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.
Fundraising is on every Catholic’s mind when it comes to carrying out their mission. We all know it must be done, but most of us don’t want to think about it. Worse, we wait the last minute to do anything about it, therefore limiting our ability to be successful.
This is unfortunate because fundraising is really important! Being successful with receiving donations can open so many new possibilities with spreading your cause. Even more, it doesn’t have to be as painful as you think.
The sad reality is that most Catholic causes fail at reaching their funding targets. This year, most of the hundred Catholic orders, schools, apostolates, dioceses and parishes which I collaborate with have either delayed or canceled their campaigns because they never got around to putting the wheels in motion.
So what is the secret to reaching your funding goals?
Whether your funding goal is large or small, it all comes down to having a disciplined approach to fundraising year round. There are two distinct types of fundraising which allow you to do so: active and passive. Active fundraising is the actions you most associate with fundraising. In other words, it’s when you are actively seeking donations and making gift requests.
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Passive fundraising is driven by the actions you take to update current donations, cultivate prospects, and plan your next fundraising campaign (active fundraising). To put it simply, passive fundraising focuses on planting and watering seeds, while active fundraising is all about harvesting what has grown.
As Saint Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6)
Your entire year – meaning 365 days – therefore should have these two seasons: active and passive fundraising.
When many Catholics get started with their fundraising, the common first steps focus on writing a case for support, sending letters, and asking people for donations.
While all of these actions are necessary for fundraising, you must take several steps back before completing them. Passive fundraising is all about preparing yourself, prospects, and your current donors before you do seek to raise funds.
Most Catholic charities, however, overlook passive fundraising, which is one of the leading causes of their failure in raising funds.
For instance, instead of immediately asking for donations and sponsorships, think of the different ways you can spread the news about the great work you are currently doing and how the community is already benefiting. This helps build awareness and trust in what you are doing. With these in place, people are much more inclined to donate when you do ask.
Another way you can passively fundraise is to focus your attention on your current donors and network. Update them on what you’ve been doing, the impact you’ve had, and ask for what they’d like to hear about from you. Deliver regularly stories, facts, and examples of how their support and involvement are helping you carry out your mission.
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I call this passive fundraising because what you are doing is attracting people’s attention to the impact your mission is having, which as a result, is building trust in your work. Again, awareness and trust are two critical factors that must be present for people to donate (even increase their current giving). It’s important to remember that people give not because you ask but because they are inspired by the great work you do. Therefore, inspire them, continuously.
People who know you will be even more impressed by how the Holy Spirit is working through you, and in turn, they will want to get more involved in your work.
Improving your storytelling is perhaps one the best things you can do to have better results with your passive fundraising. In addition to sharing great stories, your success in fundraising will be dependent on how committed you are to do this. Therefore, get into the habit.
Being Successful in Fundraising Means Being Disciplined
Habits are a significant pillar of the Catholic Church. Look at every religious order, and you will find that they each follow a set of daily routines. If you have big plans for your cause, charity, order, organization, implementing the right habits will serve to improve how you raise funds.
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Leaders and fundraisers can set goals, assign tasks, monitor daily progress, and keep everyone on the same page throughout the duration of a project. The result is building your network of happy donors who want to continue supporting you and a list of prospects who will welcome the opportunity to support your work.
Success in raising funds starts with passive fundraising. Again, I quote the line from Saint Paul because it’s so relevant with fundraising: I planted. Apollos watered. God grew. If you want your fundraising to last, there has to be ample time to plant and water seeds.
Everyone wants to hit their fundraising targets, but too few want to take the time to plan for success. While setting a goal is easy to do, it can be very hard to accomplish.
One of the most significant challenges to reaching your funding target is the commitment to the right habits. Yes, habits are essential to your fundraising. This is because when you don’t see instantaneous results, you can quickly get discouraged, change your target, change your approach, or cancel the campaign altogether. Therefore, having the right habits before you begin is imperative.
When it comes to reaching your funding target, you cannot do it without a number of support systems. This is why I am so adamant about people subscribing to my website, CatholicFundraiser.net, because I offer the weekly support you need to overcome discouragement and continue moving forward. I also provide you tools and resources to track your progress, adjust your messaging, and of course, improve how you ask for donations.
When looking at raising money, much of the focus is on finding people to ask and then asking. However, the foundation of a great campaign is always internal. I recommend you focus your attention on what Jesus told us to do. Seek and find. Knock, and the door will be open. Ask and receive. Consider organizing your campaign in these three parts: seek, knock, ask. (Luke 11:9)
Therefore, yes it’s important to ask, but you also have to seek and knock.
Your first task is to consider where you will look for donations. Because you’ve been spent considerable time with passive fundraising, knowing whom you will ask is clockwork. You already have your long list of donors and prospects ready to focus your attention.
Then, you take ample time to knock on each person’s door and share with them your request. This means knocking on each person’s door, one after another, and making a personal invitation. One to one fundraising is the only way to go because it works, it’s genuine, and Catholics enjoy this approach the most.
Last, you must make a clear and compelling ask. This too is easy because you’ve spent plenty of time sharing your story during your season of passive fundraising that everyone already knows what you do and sees the impact you have. While the finer details of this task are crucial in reaching your funding goal, the overarching focus should be to seek, knock, and then ask. This is a structured and Catholic approach to your fundraising.
When it comes to reaching your funding target, discipline throughout the year is the defining factor. When you get into the habit of passively and actively fundraising, you will have tremendous success. Also, regardless of what your target is – a hundred dollars or hundred million, you must always have a passive and active season with your fundraising.
As 2017 comes to a close, review the following approach below to see how you can plan your passive and active fundraising seasons. Both will be pivotal in helping you stick to your fundraising and hitting your goals.
Pray – Take a moment to read 1 Corinthians 3:6 and consider how Saint Paul went about planting and watering seeds. Take a piece of paper and map out when you can have two seasons to your fundraising.
Pray – Take a comment to ask God how you can better passively fundraise. How can you better share your story? God is asking you to do great things in his name. Review the people who are currently in your life and the gifts they are giving you. How can you bring them closer to your mission without asking for donations?
Pray – Reflect on how you respond to the new people in your life. God is always bringing people into your life for a purpose. How often are you considering why someone enters your life, the talents they have, and how you both can work together to bring your mission forward? Too often we look only for people with ‘deep pockets’. Don’t let money be your focus. Instead, let the Holy Spirit guide you and your new relationships.
Ask – Take time to map out your year and define when you actively and passively fundraise. Write down the different tasks you will accomplish each week, so you get into the right habits. Follow your approach which will give you plenty of time to plant and water seeds. Then, when it is time to fundraise actively, recognize the different opportunities God has grown for you.
Question: What is your plan for succeeding with fundraising in 2018?