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Tips from Fundraisers
Seven Christian leaders offer insights on giving and fundraising.

Simply the price of entry

High-quality ministry and high-quality donor relations don't guarantee that a ministry will have the funds it needs. In fact these are simply the minimum price of entry.

The challenge is to communicate meaningfully to donors the lasting value and impact …

The bigger issue facing charities is that donors are increasingly more affected by clutter and competition for their support, which makes them prone to support the latest appeal to get their attention and rouse their passion. As a result, far too much time and resources are spent on marketing and fundraising. This, in turn, detracts from programming and sometimes even good donor relations.

The challenge is to communicate meaningfully to donors the lasting value and impact of our ministry and the impact of their consistent support.

Laurie Cook is CEO of World Relief Canada in Markham, Ont.

Not everything can be measured

As Christians we seek to be the best possible stewards of the gifts we have to give. Even so, our gift must be about advancing God's kingdom work and not about being treated well as donors. An organization that struggles with employing the "best" of fundraising principles may still be the place where the Lord would have us place our support.

Furthermore, not everything of importance can be expressed in concrete, quantifiable terms. In our Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches we support pastors in their own times of need, assist pastors and churches during transition or conflict, help individuals explore their call and suitability for pastoral ministry, and collaborate with churches intent on redeveloping their ministries. These and numerous other involvements are integral for an effective shared ministry, yet on the surface they can easily appear to be merely maintenance of the organizational machinery.

Every organization can offer 'leading edge" initiatives with great and immediate donor appeal and quantifiable results. But it requires a solid foundation to be able to do so consistently, and those foundational and ongoing needs also deserve support.

Greg Jones is director of stewardship for the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches in Saint John, N.B.

From sorrow to joy

"Your office posted my donation to the wrong account." Mrs M. sounded crabby. On my computer screen was a history of her regular deposits to a memorial bursary. I was new [to donor relations at Concordia University College], and struggled to engage her in conversation. Yet through visiting Mrs. M., I learned about her son, who had attended Concordia. She had lost him and both daughters to the same degenerative genetic disease. Yet she had not established bursaries to celebrate the lives of her daughters.

… helping other young people made Mrs. M. feel and see the difference she was making.

When Mrs. M.'s husband of many decades died, she felt overwhelming pain. She told me, 'I just want the Lord to take me." I was at a loss for a minute, but then said what I thought: "Mrs. M., the Lord still has work for you to do. So you have to get on with your life and celebrate your marriage and your children." She looked shocked. Then came a radiant smile. "You're right," she replied.

Mrs. M. went on to establish two more bursaries to recognize her daughters. Celebrating the lives of her children by helping other young people made Mrs. M. feel and see the difference she was making. Her sorrow has yielded joy. And she and I continue with a relationship that is valuable to both of us.

Donna von Hauff is vice-president of advancement at Concordia University College of Alberta in Edmonton, Alta.

Fundraising includes trust and joy

Both the donor and the organization need a trusting relationship. Often this trust is invested in a person. Donors who share our vision often give because they are asked by a person whose judgment they trust implicitly.

Such trust is precious and fragile, and must be handled with humility. Yet there also seems to be an inverse relationship between trust and the measurability of the organization's goals. This is sobering for someone training Christian scholars at the PhD level—our "measurables" may be 20 years away. I encourage donors not to be preoccupied with measurables, but to assess goals in relation to the organization's mission, and to remember that fundamentally we are each called to faithfulness, not measurable success.

People often comment that fundraising must be by far the hardest part of my task. Yet, it can also be the most joyful part, depending on the donor. When a donor treats giving as ministry and proffers a gift of any amount, openheartedly and joyfully, my own energy and commitment to the mission are rejuvenated. In this way the gift has double the impact.

Harry Fernhout is president of the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto, Ont.

Careful communication

Here are four more topics that fundraisers will want to think about as they do their work.

Impact & Sustainability: Explain the extent that the program will have in making a long-term change in the program participants. Show that you have a strategy to grow and develop the program so that once the seed money runs out, you can continue to run the program.

… funders look for very specific causes with measurable results …

Innovation & Dissemination: Funders have been funding the same social and economic problems for decades, and they're tired of helping charity after charity in fighting the same issues. Funders are not only interested in the creation of new approaches to solving old problems—they also want to know that you have a plan to share your successful model with others.

Good Company: Funders want to know who else is giving and whom you're partnering with. They support organizations that can leverage resources and that will collaborate with other groups to carry out programs for greater kingdom impact.

Postmodern mind-set: People have come to realize that they can't change the world. Don't make claims that you can. With this mind-set, funders look for very specific causes with measurable results that they can give their money to. Moreover, they want to be active instruments of change. Opportunities for hands-on participation are attractive to today's funders.

Cecilia Wu is the director of development for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada in Markham, Ont.

Passion for donors too

The most crucial part of fundraising for ministry is the relationship between passion and vision. Vision shapes the future. It is our job as Christian leaders to create and articulate that vision, and the dynamic power of passion in shaping vision cannot be overstated. Passion is vision's power, strong enough to withstand all the challenges that need to be faced and conquered in shaping the future.

Yet donors do not just want to see people "display" a passion; they want to feel about the ministry as we do. They want to invest in a need or cause that they are passionate about! Bring passionate people together—including leadership, program staff, volunteers and donors—and they will indeed fulfill the vision. Connecting passionate donors and ministries creates an incredibly powerful partnership.

Marg Gibb is president of Women Alive in Brantford, Ont.

What does it mean to be "Christian"?

Christian philanthropy is distinct from "secular" fundraising in its understanding of the sacred nature of the enterprise. Jesus made it clear that material wealth has the capacity to elicit service in a way that competes with our service for God (see Matthew 5:24). Paul argued that it is possible to put your hope in money and not in God (see 2 Timothy 6:17). However, the Scriptures are bold in their claim that sacrificial financial giving is something that pleases God, is rooted in the abundance of grace, bears significant results and ultimately results in worship of God (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-15).

… Christian donors … conceptualize their philanthropic activity as a form of worship.

Christian organizations that understand the spiritual dynamic lurking behind money will craft their marketing, present their needs, solicit their donors and thank their partners in ways that are consistent with the fundamental nature of the Christian Gospel. I would hope that such a posture would attract like-minded Christian donors who conceptualize their philanthropic activity as a form of worship.

Rod Wilson is president of Regent College in Vancouver, B.C.

Related article

What Are Donors Looking for Before They Give?

Originally published in Faith Today, May/June 2004.




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