Who is not scared of fundraising? This fear can be all consuming. We are sometimes so scared that we are not sure if we should or should not ask for money. In my experience as a fundraiser, God has challenged every assumption and perspective I have ever had about asking people for donations.
I started fundraising with the Diocese of Westminster (in London, England). What a daunting experience, as I had zero experience asking anyone for money. I felt unprepared at the beginning, especially when someone had questions regarding the campaign. ‘How am I suppose to overcome this fear?” I thought.
After, I went to fundraise for Theos, a Christian Think Tank. Asking for donations with them was a bit different than with a Catholic diocese because the money would be used outside of a donor’s parish or community. Rather, donations would be used nationally, as the mission was to present a credible, informed, and gracious Christian voice in mainstream public conversations.
These two experiences opened my eyes to the need of money for a Christian cause. When I thought money was necessary for moving a charity forward, God showed me that it was not. However, when I thought money was not required, He nudged me in the opposite direction.
I was confused. “Was money necessary or not?” I did not know what to think or what direction to take. As Chesterton would describe my situation, fundraising was a paradox.
After much discernment, I finally stopped hunting for an answer. I instead let God lead me where He wanted to take me. As a result, I learned two lessons on how to think about fundraising in the Catholic context.
Lesson 1 – Embrace the discomfort of the ask
We all know too well the fear and discomfort of asking someone for something, especially a donation. I learned to embrace this fear. Why? Because even after all these years of asking for donations, I still am scared, therefore, this feeling will likely never go away. Of course, I am not freaking out as much as in the beginning, but I still get the butterflies in my stomach each time I ask someone for a donation.
My conclusion of why the fear has never left is that God wants me to be aware of my dependency on others. Yes, we are all dependent of one another, regardless how independent we think we are.
As Catholics, we understand the importance of being part of a family, parish community, and Holy Mother Church. We cannot go through life alone because God didn’t design us for solitude. Rather, we must help one another carry each other’s crosses. We are dependent of one another.
This idea of dependence, however, is not a popular theme today. Our modern culture idolizes individual freedom in a way that promotes doing whatever you want, whenever you want, regardless what other’s may think. Yes, freedom is a great thing. It detaches us from tyranny, captivity, and physical restraint, but the modern viewpoint of freedom distorts its very nature by separating us from everyone. You become your own island without any recognition of your shared bond to support one another.
When this happens, you lose sight of your full potential. You can relate this experience to how we feel when asking for donations. We’ve spent so much time doing the work all alone that when it’s time to ask for help, we don’t know how to ask.
Take for example the time Jesus ordered his apostles to travel with nothing to spread the Gospel. I’m sure that they were reluctant to leave without anything; however, the disciples learned the importance of dependence. They were wholly dependent on the generosity of others who embraced the Gospel. As a result, the disciples could both spread the Gospel and benefit from people’s generosity.
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Therefore, to cringe at the thought of fundraising is a valid reaction. I haven’t gotten over it. However, this cringe is a reminder of our dependence on others and the necessity to ask them for help.
The mindset is not to be numb when asking for money. Nor should we be scared. It’s somewhere in the middle where we recognize our dependence on God and others and embrace it fully.
Lesson 2 – Recognize how you value money
Money is a requirement to do certain things in life. Other times, it’s nonessential. We, however, can mix our thinking about when it is and isn’t necessary.
Take for example the situation where someone wants to start a Catholic youth group. The group would provide retreats, events, and social gatherings. All of these require money, right? Or maybe not? You can easily spend hundreds of dollars, but you could also not pay a dime to run these events.
When we think we need money, we drop everything to raise funds. Rather than organize an event unique to the charity’s mission (like a retreat), we focus our attention on holding a fundraising event, only because we think we need money.
The opposite scenario is just as valid. Sometimes we disregard altogether the benefits money can provide. While it’s good not to be dependent on money, we can just as easily make false assumptions about not having it. We are only reminded of this reality when we cannot book a venue, a speaker, or print and send invitations.
I can understand why people are not sure how to value money. The world idolizes it and the power that comes with it. People’s obsession with money causes so many pitfalls and disasters.
This mentality, however, can be crippling to a Catholic organization because when money is necessary to move you forward, you don’t know whom to ask or how to ask. Valuing money incorrectly can, therefore, have serious implications.
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The solution is to take money for its face value. Money is an enabler to do good.
Have you ever stopped to consider why you think you need money? Or when you think money is not necessary?
I recommend that you clearly define your perception of money. You will also remember what is your most valuable asset, your network. This includes your donors, prospects, volunteers, followers, benefactors, and colleagues.
Helpful Next Steps
This week, I suggest taking ample time to reflect on what your underlying assumptions are about money.
Ask yourself these questions: What defines its importance? How does your perception impact the rest of your work?
Also, embrace the discomfort. It’s simply God’s way of reminding you that you cannot do everything by yourself. You have to go out and ask others for help. But that’s okay because you will find people who will open their doors to you, just as the apostles discovered.
If you are looking for more guidance on how to persevere through the struggles, I wrote an article on the 4 lessons I learned in pressing through to reach my fundraising goals.
To go even further, check out my article about why I think Catholics should follow a different path than modern fundraising: Why Modern Fundraising Doesn’t Apply to Catholics.
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By doing so, you won’t accidently misplace the value of money and cripple your mission.
You won’t overcome your fears altogether, but you can use these emotions to ground you. Your frame of mind must be prepared to both receive and give. This is why your mission must be crystal clear. When you see how much more good you can do for Christ, you will be prepared to receive more of what He wishes to give you.
By honing this cycle of receiving and giving over and over again, you achieve more success with your fundraising. How? You will improve your profile, which will increase your network, which will increase your funds, and, as a result, grow your impact and mission.
All of this happened because you saw fundraising as a means to give more to everyone.
QUESTION: What is your biggest fear of fundraising? (Leave your comments below, and I’ll respond).
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