One of my favorite fundraising books is a pocket-sized read called The Giver and The Gift, by Peter Greer, President of Hope International. Greer opens the book by telling a story of his experience with a particular donor, David Weekley, on a vision trip. As the trip was ending, Greer was reluctant to ask for support. Picking up on this, Weekley asked him “Is there something you’d like to ask me?”
Then, after they discussed the options of support, Weekley thanked him. Yes. You read that right. The donor thanked the ministry leader. Why? Weekley said, “I can’t do what God has called me to do without you.”
Let that sit for a moment.
In God’s grand design, He has orchestrated “donors and doers” to accomplish His work together, in partnership. Ministry leaders need donors to invest in the work, and, likewise, donors need ministries to accomplish the work God has put on their hearts.
This understanding is fundamental for any development department and the positioning of donor relationships. Fundraising is precisely the opposite of begging or sales. In ministry, fundraising is an invitation to join God at work.
How can fundraisers overcome the fear of asking? Here are a few suggestions.
- Take a posture of ministry. Listen to the donor. Really listen. Focus on connecting and building a relationship. As you connect with donors and listen for where they connect to your work, pay attention to their interests, pain points, and highlights. Listen with an attitude of abundance, not scarcity. Discern where they may relate to your work or another ministry. Scripture says, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. As you discuss a charitable investment in the work, you are speaking to their heart. Take that responsibility seriously.
- Be a storyteller. Statistics and impact reports are important. Always articulate the problem, solution, and results of the work you do. You can illustrate all those great facts with stories. Practice telling stories well. Donald Miller, author and marketer, says every good story starts with a character in trouble. Share the circumstances, obstacles, and then the success of a client. Put a face to the work.
- Make an offer. That hits a bit different, does it not? That is what you are really doing when you ask a donor to give. You are offering them an opportunity to join the work. You are inviting them to partner with you to have an impact on a cause they care about. Fundraising is not begging and it is not sales, but an offer.
- Play out the worst-case scenario. “What is the worst that could happen?” In the case of fundraising, it is hearing “no” or “I am not interested.” That is not so bad. The work, the project, or the mission of the organization may not match where the donor’s interest lies. That is okay. You have still shared a wonderful opportunity to connect with the great work happening through your organization.
Be bold and confident. You have the opportunity to connect God’s resources with His work. Share the mission, impact, and story. But do not stop there. Invite the donor to join what God is doing through the ministry.
Remember, donors need you to ask so they can do what God has called them to do.