When we begin a financial stewardship campaign at a church or with a small organization, we are often met with a sense of hesitation and reluctance around asking people for money. People are excited about the plans for their future but worry about funding their vision.
In his novel, A Spirituality of Fundraising, Henri Nouwen asks us this question:
“What is the place of money in our lives?” He says, “we will never be able to ask for money if we do not know how we ourselves relate to money.”
Consider this powerful message for a moment: we must understand how we relate to money before we can effectively ask others for money. Especially when embarking on a parish fundraising campaign, it is important to recognize that people’s relationships with money are different. People have different emotional associations with money. So how do we begin asking people to contribute to an organization?
Step 1: Establish Trust
Trust in your organization’s mission and vision for the future because it has been given by God. God entrusts us to serve that mission with generous hearts. Before you can trust the organization you need to trust that God has called you to a higher mission.
When you believe in the vision then you will believe in your role to encourage stewardship. Transparency and knowledge of how funds will be spent is essential for developing trust but people have to see that you believe in the mission first.
Step 2: Tell Your Story
Tell the organization’s story and include your own reasons for getting involved. Why do you think these initiatives are important? What are you most excited about? Genuine excitement is a powerful way to invite people to participate in the organization’s plans for the future.
Step 3: Listen
You may have initiated the conversation and you will have a lot to say but knowing when to listen is even more important than telling the story. People will have questions, they may want to hear more about one element of the plan than another and they may have personal stories to tell. Remember: we build up the strength of our communities by giving others an opportunity to share their ideas and contribute.
Step 4: Invite People In
Fundraising is an invitation for members of an organization to participate in the growth or renewal its mission. This should be an exciting time in the life of your organization because we are sharing our plans for the future and asking people to become stewards of that future. Money is just one element of that stewardship. In parish campaigns, we are creating a family where once their was a congregation.
Step 5: Follow up
Don’t expect definitive answers from the first meeting. You want people to take time to think about their own financial responsibilities and plans before making a commitment to your organization. After a week or so, follow up by asking if the person has any additional questions about your meeting or the organization’s plans. It’s important to secure some kind of commitment from the person. It doesn’t necessarily have to be financial. It could be a commitment to meet again or to volunteer for the organization. In some cases, it may be a commitment to be put on a mailing list to keep updated about your organization or to attend an upcoming event. People have many gifts and talents to share so contribution and commitment does not always have to be financial.
It is important to remember that people are generous and people want to be a part of a mission that they believe in.
As Henri Nouwen wrote, “I ask for money standing up, not bowing down because I believe in what I am about. I believe I have something important to offer.”
Belief is power. Money is a means.