If you’ve been following me for the past two years, I hope that you’ve enjoyed my weekly articles on how to fundraise in a Catholic context. Yes, I’ve dedicated 100% of my attention to Catholic fundraising. That includes religious orders, lay apostolates, youth ministry, family ministry, pro-life ministries, schools, universities, and the list goes on.
I’ve offered the steps on where to find donations, how to ask for donations, and when to adopt new strategies (such as online fundraising).
Today, let’s dive into the world of appeal letters. You will notice that I take a different approach to the average fundraiser. Rather than focus my attention on asking for a donation, I focus on my relationship with the reader.
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.
Why is it so hard to ask for legacies when you know people are considering what to put in their will? Will-writing is when you would think it would be the easiest to ask, don’t you agree?
You would think people would have productive conversations with fundraisers without wasting time on explaining the importance of giving. Everyone is already in agreement that giving is essential. We just have to find the right cause, the right organization, and the right solution to the donor’s desire.
Currently, the number of people over the age of 65 is 600 million. That number will balloon to 1.5 billion by 2050. With numbers like these, you would think fundraisers were excited about the possibilities.
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.