by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
When we look at the ministry of development we are taught time and again that we are to see those who support us financially not simply as donors but as financial partners. This is true. We are in fact, to truly love those who choose to make our ministry or organization a financial priority in their lives.
This month then, let's ask a pertinent question that is bigger than capital campaigns, major donor development, or creating a perfect event.
In addition, let's consider a question larger than all of the words we use to describe development, such as "friend raising," and "building partnerships."
The question is a simple one for those of us in development: "What's love got to do with it?"
If we answer this question well, we will transform our fundraising initiatives. The reasons, just like the question above, are simple:
First, love is the key component to any strong relationship. Whether that relationship is a spouse, a good friend or a family member, love creates the foundation that takes a relationship through trials and struggles. And, love makes the good times even better.
Second, love shifts our focus away from "getting funds" and toward building an unshakeable foundation based on building these relationships. As we build relationships the funds will generally follow. And even if funds may not follow in some instances, we know our ministry is in the middle of God's will. Why?Those development plans built on relationships are focused on eternal, not temporal, treasures. If we are always looking to the eternal, we never have to doubt whether we are in God's will. With that confidence, we will be less concerned when funding doesn't seem to be as strong.
So what does love have to do with our development plan? Everything. This month, let's consider what love looks like as we build relationships with those who support us.
Those on our support team are actually our volunteers, our heartbeat . . . And our brothers and sisters. Let's love them as we would ourselves.
Click here for more of this month's TLC.
Often, because our donors are on the other side of a check or a bank draft—and many times we do not actually see them, it is hard to gain perspective on these friends of the ministry.
Yes, we see them at banquets, other events, in the store or when we present our vision at a church. But if we were to sit down and add up all of our donors, how many do we get to talk to, face-to-face, in the course of a year? What's the number for us? Is it 10%? 20%? As much as 25%? I don't have a formula in mind here; but this brings out the fact that our mind set is important.
Because it is harder to connect with those who support us financially, we must have a mindset that keeps these very important people at the forefront of our thought processes.
Here are a few thoughts to consider:
Many of us give gifts to our volunteers each year. Perhaps we have a volunteer appreciation event. We recognize our volunteers at our fundraising dinners. We recognize them in a special way on anniversaries (5 years, 10 years, etc.). This is all important to building a family culture among those who take the time to serve in our ministries.
And yet, almost all of our financial partners are doing something quite similar in order to support us. Those who are giving $50 per month may be volunteering two hours or more of their time (before taxes!) in order to give that gift. Some are sacrificing entertainment dollars for us. Others may be setting aside a night out with the family—for our ministry.
These too, in every sense of the word, are volunteers.
Does this mean we publicly recognize these people as volunteers? Not exactly. But it does mean that there can be a place for us to thank our financial supporters with the same heart in which we thank our volunteers. We will tackle the "Gift Question" on the following page, but for now let's keep in mind that seeing our donors as volunteers begins to shift our perspective.
We see volunteers as investing their talents in our ministry. So do financial supporters—just in a different way. The engineer, the construction worker, the doctor, the secretary, the teacher, the sales representative—all of these who are giving their funds are using their talents . . . For the betterment of our ministry.
In addition, we see volunteers as taking time out of their day to commit to our mission. The same dynamic takes place with our financial supporters. But what about the retired? And those on fixed incomes? These too, are volunteers. Their hard work over many years has paid off, and they are sharing the fruits of their past labors with us.
Volunteers then, aren't just in our offices. They are all over our community, working for us.
Click here for more of this month's TLC.
Raising funds is a challenge, certainly. Yet sometimes it is our perspective that creates its own challenges.
When funds are tight, it is easy for us to focus on what we don't have, and how to make our case known so we can get back to a financially-sound situation. It's natural for us, when things are tight, to be thinking of ways to try harder, to create new opportunities for gifts, etc.
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to tight situations, whether it be persecution, church turmoil, or finances. He also asked for gifts; making him—in our vernacular—a development director for the work of the fledgling church. If we don't believe this, all we have to do is read II Corinthians 8 and 9, two chapters where Paul lays out a plan for specific giving.
We can learn from Paul, primarily through his perspective. Read with me Philippians 4:16-17: "for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account."
Read that again. What does Paul actually want? "The profit which increases to your account." If we want a reason to look to Paul as our expert in fundraising, this is it. Paul is not interested in his own comfort, and while he knows his mission is to advance the power of the Gospel message, he sees another priority: Giving opportunity to build the faith and the resulting growth in the spiritual account of those who give.
If we are involved in development, these two verses should sit on our desk and be a focal point of our thinking, every single day. For if our perspective is to see our financial partners' "accounts" grow (instead of first focusing on our financial accounts), everything changes.
