In fundraising, we often hear the phrase,” you don’t ask, you don’t get.” You can even trace this quote back to Jesus in Matthew 7:7. I fully agree this statement is correct; however, I think another statement has, even more, impact on how successful your fundraising is: “you don’t give, you don’t get.”
These words have a connection to what Saint Paul says in Acts 20:35.
“In every way, I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
If I take my life, for example, I have found the more I practice generosity, the more my relationships with others. As a result, I find the people around me, more often than not, reciprocate this generosity.
This concept is also true for a Catholic charity, particularly with its fundraising.
Fundraising is quite pragmatic. It is concerned with meeting the budgetary requirements. Money in, and money spent. However, how you execute fundraising is not a simple process of meeting certain conditions. It’s not simply donations received, donations spent. Ask, then receive.
Fundraising also means interacting with people. And the best success in fundraising focuses not on the donations but on how you deal with those people: including donors, prospects, volunteers, followers, and anyone else who comes into contact with you.
Therefore: Give, and receive.
And this is why generosity is so important. Every donation you ever receive comes from the hands of a person. If you focus on the people, not the gifts, you will speed up the number of donors you have.
Here are five practical reasons how generosity is a full-proof way for inspiring people to donate to you.
Lesson 1: Generosity begins with you
I have touched on this concept a few times already, but I think it can never be said enough. Generosity begins with self. If you want people to donate, I recommend that you set the bar and start giving to people.
I’ve asked over 20,000 people for donations in my time as a fundraiser, and my experience tells me that each time I demonstrated an ethos of giving myself, the response from others is much higher.
So, instead of waiting for people to sign the pledge form, I recommend you kick start the tradition of giving. I wrote an article on seven different ways you can start giving to others (at a very low cost).
Lesson 2: We are wired to give and receive – no haggling required
When you receive a gift, you naturally feel obligated to give in return. Just think of the last time someone gave you a gift. What was your reaction?
More than likely you said, “How thoughtful. You shouldn’t have. Thank you so much.” Then, you said to yourself, “She/He is so sweet. I should get them something.”
This is our natural wiring. We are designed to act and think like this because God made us to connect with one another. We are designed to give, allowing others to receive.
The act of giving is the transformational element between two people. The gift itself is actually secondary, a bi-product. Giving elevates the bond between people to new heights because we are designed to give, not receive.
Therefore, you don’t have to convince someone to give to you. You simply have to remind the person of their divine nature.
How do you do this? You nurture the relationships you have with people like you would with any friend or family member. You take notice of who the person is: their passions, desires, fears, joys, doubts, and dreams. By making the habit to be generous to others, they will follow your example.
And, the more people you can give to, the more opportunities you have for more donors.
For major donors, I recommend reading this article: https://catholicfundraiser.net/dream-lists/
For grants and trusts, I recommend this article: https://catholicfundraiser.net/grant-applications/
And for individual givers, I highly recommend you read this article: https://catholicfundraiser.net/increase-donors/
Lesson 3 – Time grows all things, especially donations
The act of nurturing a relationship in the long-term through acts of giving has exponential effects on your fundraising.
As Saint Paul tells us, generosity helps relationships matured over time. (1 Corinthians 3:6) Therefore, rather than looking at fundraising as a transfer of money between people, I recommend you view it as an opportunity to plant seeds, nurture relationships, and allow God to grow what He wishes.
Often, people ask me how to convert one-off donors to long-term ones. The best method I have found is to nurture the relationship over time, and you do this by continually being generous to those one-off donors.
Now, I am not saying you should flood them with pamphlets and donation requests in the mail after their one donation. How often has this happened to you?
My suggestion is to be attentive to what inspired the person to donate in the first place. What caused them to give? You can even ask them directly. Then, focus on building a relationship based on this inspiration.
Does this method sometimes take time? Yes, but this is just the point. With time, when you nurture a relationship, you also build trust with people who will gradually become donors, one after another. And isn’t that what we want? A long list of faithful, long-term donors that stand by us. Therefore, be patient. If you consistently do this, you will see the fruits of your labor.
Check out my article on leveraging technology to build a massive following of faithful supporters: https://catholicfundraiser.net/how-to-have-more-people-visit-your-catholic-website-and-donate/
Lesson 4 – Keep your giving-receiving cycle balanced
Many charities have unbalanced giving-receiving cycles because their donors are always asked to give. In return, how often do charities then give in return? Not much in my experience.
