Communicating effectively will have one of the most positive impacts on your fundraising. Whether you want someone to donate, volunteer, campaign or share your message, effectively communicating will encourage people to move from being passive listeners to active contributors.
You may find it a struggle to find the right words when communicating. Perhaps you write letter after letter. You send email after email. You deliver speech after speech. Yet, for some reason, you don’t get the responses you are looking for. “What will it take to get people to respond, let alone donate?”, you ask yourself.
While you may think that your message is clear, most people, when listening to charities, unfortunately only hear the monotonous broken record, “Please give”, “Please give”, “Please give”. This doesn’t inspire action but rather reaction, and a less than encouraging response. In order to evoke action from your audience, why not take action yourself to change your communication style?
To do so, I recommend you turn to section four of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This section deals in particular with the prayer life but is also a wonderful reference for how to communicate.
Our prayer life can, at times, be focused on one thing; asking God for something we desire. A petition is a valid prayer but is actually only one of the four ways we can pray. If we communicate to God by including the three other ways of praying, we discover a more fruitful prayer life.
Communicating, like praying, requires a balance. Too often, we focus on one thing: asking for things we want. Like prayer, petitions, appeals, and requests are only one way of communicating. By reviewing the three other forms of prayer, you will recognize how to better communicate with people and thereby inspire them better to respond to you.
The 4 Forms of Prayer:
#1: Prayer of Intercession.
Intercession is similar to a petition, yet we pray on behalf of someone else. Abraham, for example, prayed on behalf of the people of Israel. Catholics are called to live this life of fellowship, too.
When communicating with people, take the time to consider their needs and respond to them. Ask your donors and community what you can do for them. Do they have any requests? Ask for feedback about who people are and what inspires them.
A great way of interceding is to offer Mass for someone. I encourage you to actively pray for your donors and indeed all the people you come into contact with. Pray for them individually, name by name.
Note: Don’t just say you do it, “in general”. Actually, do it.
#2: Prayer of Blessings and Adoration.
A blessing is an encounter between God and us, whereby we return the blessing received back to the One who is the source of every blessing. Of course, only God is to be adored, but we are blessed by the people God places in our lives.
When you meet a person or group, reflect on who they are, what they’ve done for you, and how they’ve impacted your life. You’ll find your relationship with them immediately grows. The focus turns to the person and the relationship, not just what exchange can happen.
#3: Prayer of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving characterizes a person’s gratitude to God for events and desires. Most often the only thank-you a donor receives is immediately after a donation. Come Christmas time, it’s back to requests for money.
Consider paralleling feasts days (such as Easter and Christmas) with thank-yous. If you are taking the time to thank God during these moments, it would be safe to assume that you should do the same with the people around you. Gratitude is a powerful way of communicating with people. My recommendation is to do it and do it often.
#4: Prayer of Petition.
You could say this prayer most closely resembles that of a request for donations. Recognise that a petition is a turning to God. It’s not just to ask for something from Him. A genuine petition has two elements. The first is the recognition that you require something of God, and the second is recognition whom you are asking. A petition’s emphasis is therefore focused on the relationship, not the specific demand.
Remember this when you are planning your next request or appeal. Place your focus on both the recognition that you require something (which is what most do) but also on whom you are asking. Do you really know whom you are asking? If you don’t, I recommend start building that relationship through the other three forms of communication.
These four kinds of prayer offer us an excellent model for bringing equilibrium in our fundraising communications. Asking for donations is just one of four ways we can communicate with people. I recommend you only ask for donations only 25% of the time.
Remember, people never donate because you’ve asked them to. They donate because they want to. If they recognize your organization to be a valuable part of their lives and feel they share a relationship with you, they will consider your requests more seriously. When balancing your messages with people, you will discover that people are more responsive to you.
Purchase a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (buy on Waterstone’s Marketplace)