EXCLUSIVE: How to Follow Your Vocation (and go on Holiday)

Jennifer Fulwiler interviews Brice Sokolowski from CatholicFundraiser.net. In this Part 1 of the interview, Jennifer and Brice talk about the Catholic Church, Mass, living abroad, the challenges of following God, and how to pursue your vocation.

Thank you for watching this video. I hope that you keep up with the week videos I post on the channel, subscribe, and share your learnings with those that need to hear it. Your comments are my focus, so please take a second and say ‘Hey’ ;-).

You can watch part 1 of the interview here: How Catholics Can Successfully Fundraise



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Gather a community before you gather donors

Everything you do with fundraising begins with your community. Your community consists of every person you bring into your mission. This includes donor, non-donor, volunteer, inquirer, lapsed donor, and even the people who you meet each day. By focusing your attention on building your community, you take them on the journey which is realizing your mission. This community will then be inspired to support you financially.

It’s important to build a community because if you don’t surround yourself with people who are passionate about your work and cause, then you will have difficulty fundraising.

If all you do is surround yourself with major donors, you won’t be as successful because you need more than just people with deep pockets. Your mission is not dependent on the money you raise. Your mission is dependent on God and how he wants you to carry out your vocation. Because you cannot carry forward our vocation alone, you must recognize the different talents that people have who come into your life. Then, you determine what led you together and how you help one another.

Start building your community today

Get started with your community by gathering the people around you. It is your responsibility to invite people into your community, what activities they do, and when to approach them for a donation request. As I mentioned, your community’s purpose is not to surround you with financial donations every month. That may be one aspect of your community, but it happens when the other activities are in place.

There are several ways you can build your community. You can connect members with other members.

  • You connect members with other members.
  • You get people to share their thoughts and views in discussions. This can be a live event or online.
  • You share knowledge and wisdom so that everyone becomes better informed about your work.
  • You educate your community about what is happening.

The atmosphere you build inspires them little by little as they discover more about your work. With time, more people get involved and eventually take action. This action can, of course, be through a financial gift. Each community member takes one step at a time to become more involved in your work.

For more ideas on this topic, read this article which outlines 5 activities you can get people to do.

Build a two-way dialogue

Also, your community must have its own voice and identity. I am a fan of having a constructive dialogue with your community because it’s fantastic way of learning what inspires people. If you know what inspires them, you’ll know how to better ask for donations.

While you are the leader who organizes how and when people meet, I recommend taking a step back and allowing others to express their opinions. This is not to say that they dictate which direction you take. You definitely set the boundaries.

One of the best ways to learn what people think is by conducting surveys. I talk incessantly about surveys, and there is a reason for this. Surveys work incredibly well in fundraising. I’ve been using them for years, and I’m still finding new ways for improving my fundraising with them.

Knowing how to engage with your community will help you fundraise better.

Along with listening and connecting with your community, the people around you must grow in knowledge about your mission, the purpose, and the results. You do this by updating them on a consistent basis about what’s happening.

Never assume that because you said something once it’s clear to everyone. Just because you have a page on your website titled ‘Our Mission’ doesn’t mean people know what you do. You have to continually tell people who you are, what you do, why you do it, where you are going, and how you will get there.

For more on this topic of surveys read this article which outlines how to use them step by step.

 

The Benedictine rule for building community – Listen

I remember attending a lecture at a Benedictine abbey just outside of London, England. The abbot was discussing a specific rule which allows the youngest monk the chance to speak openly with his fellow monks, particularly the abbot.

Saint Benedict added this rule because he understood that sometimes God speaks to us through the youngest or least expected person. Take for example David, Ruth, Moses, Abraham, Rahab, John, and Mother Mary. Look at all the Marian apparitions, as Mother Mary is always more comfortable speaking with children.

It’s usually the person we least expect who has something profound to share. You never know who in your community has something valuable to say, therefore always have an open ear.

[Tweet “It’s usually the person we least expect who has something profound to share.”]

Feedback from your community also allows you to recognize what you are doing right. When people are complimenting you on your style, especially when it comes to fundraising, you know you are on the right track. It’s that simple. Your community helps you take a step back, reflect on your work, and keep moving forward. Even when you receive criticism, this negative feedback can confirm whether you are or not on the right track.

Therefore, let people share with you what they think.

Perfect the art of listening by reading this article.

Encourage your community to take action

Another important activity in your community is that they must frequently be asked to take steps forward. It’s not enough to have a group of people around you and hope they will eventually act. This is especially true when it comes to donating.

You have to ask people to take steps forward. Otherwise, you will be waiting a long time before people do.

Whether you are looking for one donor or one thousand, you start with asking your community to take steps forward. Ask each member to regularly take one small way after another. Yes, this all takes time, but this is part of growing your mission, especially with fundraising.

By asking your community to take steps along their journey with you, you connect your mission with theirs. They become co-owners in your work. Then when you do ask for a donation, they more often than not will say yes.

Learn more about how to take action by reading this article on what a Catholic fundraiser should do every week.

