Many years ago I was asked to state what effective fundraising looked like in one sentence. Here is what I wrote: Having the right person ask the right giving partner for the right amount to support the right project at the right time. Over the years I have come to see how these five ‘rights’ form the foundation of a solid fund development program. Here is a brief look at each.
In the preparation process it must be determined who is the best possible person or persons to approach each giving partner. While most often the ‘right’ person will be the CEO/President/Executive Director, it may not always be so. Investigate the giving partner’s history with the ministry and ascertain who has been most influential in their relationship and whom do they hold in the highest regard. The right person or team is essential for a successful giving partner invitation.
Right Giving Partner
In assessing a giving partner’s potential, the dual factors of capacity and commitment must be considered. If there is only the ability to give a gift but no demonstrated commitment to the ministry, the prospect is not ready for an invitation until a stronger relationship can be built. Likewise, if the commitment is there but no credible evidence is available to support the ability to give a gift, more research needs to be done. Every giving partner invitation must make sense to the ministry and the giving partner. In other words, when the invitation is made, the giving partner should be able to say to themselves, “Given my history of giving and involvement with this ministry, it makes sense that they would invite me to prayerfully consider this gift.”
This is the next step of refinement from the ‘right giving partner’ comments above. A careful assessment of past giving combined with general knowledge of a person’s assets and wealth should provide the information needed to assess potential. It is equally damaging to invite prayer for an amount that is for far too little as it is to ask for far too much. In most cases, setting the invitation within a range is most helpful to your giving partners. We care about our giving partners as partners in our ministry so the invitation range should reflect a careful assessment, guided by prayer and supported by good research.
The same care that goes into assessing the “right amount” must be given to the right project. Again, the relationship of the giving partner to the ministry over time should give clues as to that right project. This may involve a naming opportunity in honor or as a memorial. In any case the successful giving partner invitation will help connect the giving partner’s dollars with their passion for the project that is most meaningful and important to them.
This is the most difficult component to assess. The financial wellbeing of most people fluctuates with changes in the health of their business, the economy, the stock market and a host of other factors. In addition, people usually shy away from making major gifts at times of uncertainty, and that can include their personal lives, organizational factors, health issues and many others. Therefore, it is never possible to know with certainty that one time is the ‘right time’ to make an invitation. However, if you pay attention to these issues just mentioned, there are certainly signs that it may be the wrong time. Again, being sensitive to the giving partner’s situation and adjusting accordingly will help insure an invitation that aligns with your desire for genuine relationships that minister to your giving partners.
These five factors are reliant on a relationship of mutual respect and caring between giving partners and the ministry they support. The cultivation work we do throughout the years is essential in helping us make sure these five ‘rights’ are right at this crucial moment of an invitation for financial support.