Faith in fundraising
I’ve been thinking about this post for months, but I’ve been frightened to tackle it head-on. However, after speaking with a number of non-profit professionals and faith-based donors, I’ve found my sea legs and decided to talk about God and resource development. Buckle up! This should be an interesting post. 🙂
Haha! You thought I was going to start with something like, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (OK, the thought went through my head. Guilty as charged!)
The idea for this post came from a former client whose name I will not share. I decided not to share the agency’s name for three main reasons:
- I’m not sure how you will react to what I’m about to say and they don’t need added attention
- I feel strongly about the confidentiality clause in my contracts
- I honestly couldn’t help them and this isn’t a success story
The idea for this post came from a client whose . . .
Resource development strategy was rooted in prayer
There isn’t a lot of structure to this agency’s fundraising program. As I said, the strategy was mostly asking God to provide.
While I respect people of faith incorporating their relationship with God into their agency’s comprehensive resource development program, there was little to no structure to speak of . . .
- There was no written resource development plan
- There was no donor cultivation going on
- Solicitation involved sending letters to random names in the phone book
- There didn’t appear to be much stewardship going on either
However, on two different occasions, when cash appeared to be getting tight, prayers were answered and each time it was an unlikely five figure gift.
Needless to say, the prayer strategy was working and nothing I could bring to the table compared.
In the end, I walked away from this engagement wondering if I failed this organization and more importantly contemplating what role prayer could and should play in resource development.
He who seeks finds
In the gospel according to Matthew, it is written:
Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened.
I sought out a friend who has worked in the non-profit sector for decades including time as a fundraising professional at a faith-based hospital foundation. I sat down with her and asked her to please share a few of her experiences.
While she didn’t subscribe to the idea of simply praying for contributions, she did educate me on the role that faith played in her fundraising shop at the hospital foundation. The following are just a few examples she shared:
- When doing prospecting work for their capital campaign, a donor’s Catholic faith was a consideration.
- In cultivating or soliciting prospects and donors, it wasn’t uncommon for a nun to play a role because fundraising is all about relationship building.
- Religious messaging was built into the case for support because the hospital was faith-based.
- Mission moments at the beginning of meetings sometimes had faith-based elements.
- Prayer (when appropriate) sometimes occurred at the beginning of a meeting with a donor.
The bottom line is the fundraising department was very sensitive to how religion was used in the resource development process, and their guiding principle was always RESPECT.
Give to him who asks of you
Sitting down with my faith-based fundraising friend helped me process what I had encountered, but things didn’t really come together until recently when I interviewed a number of faith-based donors.
These individuals see their philanthropy through a faith-based lens such as the one found in the gospel according to Matthew:
‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;
These donors understand charitable giving in a different way. Depending on their faith, some saw philanthropy as “good works” and others said it was something they were called by God to do. One donor even explained to me that she is in business in order to use her profits to do God’s work.
When speaking to these folks, it wasn’t uncommon for them to answer my question with an answer sounding something like this:
“I’m not sure. That is something I will need to pray on.”
If these individuals are going to see your agency and its mission as something that fits into their philanthropic portfolio, they will need help from you in seeing how it fits. As mentioned earlier, this might mean drawing connections between where your mission intersects with the mission of their faith. However, it is important not to use faith as a “strategy” or “tactic” and instead let the value of RESPECT guide everything.
How have you engaged faith-based donors? Do you have any church congregations who donate to your cause? If so, how do you steward those gifts? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC