kingdom and to tell all nations. It also means to save lives and souls. Therefore, let’s stay focused on these goals when we fundraise rather than the amount you raise in your next campaign. Why? God is more interested in you fulfilling your vocation than you raising funds to do your vocation. To be more bluntly, you following God is more important than raising funds, wouldn’t you agree?
That’s what going pro with your fundraising. Press on with or without funds.
I continuously see Catholics never following their vocation because they are waiting for the funds to come first. They think that if God wants them to do something, then He will first provide the money. No, that’s not correct. That’s not going pro with your fundraising.
Get started without the funds. Show people what you can achieve without donations. Inspire them what you can do even before they choose to support you. Then, when you do get their donations, go above and beyond. Meaning, turn everything to the next level. In other words, keep going pro.
Step 2. Overcoming you biggest roadblock – you
As I help more and more Catholic agencies (and I’m helping a lot) with their fundraising, I see the most significant distinction is here.
The ones that do best with their fundraising have their eyes on their mission and keep going. They are always looking to move forward with or without donations. They never stop. Their faith is in Jesus, not in a major donor that will appear at any moment.
The Catholic agencies who seem to never get out of their struggles, or even pick things up, slow down or completely stop when fundraising doesn’t go as planned. Meaning, their level of commitment to their vocation is dependent on money.
Your biggest roadblock is you thinking that external resources are going to pick things up. They may or they may not, who knows? If someone were to give you a big fat check, what would you do? You probably wouldn’t know what to do, and that’s the problem. You are not doing enough already to even know what to do with donations. So, focus on you, your ideas, your will, your focus, and get moving, because I know that God is already blessing you with the tools necessary to move forward.
Let’s take this even further because when I make this point, I often get pushback, otherwise known as excuses. Catholics often think that in order to do their mission, they have to have money. This is particularly the case when they have none. Well, I fully disagree. If you don’t have money, and you believe 100% that this is what God wants you to do, he probably wants you to move forward without money. My grace is sufficient, as Jesus said to Paul when he was grumbling.
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. – 2 Corinthians 12:9
Therefore, stop grumbling and get moving. Stop making excuses. Find alternative ways to move forward without the donations you think you need. Change your plans to fit your current situation. If you dream of opening a religious house or retreat center where you can help hundreds of people, but you don’t have the money to do so, start with helping one person. If you are already helping one person, help another one.
I guarantee you that Jesus will help you along the way, so give him the time and space to do so. Remember, we are on his time, not ours. Share your story with everyone around you and inspire them. Get people to trust you with your actions so they can are willing to trust you with their money.
Step 4. Understand the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’
This is an important point. You must not forget this point when you go out and fundraise. There’s a distinction between want you need and what you want. You want money, but you don’t need. You need God, and you’ve got him. Please don’t mix these up, so just go. He will give you all that you need. You just have to show up (every day) and keep your eyes and ears open to spot the people and resources God places in your life.
I am completely serious that God is giving you everything you need right now. You however are unfortunately spending too much time focused on what you don’t have than looking at what you do have.
That’s what I mean by going pro with your fundraising. If you can move your mission forward without money, just imagine what you can do with donations, am I right? If you do have some funds, keep going on what you have, learn to keep those donors, and find ways to get a few more at a time.
I often tell Catholics who start with fundraising, “If what you are doing is God’s will, you must believe that he will never leave you out to dry. Instead, believe he will give you everything you need. Just get started, move forward and always keep your eyes and ears open.”
Question: What is one action you can do today to go pro with your fundraising? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
I’m sure you want to start your fundraising strong in the New Year but, as the weeks pass, you find yourself too busy with other tasks and then fall behind. Eventually, you lose motivation.
Falling behind with my fundraising has happened to me, and it’s why I don’t bother setting funding targets anymore—at least not the usual way. When I think of raising funds for a Catholic charity, school, parish, diocese, religious order, or lay apostolate, I know some missions are just too important to entrust to a faulty fundraising approach.