I don’t recommend doing this because if all you do is ask others to give, you receive much more than you give. And remember, Saint Paul reminds us this is not the recommended way to live.
Therefore, you must reset the balance by giving back. You do so by giving your donors the trust, confidence, and commitment that donations are being wisely used. By doing this, you build a loyal donor base who will give again and recommend you within their circle of friends and family members.
This concept of balancing your cycle is of particular importance when you want to retain donors. One of the quickest ways to increase your number of donors is by keeping the ones you already have. This is what we call retention.
Many charities focus on asking and finding new donors. They spend money on advertisements to attract people’s attention. They run from parish to parish asking for donations.
These activities, in my experience, are ineffective for two reasons. First, the best way to increase your donors is to have your current ones recommend you. And second, the best way to increase your current donations is to build the trust within your current donors. Plus, my approach is much easier and less costly.
Always remember, a great way to grow your donor base is to retain your current ones while finding new ones.
For more on this topic, I wrote an article on how to build a massive following of loyal donors: https://catholicfundraiser.net/fundraising-plan/
I also provide an easy to follow template for balancing your messages with donors and prospects in this article: https://catholicfundraiser.net/communicating/
Lesson 5 – Supercharge your cycle of giving-receiving
Once you have perfected the first four steps, you are ready to take your fundraising to an even higher level. You do so by making sure that your benefactors are donors are balanced between one another.
What do I mean?
With the money that you receive from donors, you spend it to accomplish your mission: help the sick, feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned, welcome the lonely, and comfort the dying.
You use the money from your donors to help your beneficiaries. You are an intermediary between two people: the donor and the recipient.
You are doing fantastic work by fundraising for your charity to help people. However, this model also places both donors and beneficiaries out of balance in the bigger picture of giving and receiving.
Just for a moment, I ask that you consider the perspective of the donor and the beneficiary. A donor gives but often doesn’t receive much in return, apart from a thank you letter. The benefactor receives care and resources but often doesn’t give in return.
You may think, “Well, donors give to charity because that’s the right thing to do, and the benefactors should not be expected to give. They are not in a position to give”. Yes, they give out of the goodness of their heart. They are philanthropic, but at the same time, they do need something in return. I do not use the word need often, but often, a donor is looking for assurance that their donation has achieved their goal of making a difference.
And with regards to the beneficiaries, they want to give because we are all designed by God to give, not just receive. The purpose to living is giving. No matter who someone is, he or she has something to give. Even if the person is going through the most challenging life moment, they have something to give to others. That is why the Catholic Church’s stance on life is so incredible. [Catechism 2270-2273] Catholics see value in each person, no matter their circumstances.
Therefore, I recommend that your beneficiaries give, so they feel that they are giving just as much as they are receiving. Ask yourself the question, “How can I make sure those who we are helping are helping in return?” How can they contribute? Most often, they have something to give back to the donors.
And with your donors, make sure they feel the joy of receiving. Ask yourself the question, “Do my donors feel appreciated through how we demonstrate our thanks to them?”
I wrote an article on this how you can use technology to achieve this supercharged cycle: https://catholicfundraiser.net/trends-in-catholic-fundraising/
Personal experience – Generosity in action
I was hired by a charity to increase their number of donors. When I first started, I made a list of prospects and called each one to ask for a donation. Whether they had a long-term relationship with the charity or just got in touch, I did not care. I called each one and asked. My strategy was the more asks, the more chances of donations.
This strategy did not bear much fruit. My conversion rate (getting someone to donate) was low. Really low. Maybe not even 3%. My results were so bad that I was also afraid to report it to the director and the board.
After a few months of low results, I switched my approach.
Rather than ask for people to join, I put generosity into action by flipping my request a full 180 degrees. Instead of asking for a donation, I thanked them for connecting with us, and then ask, ‘What can I give you?’
Within a few months, I tripled my results. The number of new donors went up by 350% every month. By the end of the year, we had twice as many donors. And the next year, we doubled again.
These are massive results! Just imagine if your current rate of new donors was 20, 50, or even 100. How incredible if you could triple these figures? What additional projects could you start?
Conclusion – Generosity works when it begins with you
I recommend you always set the standard for generosity because it is a fantastic way to increase your number of donors.
Before asking someone for a donation, ask the question, “Have I been generous to this person?” And, if you want a donor to give more, find a way for the giving to increase from your side. You’ll soon find more major donors among your current ones.