We will be:• More attuned to our donors' spiritual needs• More interested in seeing their spiritual growth through giving• More willing to listen to their desires for our ministries• Less worried about our ministry's financial situation• Less likely to give in to gimmicks in order to raise funds
Paul had it right, didn't he? That's why Phil. 4:16-17 is not simply a couple of nice verses to chat about during a workshop. It is instead a state of mind that zeroes in on the real reason for giving. Giving will fund our ministries, yes. But God is not simply interested in getting people to give to us so that our organization can do more.
No, God wants to build the faith and the spiritual "accounts" of those who love him. We are being used by God to bring this to fruition. This was Paul's perspective. It can be ours, too.
When we think of a Director of Development or a Director of Advancement, we often think of someone whose sole job it is to build the ministry's funding base.
There is truth in this, but let's add a caution which may blow our socks off: It's not about the money.
In a sense, it is about money and we may grade job performance partially on funds raised. And, we can make the point that adding this position should result in more funds raised. So partially at least, money is an issue.
But, the Director of Advancement is primarily a person who should be involved in creating relationships with those who give to the ministry. As an off-shoot of these relationships more funds may certainly come in; but at its foundation, the Director of Advancement is not . . . About the money.
For those ministries trying to make a case for this position, let's offer this: In most pregnancy help organizations there is a Director of Client Services, or perhaps a Center Director. This person may work closely with volunteers; setting up trainings, recruiting and building relationships with volunteers. She is often the go-to person for volunteers.
If we truly believe that our financial supporters volunteer for us, we now have a great reason to employ a Director of Advancement. We need someone who will not only work on our events, but who will make it a year-round endeavor to build relationships with all who support the ministry.
Usually, the CEO forms close relationships with those who give major gifts; but what about those who give $25 per month? $50 per month? How much time does the CEO have if the number of people giving monthly swells to 100, 200 or 500?
Let's keep in mind that those giving monthly today may be the very people who can fund a capital campaign tomorrow. By building these relationships now—and making these true relationships—asking these friends to help with major gifts tomorrow becomes much more natural, and easier.
But we need a person who has the time to make building these relationships a priority. That person is not the CEO, who is working with the board, personnel issues, making presentations and more (oh, and who should be building relationships with many donors already). No, we need someone else, whose job is solely to connect our friends to the ministry.
The primary job of our Director of Advancement is not money, not at all. It is relationships. When our Director of Advancement is actively building relationships in the community, that's building love and camaraderie. And yes, our funding will grow as well.
To gift or not to gift? That is the question we face with our donors.
Do we send a gift when a financial supporter reaches a certain "tier" in their giving? Do we offer gifts for an amount given? To get the answer, let's first define what a Gift actually is.
A gift is given freely, either as a way of saying "thank you" or simply because. There are no strings, no expectations.
This is where we get mixed up. When a ministry offers a free book for a gift of $100 or more, it is not a gift. Because there is a prerequisite involved (giving the ministry financial support of a certain value) this is no longer a gift but an incentive.
Let's stop here, because it is important to note that incentives are not bad or wrong. I remember giving a gift to a major ministry, and I raised my amount because I could receive a print of a painting in return for that gift. Instead of buying the print, I gave the gift. So this clarification is not to say that incentives are somehow unchristian.
But they are what they are: Incentives. This is a different discussion for another article, certainly. But a gift is freely given.
Answering a question with a question, "Do we give gifts to our friends? To our family members? To those who have helped us in some way?" I would think the answer is . . . Yes.
Our financial supporters should be our friends. We should always be in process of building relationships (friendships!) with them. It might naturally follow that gifts could be a part of this. Not in every case, but at times a well thought-out gift may be extremely appropriate.
Some supporters will eschew gifts ("Don't spend the ministry's money on a gift for me") so it may be important for the board to set up a separate fund, perhaps funded by ministry board and staff, for these gifts. When a donor, concerned that ministry funds be designated for clients, raises an objection, we can answer with, "You can be assured that we did not use ministry-designated funds for this; this is simply a gift, nothing more and nothing less."
A gift is welcome, when it is heartfelt. And a gift is quite different from an incentive, in that incentives are designed to draw in certain donations; gifts are designed to build donor relationships. We can invest in both; but must know the difference.
Each month, The LifeTrends Connection brings you a sample "Thank you note" to send to your supporters. October's letter is below:
Dear George and Laura,
The Apostle Paul, closing his letter to the Philippians, noted that while no other church assisted him with a financial gift, his friends in Philippi had.
Paul noted that they sent "a gift more than once for my needs," then makes an interesting statement: "Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account."
This is a statement we can "bank on," a reminder that all of our gifts bring profit to an account we cannot see our touch. It is an eternal account, one that will always grow.
