Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fundraising 101

My day job is to help raise money for a Catholic campus ministry, so the following is influenced by my experience. During this time of year, when we are often inundated with requests to give to worthy causes, I'd like to explain a few things about fundraising that I didn't know before I actually did it for a living.

  • It takes money to make money. As much as I'd love to think that all the world is interested in my worthy cause, if they don't know about what we do and the impact we have on the Church and world, they won't give. Hence, appeal letters, newsletters, websites, etc. Even though we are good stewards, we can't get all this done for free. The real metric isn't how much the organization spends on fundraising, but how much these communications instruments further the mission of the organization.
  • People, rightly so, feel good when they help others. My job is to invite folks to partner with us in the good we do. They, of course, can say "yes" or "no." My job is to merely ask.
  • Some of the most beautiful fundraising instruments are the least effective. I've learned not to go for classy, take-your-breath-away graphics unless they will impact the bottomline. A wonderful example of this principle in action are the tacky, tasteless used car commercials on TV. They work in selling cars, which is what they are meant to do. It's okay that they aren't great art.
  • There is a role for volunteers and a role for paid staff. It is a rare volunteer who is willing to totally take responsibility for a project and meet a hard deadline no matter what. If you find one of them, they are a treasure. The more typical volunteer (and we love them!) wants to help, but they offer this help without the commitment to "own" the results. If you have a project where something needs to be done on time, within a strict budget and done regardless of whether your car is in the shop or your kid is sick, you better have a staff person involved.
  • Finally, we are all in this world together, and there is so much good work to be done. My organization's mission WILL appeal to many, but not all. That's okay. God has a pile of work for each of us to do. Our job is to find this pile and get working!

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