An exercise on how to start building your community

Here is a simple Catholic approach to building your community and moving your fundraising forward.

Pray – Take a moment to recognize all the different people in your community. This includes volunteers, donors, colleagues, contacts. Take time to reflect on how you have connected with each person . Read chapter four of Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He provides wonderful instructions of how to communicate with people and thank them for their generosity.

Pray – Review how often you connect with your community and share information and knowledge. Write ideas on how you can share more with them about what is happening so they can learn how things are going.

Pray – Review how often you invite your community to have a voice in what is happening. Regularly take feedback through surveys. Thank people for their opinions and decide on the ones you see most valuable. Let people know that you use their feedback. This makes sure your community knows that you are listening and taking action.

Ask – Each month ask your community to get involved. Diversify your requests so that people don’t get the impression that all you want is their money. For those who are new, ask them to attend an event. For those who have been in your community for some time but you’ve never met personally, ask them to volunteer with you.

For those people who have been very active but not donating, ask them for a financial gift. And for those who have been giving for some time, ask them to increase their contribution or sign up for regular giving.

Over time, when you ask every community member to take one step forward, your momentum will pick up, and as a result, your mission will move significantly forward.

Question: What is one action you can take today to build your community?

How to keep an authentic Catholic voice when asking for money

How do you keep an authentic and Catholic voice when fundraising? I am a big advocate of having a support network around the fundraiser. Fundraising like anything else in life requires the assistance of people. In a recent article, I outlined the characteristics and actions of every individual who should help with your fundraising.

If your fundraiser is not getting much assistance, but rather she is left alone to run your next campaign, you risk disconnecting the donation request from your cause. If and when this happens, Catholics will label you how so many other charities are perceived: “all you want is our money.”

To avoid this, while also making your next campaign the most productive (and less stressful), let me outline how to build a support network around your fundraiser.

Everyone who has a role in your Catholic cause should actively participate in what messages and actions are used during an appeal. This guarantees your requests all link with your Catholic voice. It’s a very simple task that doesn’t require a huge amount of time, but it does require persistence and care.

How do you connect your Catholic voice with fundraising?

You have to first know what your voice is. What distinguishes you from every other charity, even Catholic charity? Why do you do what you do? When you share these points with Catholics during your next appeal, they will see the real you rather than just the face of another request for money. This gets you more attention, plenty of trust, and many donations.

Here is a simple table that outlines who does what within fundraising, along what they should not be doing, so you keep your Catholic voice.

Role Do Not Do
Fundraiser

Leads all fundraising activities

Responsible for all go/no-go decisions

Develops all fundraising content

Defines and approves messaging and language

Outlines the fundraising communications plan

Builds awareness in community

Collects and uses feedback from contacts, donors, colleagues, and board

Tracks and finds prospects

Tracks and leads all donor relationships

Researches better ways to fundraise

Presents to leadership team results and recommendations

Asks for donations

Coach others how to ask

Allows the board, directors, and leadership team to direct fundraising activities

Depends on volunteers to fundraise

Depends on priests, second collections, and second appeals

Charity Director

Provides the fundraiser a clear direction and vision (3-5 year plan)

Provides input, recommendations, and guidance into fundraising

Provides advice for communications plan

Listens and takes counsel from fundraiser

Supports 100% the fundraiser

Identifies prospects and influencers

Actively involved in donor relations

Asks for donations

Provides feedback to fundraiser

Dictates how and when fundraising happens

Makes changes to the fundraising plan after it’s been approved

Board/ Leadership Team

Provides input into fundraising strategy and communications plan

Donates to charity

Identifies prospects and influencers

Nurtures donor relations

Asks for donations

Provides feedback to fundraiser

Frequently present at charity

Engages with day to day activities

Takes sides

Think they do not have to donate

Avoids getting involved in find prospects

Declines to ask people in their circles to donate

Staff

Spreads the key messages every day

Finds prospects

Invites friends, families, acquaintances to events

Occasionally asks for donations in their circles

Provides feedback to fundraiser

Required to regularly asks people for donations

Disregards fundraising as not part of core responsibilities

Volunteers

Spreads the key messages every day

Collaborates with fundraiser to identify the tasks most comfortable doing

Provides feedback on fundraising activities (what works/doesn’t work)

Recommends ideas for reaching more people

Invites friends, families, acquaintances to events

Finds prospects

Asks people for donations

Donors

Provides feedback on why they donated, what inspires them, and what they hope for in charity

Invites friends, families, colleagues to events

Spreads key messages/news to own network

Asks people for donations

Contacts (non-donors, non-volunteers)

Invites friends, families, colleagues to events

Spread key messages/news across own network

Provides feedback on what they like and what they would like to see more from charity

Asks people for donations

Your Catholic voice finds you long-term donors

You’ll notice that I have a different approach than a typical fundraiser. Not everyone is asking for money, yet everyone has a specific and important role to play in making sure you keep your authentic voice.