Instead, I use a proven fundraising approach which structures itself around the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. That way, I protect myself from the many pitfalls and failings of typical fundraising.
This approach has taken me years to develop, and I’ve seen it work not only in my activities but also in the campaigns of countless Catholic causes with whom I’ve shared it.
Some people will say that the best way to raise funds is to plan a capital campaign and frantically tell everyone you know to donate. But that method is way too time-consuming, fatiguing, and probably a lot of you work, wouldn’t you agree?
We’re talking about the things that matter most: your mission. Why would you run around aimlessly in the hope of finding donors and, at a much faster speed, burn yourself out? Instead of losing steam, you just need to use a method that actually works.
What Your Day Should Look Like as a Fundraiser
An effective fundraising method must factor in what you do in your day-to-day. In fact, it’s that simple. If you focus on the right tasks during your day, you set yourself up to raise funds.
Your day must factor at least five tasks which parallel the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
1. Start with prayer. Unless you begin your fundraising with prayer, you are sure to fall off track. Your intentions should be focused on asking God for the ability to keep your eyes and ears open to the resources and people God is placing before you.
2. Respond to day-to-day contacts. Use Email, letters, and phone calls to respond to people you’ve been in touch with over the past week and month. You must always remember that donations come from the hands of other people.
3. Build awareness about your mission. Leverage your social media, website, and email to build visibility. I frequently say that you must have people’s attention and trust before they will say ‘yes’ to a donation request. Keep spreading the message of your work.
Additional Help: Check out what the Catechism says about social media and communications in CCC 2493-4.
4. Ask for donations. Reflect on how the Catechism teaches us that the first movement of a petition is asking forgiveness. What is it that you truly are asking for forgiveness? That you are bothering someone with your request, or that you aren’t the best charity and that you are still learning the ropes.
Additional Help: Consider what the Catechism says about asking for things CCC 2631 as a reliable benchmark for making a genuine request.
I suggest spending at least two hours a day completing all of these tasks. If you cannot find that much time, start with whatever you have available. Then add more time each week.
I got into the habit of doing these five actions and saw a big difference in my fundraising results. I was much more focused, and in just a few weeks, I uncovered the many opportunities God was placing before me. It was quite incredible. I hadn’t seen all the blessings God was giving to me before, but then I was more self-aware of all the people and opportunities.
My approach before was to run and chase money and people. Now, my approach was focused on God, recognizing the gifts and people he placed before me and acting on them. There was now much more collaboration with God’s will and mine when it came to fundraising. My morale was much higher too. I was joyful when speaking with donors and prospects. They saw this and were even happier to make donations.
How You Can Improve Your Fundraising Today
Life’s too short for typical fundraising approaches which almost guarantee you failure. The good news is that you can shortcut the heartache, stop counting on luck, and finally succeed. Better yet, you can spend more time doing what you want to do: saving more lives and souls.
I recommend you follow this day-to-day approach which and immediately move your fundraising in the right direction. You can also start by using this simple pray, pray, pray, ask method to move you in the right direction.
Pray – Take time to reflect on what your average fundraising day looks like. Read Genesis 29:20 and reflect on the patience of Jacob. In our modern times, we get anxious and want everything now. Take time to be patient and attentive to what is happening around you and whom God is placing in your life. How observant are you?
Pray – Reflect on when you can find 2 hours a day to do these tasks. Once you find the time, mark it in your diary. What gets put in your calendar usually gets done. If you don’t have 2 hours, start with whatever time you can make, mark that time in your diary, and move forward. Then, over time, try to increase your time dedicated to fundraising.
Pray – Start each of your fundraising days with prayer. You can use the daily readings or a reflection of a saint. Imagine yourself being aware of all the gifts that the Holy Spirit will provide for you that day, and see yourself recognizing them.
Ask – Go forward and take action with each task. Then, make sure to ask those people that God is placing in your life. Follow-up with the people whom you are waiting for a response. Most importantly, speak to the new people God places in your life.