Your gift brings profit to your account, and we are ever mindful of this. And yet, here on Earth, we are thankful because your gift is being invested in changing lives, and saving lives—another way your gift is bringing profit every day.
Thank you. We appreciate your investment in this work. Every day, we are seeing the fruits of your investment. And I believe one day, we will see even more.
The following is a commentary for the CEO or Director of Advancement to include in an E-Blast, Newsletter or other communication. Use as you wish—no credit is due to LifeTrends or Heartbeat International. This is for you to spark ideas, or use "as is."
In our communication with you we often mention new projects and the need for funding. This is nothing new; we can find this concept as far back as the Bible. In the Old Testament, God gave the charge to Solomon to build a temple (I Kings 5:1-6) and in the New Testament, Paul uses a large portion of II Corinthians (Chapters 8 & 9, for starters) to ask for funding.
What is most important in funding any project however, is not the need for funds. After all, God can fund any project He wishes, without our help. Yet, He chooses to use ordinary people to accomplish His purposes.
None other than Paul touches on what is most important, in Philippians 4:16-17: "for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account."
This is a perspective so often missed. Good-hearted organizations can get so caught up in a current need that the priority purpose for giving is to increase the spiritual account of those who give.
In God's economy (according to Paul, an expert!), we have accounts that grow as we give. How this works is not totally clear, but what we do know is something fruitful is taking place that we cannot see with our own eyes.
As we move forward in this mighty endeavor to turn our culture toward life—and to do our part here in (name of city, county or area)—we have financial needs, certainly.
Yet we never want to lose our perspective as we seek to raise the funds necessary to impart positive change. This perspective is a simple one; an understanding that when one gives, it is a spiritual transaction that builds faith and builds a relationship with God.
This concept mattered to Paul, and it matters to us. As we grow as a ministry, we want to always keep in mind that those who contribute grow as well. And we are all stronger because of that growth.
The Board of Directors plays a key role in fundraising; many of its decisions have a direct impact on the overall development plan—and on the amount of funds raised.
Here are two decisions a board must consider if it wants to build a strong financial foundation for the ministry.
Many boards are reticent to hire this person, wondering whether this position is needed or a good investment. If we are looking long-term, this person is a great investment.
A quick note: This person is not simply an events planner. If we utilize our Director of Advancement as only a banquet planner or to work on other events, we are missing the big picture. This person builds relationships with our donors; getting out of the office to spend time with them, get to know them and create long-term connections with the organization. A good Director of Advancement understands that our donors are actually volunteers who give their time at work (and the funds they earn) to our organization to save lives.
The ability to raise funds is not innate. It is part craft, part science. Unless a board is blessed to be full of those who are professionals in this area, batting fundraising ideas around at a board meeting takes a lot of time and rarely yields fruit.
Investing in those who can come in to the organization, assess its needs and assist in crafting a plan for development is a wise decision. My heart breaks for those organizations that try idea after idea, thinking fundraising is about finding the next gimmick or hot idea.
Fundraising is a ministry that connects God's people to God's work. There are gifted Christians who understand this principle and make it their life's work to assist ministries in fulfilling their missions by teaching ways to create these connections. A wise board seeks out the help of these leaders in stewardship practices, who can transform events, design capital campaigns, and show ministries how to implement effective, long-term development plans that are God-honoring, faith-building and effective in laying a strong financial foundation for the ministry.
A board that is committed to making these two decisions will, over time, oversee an organization that is always on an upward trajectory.
Are you one of those who has a tendency to compare yourself to others? I can be. And my comparisons often show me coming up . . . short.
Others appear more engaging, more educated, more everything. They seem to have the very gifts I don’t possess.
The funny thing is, I may be exactly right. Not all of us are alike. God gives different gifts and talents to each of us and for His reasons only, some appear to have more than others.
The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 tells us of a master giving talents (a measure of money) to three servants. One received five talents, another two, and another, one. We know the story well.
The servant who received five talents made five more, and the servant who received just one talent hid his away and made nothing. The first servant was rewarded with greater authority. The third was cast aside for not using what he was given.
But what about the servant in the middle ... the one who received two talents? We see no record of him complaining about receiving just two talents, and there is nothing in the text about any grumbling over the difficulty in making more money with only two—while another was given five.
Instead, we see a servant who took no time to compare to another and instead went to work with what he had. In the end, he gained two more talents. Do you know what fascinates me about the master’s response? For both the servant who received two talents and the one who received five, the reward is the same.
Both servants are told, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Mt. 25:21, 23)
I suspect many of us feel we are a little short of talents at times. And yet, the Lord is only asking us to take what we have and give our best. If we build on what we have, He receives joy--which He then invites us into.
So today, let’s all take heart. The joy of our master is not dependent on the number of talents we receive, but on how we use the ones we have.
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