My focus is not on being professional when fundraising. It’s about being Catholic. If you start with this as your foundation, you will automatically be professional. It’s not the case if you start the other way around.

You can read more about this approach in an article where reviewed how the saints viewed money and asked people for donations: The 4 important lessons from the saints (about fundraising)

I am focused on the long-term growth and prosperity of your Catholic cause, not getting as much as possible with a single campaign.

This approach produces lifelong donors, more donations, and a better (and bigger) reputation. To get things moving forward, use this table at your next team meeting and see how you can maintain your authentic voice during the next appeal.

Question: How can you get everyone involved in fundraising to make sure you keep your authentic voice?

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Your Biggest Barrier to Fundraising Success

When you cannot move forward with fundraising, you experience what I would call a snowball effect. You stress about the future rather than focus on the present.

Then, in panic, you quickly organize a campaign, asking everyone you know for donations. You do this through email, post, social media, and maybe an event. All your efforts produce some donations but not as many as you hoped.

barrier fundraising success

Soon after, you receive negative feedback from people. They thought you were too pushy and didn’t like the approach. Some of your contacts have even asked not to receive any more communications, or they’ve disappeared off the face of the earth. More stressed, you realize that you may have been too aggressive.

When this snowball happens, you dramatically limit your fundraising because you base your efforts on how much money you can receive rather than what God is giving you. It’s not the right approach, and you can do something about this.

These challenges are often the cause of a bigger problem which too many Catholic charities are facing. Yours may even be, too.

In my experience, these issues happen because you have the wrong leadership team. Leaders are meant to guide you away from problems (particularly with fundraising), so you can avoid these different kinds of panic. Leaders should instead keep you focused on what you love to do: saving lives and saving souls.

Here are three indicators that you may have the wrong person or people on your board, mentors, committee, or advisory group

1: They do not donate an amount that is right for them.
2: They avoid finding and nurturing prospects.
3: They don’t ask people to give.

If you have someone who fits any of these three indicators, I recommend you ask them to start getting more involved or reconsider their role.

The world is in need of you and the great work that you do, but you cannot give all that you have if you are struggling with fundraising. Too often fundraising is a roadblock not because the people around you don’t want to donate to you but because they perceive you as not capable of doing great things with their donations.

They don’t want to donate to a charity that is fighting financial fires rather than pressing forward with their cause. Catholics give to great organizations that are achieving great results.

Therefore, I recommend that you place your cause, the people you serve, and your donors at the heart of how your leaders are involved in fundraising. Do the right thing and get them involved in the three ways I mentioned. The quicker you do this, the quicker people will start donating to you, and the sooner you can get back to doing what you love to do: bringing Christ to the world.

I wrote another article on Catholic leadership which looks at three leadership qualities that will improve your fundraising immensely: https://catholicfundraiser.net/leadership/

Also, the Evangelium Consulting Group (a thought-leader on this subject within the Catholic Church) wrote a short and helpful article on leadership which looks into how you can do more in your parish.
https://catholicfundraiser.net/evangelium-consulting-on-catholic-leadership/

Question: What is one major roadblock for you with fundraising at the moment?

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How to get volunteers involved in fundraising

I am a tremendous fan of volunteers. People want to help you without being paid. How incredibly generous they are! As fundraisers, I think we underestimate the gift of a volunteer’s time. To me, it’s as valuable as a financial donation.

However, because we don’t always value time as much as money, we end up asking volunteers to do the wrong things, like fundraising. If a volunteer is raising money for your charity, you assume that you can get even more out of their time. Plus, if you have an army of volunteers, you think that their numbers can help raise even more money.

Volunteers fundraising

This thinking can be a roadblock with your fundraising because you are asking volunteers to do something that, in all likelihood, wasn’t why they came to help you.

Then, when you follow up with them and ask if they have completed their tasks, they likely don’t respond immediately. They may be behind. Worse, you don’t hear back from them. They came to you with plenty of energy, but now that enthusiasm is gone, and possibly so are they.

I recommend not placing volunteers outside their comfort zones, especially by asking them to raise money.

Instead, I suggest you focus their attention instead on other tasks that maintain their high energy levels like spreading the word about your work. Here is a simple approach I use with my volunteers:

– To start, ask them to memorize a 1-page script which outlines your story and the impact you are making.
– Ask them to share this story with people.
– Then, see if they can share the story with a few more people every week
– Keep track of their weekly (or monthly) progress, allowing you to know how they are doing and if they require additional support

By using this approach, you help your volunteers become active at their pace. You also track their progress, so they recognize the impact they are making. When you share with volunteers the impact they have, they are inspired to keep going and sometimes do even more.

Remember, it’s not about managing volunteers (especially micro-managing them). It’s about tapping into their passions and skill sets to bring out the best that they have to offer.

In my experience, volunteers are more motivated to help you this way. And, if and when they do get the courage to help you fundraise, they have the confidence to speak to people and motivation to keep you moving forward.

Question: What approach do you find works best with keeping volunteers motivated with fundraising?

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