Pastor and writer Rick Warren once wrote, “We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
Too often, we look to exemplars for how-to pointers in life. Whether it be for personal or professional gain, the innate response for most is to see who is already doing something well and model their moves after him or her.
I stake most of what we at Development and Leadership teach on the fact that nearly all we’ve learned has been learned the hard way – through making mistakes.
I’d like to propose a paradigm shift – let’s look to the wrong way to accrue givers who further our organizations in order to see how not to develop a culture of giving. There are ways to elicit one-time donations and lump sums; money is raised. However, these ends do not justify the means.
I am a big believer that givers will tell you what you need to know if you ask the right questions.
Before reading on, you must ask yourself, Am I looking to attain a certain level of success financially through a few methods? Or, is my focus on growing a long-term, sustainable culture of giving where the people who are a part of funding the work are seen as just as critical as anyone else doing a part of the work of the organization.
If you resonate with the latter, I believe there are right ways and wrong ways. Here are some of the wrong ways to grow giving.
You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
I’ll give you a donation that is tax deductible, but you’ll give me something in return.
Do I think this is unethical? No, of course not.
I do, however, believe strongly that this will only take you so far.
Think auctions, selling magazines, bake sales, selling books, and so on and so forth.
Car washes are fine, but the approach is wrong to establish meaningful, sustainable, long-term giving.
The focus is on I give, and therefore I get, rather than on how a giver is contributing to what God’s doing through your ministry.
While this term is not likely to pop up in the development world, it’s how I think of the following failed approach.
The reality is if you send a certain number of communications to a certain person in a certain zip code at a certain income level with certain ways of writing, you will get a level of response. There are very sophisticated organizations and programs that do this very well.
Again, is it morally, ethically wrong? No.
However, it is problematic if that’s the fundamental way to raise money if you aim to grow giving over the long haul.
Are events inherently flawed? No.
Do they create and foster relationships between donors and organizations that can be sustained and deepened over time? No.
The easiest way to explain my thinking here is to compare it to a marriage relationship.
My wife and I have an excellent, loving relationship built on years of experiences, trust, devotion, communication, and so much more resulting from doing life together.
Imagine, if you will, a newly married couple. They are in it for the long-haul. However, after the honeymoon, they only spend time together on annual vacations and accompany each other to the occasional work event. How would their marriage stack up to mine? It wouldn’t even come close!
When your donors are only there for fun but not in the thick of it with you, you’ll find sooner than later that there is no substance to your relationship.
Guilt- or Dogma-Driven Mentality
You’ve heard the pitch: Sacrifice a cup of coffee a week and…
Is this helpful? Sure, it can be. Entire ad campaigns use this approach.
Is it morally wrong to do this? No.
Do people become worn out over the long-term guilt trip? Absolutely. Unfortunately, faith-based organizations easily fall into this category and its approach.
Another manifestation of this technique is when you find an organization asking people at a different socioeconomic stratum than we are because of the belief that it would be simple for them to do so. “She could write a check to cover this entire campaign and wouldn’t even feel it.” Or, “This would be nothing to him.”
The fact of the matter is, while it may result in some donations, this technique goes against growing the generous giving culture we want for your organization.
If you approach people with what I refer to as selling your needs, where it’s all about, “We need this, and this, and we also need this,” you will find yourself competing with other organizations and groups of people and their needs.
It’s challenging to walk long-term with givers gained in this way because you’re forever in competition with the rivaling needs of others.
Your needs matter always, but they only matter most to a giver for a particular window of time. After that, new causes come to their attention, and their focus naturally shifts.
The fruit of your God-given mission is not a fire-sale.
The abovementioned tactics are in place for one reason: they work…to some extent.
These approaches often backfire.
The ask can’t be about the money. It must be about the people.
On the surface, it may appear as if operations are running smoothly with willing participants in your call to action – to give.
However, like a duck gliding across a pond, beneath the surface people are working constantly to refresh the pool of active givers. This human cost of time, energy, effort, and money to run systems and programs will lead to burnout.
Focus, instead, on identifying people who are going to walk alongside a ministry for the long-haul to build and foster a supportive culture, preventing the need to constantly hunt and hound.
Jim Collins, who wrote Good to Great, implores leaders to identify who, then what. The idea is simple but imperative: before talking about what you’re going to do or before any plans are developed, make sure to have the right people involved in the conversation or on your team.
You may have a million things you want to do, but God works through His people – not to do lists or flowcharts.
You have to start with, “Who are the people in our influence?” and not, “What do they want?” You first always start with, “Who are our givers and how are we growing that?” long before you decide what methods to use to raise that money.
The difference between fundraising and development is immediate and one time gifts versus long-term and sustainable relationships.