In the last blog, I explained that excellent fundraising is about winning donors, not just “getting the money” and I gave an example of a ministry leader who asked me for a big amount with a short deadline for a personal project. It was an “ask” that was out of alignment.
Winning new donors is always a challenge. But with the right approach, you can do it and watch your donor base grow. In over 30 years of ministry fundraising experience, I’ve learned a few basic principles that might be helpful to you.
- Get properly introduced and endorsed from credible sources. Think about the example of Jesus. He did not just appear on the scene. He had John the Baptist as his advance man. Then he used his disciples to advance him in the cities and towns that he would visit to announce “The Kingdom is here.” When Jesus showed up, the people were ready to receive him. In the same way, you need the right introduction to the people whom you want to ask. Let others open doors for you through their referral and endorsement.
- Explain why you think the prospect would be interested in helping you. It could be that they have supported others in a similar ministry. Or perhaps someone referred them to you. Whatever the reason, it’s important for the donor to know why you have asked them and why they should take interest in your work. For example, you might say to a prospect “I’ve been told that you have generously supported evangelistic work on college campuses? I’d like to share with you how God is at work at City University.”
- Tell your story. Who are you? What do you do? Why is it important? What impact does it make? You would be surprised by how many appeals fail to answer these very basic questions, but your answers are essential to helping the prospect come to a decision about making a gift.
- Ask the giver to consider a clear and specific opportunity to make a difference. Every ask is an invitation to prayerfully consider whether a gift to your ministry is what God would have them do. State what the money is to be used for, when it is needed, and how it will be spent. Be clear about what it will accomplish.
- Explain how much you want them to give and why that amount would be a good gift to get started in your relationship. The gift amount requested should be commensurate with their ability and willingness for a first gift. The amounts will wildly vary based on the relationship they have with you, your organization and the cause.
- Thank! Once the gift is given, it’s time to thank, report, inform them about the ministry results so that you begin to build a relationship.
Prepare to ask them again for a second gift. While the first gift from a donor is important, the second is vital to building a longer term relationship, perhaps one that will last a lifetime. Pay attention to the people who give their second gift and get to know them personally as much as you possibly can. These people are more likely to continue giving than people who give only one gift. After three to six months after the first gift, you’ll know if they are going to give again.
What I’ve presented above is pretty basic. Many readers will already know this. But I hope it is helpful to many who are a part of the growing MFN community.