I once addressed this group of nonprofit ministry leaders in a workshop that I was leading and asked for a show of hands from those who had a Mission Statement. Almost all the hands went up. Then I asked if they had a Vision Statement. Again, most hands went up. “How about a Doctrinal Statement?” Yep.
“And how many of you have a Fundraising Mission Statement… a published document for your ministry’s biblically based rationale and governing principles for raising money? One that you can post on the wall, or hand out to donors who want to know what governs the way you ask for money?”
Oops. No hands went up. That’s a problem.
How can we ask anyone for money until we first know what our governing principles are? How can we expect staff to embrace fundraising strategies that turn listener “connections” into fulfilling donor relationships, unless they first have unreserved buy-in?
So, first things first. Build your fundraising foundation. This is an exercise that should be accomplished with leadership, management and key staff.
Here are five simple steps to help you lead the efforts in putting together your funding foundation principles and creating your Fundraising Mission Statement.
1. Start with the “why”
Not the “why” of needing money but the why of your ministry’s existence. You and your staff are experts in knowing “what” you do and “how” you do it. But until the “why” is articulated, believed, and acted on … the rest of it is only going through the motions. Tip: Don’t start discussing or writing about the “why” until you each go around the room and read some excerpts from the emails and letters you get from those you’ve impacted.
Guaranteed this one thing will set the “atmosphere” by letting your constituency remind you of why you are doing what you do.
2. What does the Bible say?
Elementary starting place to be sure but crucial.
Too often assumptions are made… that because you are a Christian ministry (and probably have a statement of faith to validate it) that everyone already knows what the Bible says about your funding process and why it matters.
Go around the room and ask each person what they think or believe your biblical basis is for how you are funded and the ways in which you ask people for money. In fact, take turns role-playing how you would explain it to one of your listeners if they asked you to tell them your biblical rationale for asking them for money.
Don’t be too general as you reference what God says about asking for support. Be specific with key Biblical passages and illustrations. Need some extra help? Here are three key passages:
• Exodus 35 & 36
• 1 Chronicles 29
• 2 Corinthians 8 & 9
3. Make it relevant.
This is the toughest part of the exercise. In writing out your fundraising mission statement, the temptation is to get all cerebral by providing the intellectual interpretation of your biblical rationale. Escape that trap. Keep it simple enough for a 12-year-old to read it and “get it.”
Provide basic answers to the classic “who, what, where, when, why and how.” Give specifics of what that means in governing your fundraising activities. It also needs to connect emotionally and that’s where testimonials prove the validity of your ministry.
4. Test it out.
Even though you and your staff may regard this statement as a masterpiece, chances are you’re missing something. You need real people outside your “tribe” who can tell you if what you created is relevant.
So, take your working document and hand it to your spouse, your kid, your bible-study friend and your neighbor. Ask them if it makes sense. Get their feedback and take note of what needs to be improved. Then gather back and do the re-write.
5. Convert your staff.
Now comes the real fun. Every single person on your staff, board and core volunteer group needs to believe it, own it and be able to convey it by their actions. Rather than having a one-person fundraising and donor engagement/relationship department, you’ve just added a whole bunch of eager and motivated fund raisers.
In fact, they are more than “fundraisers” – They are your “stewardship coaches” because you’ve just immersed them in a process that can change their mindset from “having” to raise money to the high-calling of asking boldly for support. Now your staff “get to” invite people to give and to be good stewards of their resources as they partner with what God is doing.
But to keep the fires burning you’ll need to meet often, not so much to strategize but to share stories from new givers and how they are being impacted as donors.
Going through this process of building your fundraising foundation and creating a Fundraising Mission Statement is the prerequisite for turning engaged followers of your ministry into meaningful donor relationships.
Once that is firmly place then comes the time for strategies and using all your various communication channels for raising, not only money … but raising up people who want to join you in your mission.
And the outgrowth of that is the new-found motivation for you and your staff to discover ways to deepen your donor’s relationship to the ministry. And while there are numerous strategies for showing donors appreciation and value, the starting point is to simply say thanks… again and again and again.
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