You have a message that you want others to hear. You are inspired to bring Jesus into the world, and you want people to be as inspired as you. Sometimes you ponder about the possibilities in front of you. You see all the people’s lives you will help. You see it right in front of you. Now the question is how to get them to donate.
However, reality sets in when you look at what’s around you. No one is listening to you.
Why? We live in a noisy world where everyone has a message and wants to be heard. Everyone is also asking for donations. You and a million other people want to do something great, and you all want people’s financial support. So how do you get people’s attention and money?
The most common approach seems to shout louder than everyone else. If you still don’t have their attention, shout even louder. On top of that, you likely won’t get many opportunities, so you scream the one message you want people to do: Please donate!
Stop screaming, “Please donate!” because people are not listening
As you cry for help, among the cacophony of every else’s pleas for money, you have to realize that the people live noisy, busy, and distracting lives. They are trying to find ways to keep sanity, so the last thing they want is a charity constantly asking them to donate. When they hear you do this, they shut you off. They throw your appeal letter in the trash. They tune you out during your parish appeal. They walk away without even considering what you have to say.
So, let’s face the cold hard fact. Breaking through the noise and getting donations are practically impossible. That’s why most fundraising campaigns fail. There’s just too much noise, and too many people don’t want to listen. They are looking for peace and quiet. Not more demands of their money.
You can hope that people will eventually donate, but this is a passive approach that won’t get you very far, especially if you have ambitious plans. You have to take a different approach and rise above the noise. I know because God doesn’t want you to stress. He wants you to be smart and do what he’s calling you to do.
If everyone is on the same interstate that’s jammed with bumper to bumper traffic, you’ve got to get off onto a side road to get to your destination. Let’s do just that.
I discuss more on how to not scare people in this article, How to keep an authentic voice in Catholic fundraising.
I also talk about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of fundraising in the Catholic Church which will help navigate the landscape.
How to get people to hear your request for money
In order to fundraise effectively in today’s Catholic landscape, you have to face an important. First, you have to understand that the strategy of hope fundraising doesn’t work. “Let’s pray people will donate,” or “Let’s hope this campaign works.” These approaches usually imply that you just wait and see what happens. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe in hope and prayer, but I think most people view hope and prayer in a secular way, not a Catholic way. Prayer and hope require action, not sitting around.
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Instead, I recommend you have an active approach to getting people’s attention that is much more aligned with our Catholic faith. If you want people to hear you, you simply have to speak in a gentle and consistent voice. When you combine these two factors together, consistently present and gently speaking, you have your best chance of being heard. Therefore, you want to find your consistent and tempered voice.
Who do you know that does this? God.
There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.
When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah?
– 1 Kings 19: 11-13
You won’t hear God screaming from rooftops. You won’t see him disrupting your day to day to get your attention. You won’t see him pushing himself in front of a crowd to be seen. You see and hear him only after you pause and recognize that he’s been with you the entire time.
You have to follow the same approach. You want to place yourself in the same situation when people finally pause and take notice of who’s around them.
From my experience, the best way to get someone to donate is to always be there with your calm voice until the moment presents itself. It’s the moment when the person is ready to take action. You can’t force someone to see you, listen to you, and then donate. You have to offer them the best possibility to do so.
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It sounds so simple, but many Catholic organizations don’t take this action. They drum one monotonous voice twice a year, and it turns most people away.
Get into the habit of clearly articulating your voice with people on a consistent basis.
I go into more detail about how to ask for donations in this article, How to Ask for Gifts in a Catholic context.
Be patient. Donations will come
Breaking through the noise and being heard is harder than ever, but with a consistent approach to presenting your calm voice, you will be heard and rise above the static. It’s a paradox that works every time. You just have to be patient.
You don’t need to shout. You just have to keep tapping away. You have to know what you want to say and keep saying it. Week by week, month by month, and people will hear you. It’s only a matter of time that they trust what you say, and when that happens, and you are off to the races.
That’s why patience is so important. It’s also a fruit of the Holy Spirit, so pray to receive it. God gave you a voice. Use it wisely, spread the message of your mission, and patiently watch more people listen to you. Plant seeds, then add water and let God do the growing, but he can’t grow if you don’t plant.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6
A Catholic approach to getting heard
Today’s approach to Catholic fundraising requires a return to a traditional approach to being heard. This means following God’s approach to a calm and moderated voice when asking for people’s support. I recommend following these four steps which will help you find a more authentic voice when it comes to asking for money.
Pray – Take time to collect several examples of messages you’ve shared with people over the past six months. Reflect on how you got people’s attention by asking yourself, “was my voice clear, consistent, and tempered?”
Pray – Read chapters five and six of the Book of Sirach. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you have sincerity in speech and honesty in discourse. Write down your reflections on how you can have a consistent, present, and tempered voice.
Pray – Spend time quietly mapping out a 52-week plan for communicating your messages to Catholics. Make sure to balance your voice, so you aren’t just asking for donations. Focus on sharing information that helps people take action in your work. Also, consider the different mediums (the web, social media, email, letters, events) you will use to communicate your message.
Ask – Execute your 52-week communications plan. Be patient with getting your voice heard over the noise. Have faith that in time more and more people will turn to you.