The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Catholic Fundraising

One of the questions I most often get asked is, “Where do I find donations?” Not surprisingly, everyone is looking for the shortcut and equally unsurprisingly is this fact: There are no shortcuts. The questions I wish more people would ask me is, “what should I do to receive more donations?”

Fundraising requires action. The more actions you take, the better your chances in getting that break you’re looking for and reaching your goal.

Yes, fundraising does involve asking, but it also requires a mix of disciplined, consistent, and persistent actions which are more of a determining factor in raising funds than any other combination of things.

My book, Alms: Your Definitive Guide to the Ins and Outs of Catholic Fundraising, focused heavily on what those right actions are. Right now, I want you to know that most Catholics fail in fundraising because they are not taking enough action and also taking the wrong kind. To put simply, they don’t take fundraising into consideration throughout the year, and they are asking the wrong people.

Fundraising, especially in the Catholic context, requires so much more than asking for money. It also requires massive action in spreading your message, attracting people’s attention, building relationships, and maintaining relationships.

It requires diligent and consistent work to find potential donors, and that is why you have to work at your fundraising continually. It’s not enough to run a campaign twice a year, pass out leaflet and letters, and sit back and hope people respond.

This distorted version of hope used in fundraising is directing our aspirations on worldly things and removes responsibility on the actor (the person who is hoping). They hope people donate also translates as: “I have asked. Now I don’t have to do anything else but wait and see what happens. I leave everything to God.” That’s not how hope works.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:6

Like Paul and Apollos, we have to do our part.

The “do nothing” style to Catholic fundraising

This “do nothing” approach to fundraising is exactly what it sounds like. You don’t take action to move yourself or your vocation forward. You don’t learn or adjust how you reach your funding target.

Unfortunately, people who don’t do anything to raise money relate this lackluster attitude with putting everything in God’s hands. Until the money comes, Catholics who don’t want to do the work stay as apathetic and inactive because for them the real sign that God wants them to pursue this work is if someone gives them money.

Despite how it may sound, do not assume that doing nothing is placing your life in the hands of divine providence. I know this because the moment that the person receives a donation, they’ll suddenly have more energy and happiness.

Excuse me? I guess God’s graces was not sufficient to keep them happy about their vocation. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Last I checked, that’s not how saints lived. They didn’t sit around waiting for clear signs and money to fall in their laps. Nor did the apostles.

The “too scared, retreat” style

I’m not talking about a spiritual retreat. Nor am I talking a few days away to find your perspective and reboot from raising money. I am talking about those Catholics who completely walk away from fundraising the second it gets too hard.

They get scared and give up altogether. This is really unfortunate because the people who suffer the most in these circumstances are the those who would have benefited from the projects which would have been funded.

Like the Catholics who do nothing with their fundraising, these retreaters claim to be doing so because it’s not what God wants them to do. That’s right, because the last time I checked, God confirms with us what we are supposed to do in life by the amount of money people give us.

Again, that’s not what is really happening. The Catholics who retreat from fundraising do so because their impression of what failing means is causing them to retreat. They don’t like the feeling, so they walk away. It’s not that God doesn’t want them to continue. The reason they back away is they are scared and disheartened.

They got their feelings hurt and don’t know what to do. That’s why I always recommend having a solid spiritual director when you are fundraising. They’ll be able to see through the waves of emotions which are flooding your thoughts and point out that you do not see the full picture.

Your “average” style to fundraising

Catholics who take the average level of action with their fundraising are the most common. They appear to be taking the necessary steps to reach their fundraising goals, but this level of action is also the same Catholics have been taking for decades. For decades Catholic fundraisers didn’t have to look for donors. They just went to where the Catholics were: Mass.

It is unfortunate that disrupting the Mass with donation requests has become common practice. When’s the last time you went to Mass during Lent and Advent and didn’t hear a homily about money?

You would think, with all the talk about the New Evangelization, we would stop this bombardment and focus on the faith during Lent and Easter, especially with so many lapsed Catholics returning to Mass. It’s the ideal time to inspire people with the Gospel of Truth. But no … someone decided it’s better to ask them for money. I also find it odd that I’m the only one advocating for this change.

Unfortunately, a majority of Catholic causes take this approach. The goal here is average – average impact, average evangelization, average funds, average reach. As long as average works, they are fine with it. They don’t want to cause problems for others or themselves as long as the funding levels remain predictable and steady.

However, the moment those average levels of activities result in fewer and fewer donations, they suddenly recognize that they are at risk. They block up because when you have been taking the average route to getting funds, you are more susceptible to challenges.

When that happens, you either think of retreating or doing nothing. This is catastrophic for all the people who depend on their cause for support. They suffer the most because average Catholic fundraisers don’t know what to do in the face of difficulty.

The Good: take action with your fundraising

I propose a new approach to fundraising. This approach takes seriously fundraising every day of the year because it can benefit your cause in so many ways. When I say every day, I don’t mean going around asking for donations all the time.

What I mean is you must approach each day as though your mission and its future depend on your ability to take action. If you want people to donate to you, then you have to go out every day and tell people you exist. You have to share with them your mission.

[Tweet “If you want people to donate, then you have to first tell people you exist.”]

Therefore, you’ve got to find them, let them know who you are and what you do. These are two incredibly important steps even before you ask for donations. Catholics don’t just give because you’re also Catholic and you’ve asked them.

They give because they recognize the benefits you are providing to their community. They see the long-term benefits of your work. They understand your mission and how you are accomplishing it. To achieve all of these requires constant action.

The world needs more Catholics to take better action with their fundraising because we all know that with more money, we can do more. I am not saying that money solves everything and will bring Jesus to more people. Not at all. I am assuming that if you have decided to fundraise, then you are doing so because you are already doing great work, and you recognize that with more money, you could even more.

If you have not yet done so, get on board with the many Catholics that are taking action with their fundraising by joining the community. Click here to join now for free and take your fundraising to the next level.

So, if that is the case, why not take your fundraising seriously? Why not see it as a major component to impact the lives of more people, thereby saving even more souls? If God is calling you to do more of what you are doing, then let’s go and do it. My goal in life is to place as much money in the hands of saints because they’ll know how to spend it.

The Pray, Pray, Pray, Ask approach to Catholic fundraising

I invite you to take your fundraising more seriously and take action in moving your mission forward. If you have made that decision to ask people for funds, then you also have to decide to go pro with your work ethic.

You have to demonstrate stewardship to your donors and prospects every day. That means you show up every day to execute your mission. It means you have stories to share each day.

Here is a simple approach to taking action with your fundraising.

Pray – Take 10 minutes to reflect on the five actions you are delaying to take with your fundraising.

Pray – Reflect on what it is you fear most about doing these actions.

PrayRead Proverbs 27, which speaks about taking care of today’s work. How can this perspective of taking action help you move forward?

Ask – Take immediate action on all 5 actions today.

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.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Mother Mary and Saint Joseph, protect us as we announce the good news of God's beloved Son, Jesus Christ.