When I tell people that I work as a fundraiser, I often receive comments like, ‘I would not enjoy doing that’ or, ‘That must be difficult’. In response, I ask them how they feel when someone is generous to them, or when they are generous to others. Most people then talk about how their lives are enriched and how they experience a sense of release and fulfilment.
Why do people expect fundraising to be difficult, even though there is so much joy in giving and receiving? Perhaps because, as well as generosity, there is also a lot of greed in our world.
Jesus said, ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money’ (Matthew 6:24). He also said, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions’ (Luke 12:15).
When I started fundraising I quickly realised that the most generous people are often also the most content. They know that money could become their master, but they are determined not to let that happen. They give generously from what they have and it helps them to keep their own lives in balance, as well as being a blessing to others.
I have discovered the joy of speaking to people about giving. I love inviting them to be part of something bigger than themselves to help reduce poverty, empower the church, bring dignity and heal God’s world.
Henri Nouwen in his book A spirituality of fundraising says, ‘Fundraising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry. Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission. When we seek to raise funds we are not saying, “Please, could you help us because lately it has been hard. Rather, we are declaring, “We have a vision that is amazing and exciting. We are inviting you to invest yourself through the resources God has given you – your energy, your prayers and your money – in this work to which God has called us.”’
Watching people invest in God’s work has challenged me to look at my own attitude to money and make changes where necessary. I have also learnt to trust that God is in the conversations I am having. I have realised that if people do not want to give, as long as I have done my job well I can trust that the Lord has something else for them to get involved in. It is not personal. It is about God, not me.
When a project needs a large sum of money, I am not afraid. I am excited, knowing God is already mobilising his people and calling them into something new that will bless everyone involved.
Allow God to use you to invite people into your vision. If the Lord is already speaking to your supporters about his work, you are knocking on an open door. Get ready for the Lord to do more than you could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Always start in prayer. Will the work you are inviting people to support enrich their lives and draw them into God’s bigger plan? Ask God to lead you to the right people at the right time. Pray that he will guide your conversations and that, whatever the outcome, God will be glorified.
Successful fundraising depends on good relationships. People need to be able to trust that their money will be used responsibly.
Think carefully about how to ask people for money. The most effective way is to meet them face to face. This might mean visiting individuals, a church, company or government office. If you decide to write, it is better to use letters addressed to individuals rather than standard, impersonal letters.
If possible and appropriate, take people to see your work. As well as helping them to understand the project better, these visits will help to create lasting connections between supporters and the communities where you are working.
Explain the problem
Be really clear about the situation you are trying to improve, and the consequences of doing nothing. For example, explain why it matters that people do not have access to safe water and sanitation, not just what you are doing about it.;
Use stories, photos and even short videos to help potential givers identify with the communities. Explain what you are planning to do, who you are planning to do it with and how. Include a budget in the proposal and an estimate of the number of people who will benefit from the work.
Explain how you will monitor progress and evaluate impact. Describe the long-term benefits that you expect the work to have.
Say thank you
When people give, make sure you thank them!
Provide updates and reports so supporters can pray for the work and see the impact that it is having. Share the good and the bad. The reason you are working where you are is because there are challenges. If things go wrong, communicate quickly what has happened and why. Explain what you have learnt and how you will make changes to improve the work in the future.