Mother Teresa and the Art of the Ask

How Mother Teresa challenged me to be a better fundraiser

Make sure to get your free copy of ‘The 10 Commandment of Catholic Fundraising’. It’s a book that highlights the ten tasks you should do to keep you focused on your mission and hit your fundraising target, every time.

Brice Sokolowski Catholic Fundraiser

I am a Catholic who (oddly enough) dedicates his life to helping Catholic nonprofits, religious orders, schools, parishes, and apostolates raise funds.

Strange vocation, I know.

However, I’m not your typical fundraiser because I try as best as possible to fundraise the way the saints have done.

Yes, I know, that’s even stranger.

I also focus heavily on applying Church teaching – for example, Catholic Social Teaching and the Catechism – into everything I do.

In fact, when you scrub through my website, you’ll find article after article about how our different saints fundraised. To a name a few, I’ve written how Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Paul, Saint John the Almsgiver, a Franciscan friar living in South America, a parish priest, and even King David, chose to fundraise. I even tried to learn how Jesus approached the sensitive topic of asking for donations.

So when a friend asked me to review how Mother Teresa fundraised, he stumped me. After reading a few pages from the book, Conversations with Mother Teresa, I came across a serious problem.

As you know, Mother Teresa was a maverick when it came to the vow of poverty while founding a religious order of 5,000 strong. Given her complete commitment to Providence and poverty, we need rock-solid faith to fundraise like her without being completely overwhelmed by anxiety every morning.

Sounds next to impossible, am I right?

While Mother Teresa’s approach is a bold way to go about living, isn’t this a defining characteristic of a saint?

I’ve taken the challenge to follow Mother Teresa’s footsteps with regards to spreading the Gospel, particularly when you do require people’s financial support. If you’re interested in taking that road too, here are three challenges worth following when it comes to fundraising.

Challenge #1 – Make suffering your primary resource

The common objective of any fundraising campaign is to ask people for financial support. Mother Teresa doesn’t follow this convention. Instead of making money her number request, she takes a radically different approach by asking people for their suffering.

This may seem bizarre at first glance, but it makes complete sense.

You may have seen fundraising campaigns that ask you to sponsor a priest or a project with a financial contribution. Mother Teresa would take a different approach. Instead of asking for financial support from someone, she would assign a sick or physically challenged person to each religious sister and ask them to offer their suffering and prayer for that sister.

Mother Teresa said:

“The people I consider the greatest co-workers for myself and the sisters are the sick who offer their suffering to God for us. Each handicapped and sick person adopts one sister and offers his or her prayer and suffering for that sister.”

Brice Sokolowski Catholic Fundraiser

Challenge #2 – Don’t accept government funding

Mother Teresa admitted that a lot of money was needed to keep all the activities of the Missionaries of Charity going. Her army of 5,000 religious sisters operates in more than 700 houses across more than 100 nations. The sisters are responsible for hundreds of thousands of people who must be housed, fed, clothed, and cared for medically.

In line with trusting Providence, she did not accept fixed assistance – no loans, no stipends, no subsidies. Her approach to donations was to trust Providence to send offerings, alms, and small gestures of love from thousands of people.

This makes complete sense as governments and NGOs (Non-governmental organizations such as UNICEF) often demand Catholics to limit the faith aspect of their work in exchange for funds. Instead of compromising your faith for donations, I suggest you rely more on Providence that donors will come.

Just as Mother Teresa did:

“I rely on prayer. We want to perform the work of the Lord, and He has to think about the means for us to do that.”

Challenge #3 – Take a vow of poverty

We live in a materialistic world that seduces us with thinking that we need one amenity after another. We depend on our car to get us places, energy to keep us warm or cool, a job to pay the bills, a home to keep us safe, and countless subscriptions to keep us informed and entertained. We even depend on our holidays to keep us relaxed.

Then, when it comes to our Catholic causes, we depend on donors to keep us moving forward.

Mother Teresa didn’t live like this.

She believed that Providence takes care of everything which is why the Missionaries of Charity take a vow of poverty and possess nothing. They do not have an income, a steady revenue, or any stipends. Instead, they live by the charity that they provide rather than by the charity of others.

While we may not think to live a life of complete poverty like Mother Teresa is a viable option, we can take steps to reduce our dependence on material goods by depending more on the charity we offer others. This means reducing the costs of things you may not really need and increasing your level of care, support, and involvement among donors, volunteers, and prospects.

Mother Teresa’s advice to all fundraisers

Mother Teresa said, “Poverty is our safeguard.” She lived by this motto because she did not want to start by serving the poor and gradually slide into serving the rich, as has happened to other religious congregations.

Therefore, as you plan your next fundraising campaign, I challenge you to consider how Mother Teresa went about asking for support.

You have to admit, her style worked, right?

It may have been difficult, but isn’t fundraising already difficult? So why not follow a saint’s approach and consider heeding Mother Teresa’s own famous words:

Question: How will you change your fundraising so that you rely more on Providence? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Brice Sokolowski Catholic Fundraiser

Brice was born and raised Catholic. After enjoying a successful career in technology consulting with Accenture and PriceWaterhouseCoopers in cities across the United States (Dallas, San Francisco, Paris, Abu Dhabi, and London) around the world, he left it to help his Catholic diocese in London, England with a fundraising campaign. The campaign went on to raise over $60 million, the largest sum ever raised for the diocese and in the United Kingdom.

Learning from professional fundraisers, he figured out the basics and then left the diocese to focus on what he loves most: building Catholic charities that change the culture, save lives, and save souls.

Brice currently lives in Texas and travels the world helping Catholics fundraise. This website is where he shares what he is doing and how he is raising funds for Catholic causes and missions. That way you can move more quickly with your next appeal.