Fundraising Companies Are Good Story-Tellers—Are You?

Nothing can inspire donors to give like the power of a good story, told well, whether you are raising funds with a Saturday morning car wash or you are one of a handful of powerful fundraising companies helping clients raise millions.  

In last week’s blog post I talked about the importance of connecting the donor to the end recipient of their generosity using Internet–just like Heart For the City does on this page of their website.  You can see touching photos of families benefiting from the Thanksgiving “Adopt A Family” effort.  

We also encouraged you to create interactive areas on your site that allow donors to tell the success stories of the effort themselves, like this page from the National Prayer Campaign for the Jerusalem Prayer Team.  You can read last week’s entry on fundraising company Pathmaker Marketing’s blog page HERE 

In this posting, I offer two more ideas, drawn from the experience of fundraising companies and the professionals who run them.    

3.  Don’t overlook traditional forms of storytelling like newsletters and snail mail appeals.  Stories collected on your website—or via letters and emails—can be used (anonymously, if needed) to keep the ministry’s efforts fresh in the minds of those who read them.  Pathmaker Marketing can help you develop an eNewsletter that will build your email list—and keep the powerful stories of your ministry in the forefront of your efforts as a professional fundraiser.  

4.  Create an event.  Use awards, presentations, speeches or other “special moments” to connect givers to those they help and share them in your communication efforts. RISE, International is a ministry that builds schools in Angola.  When an American couple raised and extraordinary amount of money to build one school in a rural village—$50,000—Lynn Cole, the ministry head (who is the professional fundraiser for the group–they do not use a fundraising company) took a photo of the family, enlarged and laminated it and hand carried it to the dedication of that school months later.  She told the boys and girls in the Angolan village, who were overjoyed about the opportunity to now receive an education, about the family as she showed them the enlarged photo.  She photographed the eager learners with the image of the Americans in a powerful ceremony that will remain unforgettable for both sides.  

Sharing the fruits of your ministry with those who donate to make it possible will bring your fundraising efforts “full circle” and will further strengthen your professional fundraising initiatives.  Pathmaker Marketing is a professional fundraising company that will listen to your needs and help you tell your story.  We’d like to give you a free website analysis–get in touch with us today.   

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Good Fundraising Professionals Connect Donor to Recipient

Fundraising professionals, no matter what their cause or kind, understand that they must, at some point in the fundraising stream, connect donors to the end-recipient of their giving.  Stories, testimonies and images all can work together to bring that powerful sense of gratification to donors who want their dollars to truly make a difference in the world. 

Whether you are raising funds for your local church, a street ministry or the building of hospitals overseas, those who give to you want to see how their gifts are helping.  If, as a fundraising professional, you’ve lost sight of this meaningful principle, here are some ideas to help get you back on track with the important discipline of “telling the stories.”  

1.  Use the Internet.  It’s relatively inexpensive, and you pay the same, no matter how many individuals read the testimonies you share.  Bring the faces and stories of those who are impacted right onto the pages of your website.  Make sure your storytelling is rich with images and effective words, using first person accounts whenever possible.  Let the fundraising professionals at Pathmaker Marketing help you build a website (or re-design your current one) to motivate and encourage your donors.  

2.  Provide interactive opportunities that will tell the story for you.  Are you giving your supporters interactive ways to be involved with the ministry other than giving?  Prayer is an energizing way to draw constituents in and create community.  And, it will truly strengthen your efforts!  Let us help you create a prayer area on your website using our interactive prayer walls, prayer requests function and more.  Just seeing the many heartfelt prayers that build up on the prayer wall will serve as a form of testimony that will go a long way for you, as a professional fundraiser, to encourage your stakeholders.  

We can also help you create an area on your website where both the friends of your ministry as well as those you serve can post their stories and testimonies, much like this one of Gregory Dickow Ministries and this one from Jewish Voice.  These accounts will help strengthen the link between donor and recipient as readers see the impact of their giving.

Check back for my next blog post to read two more great ways you can strengthen your efforts as a professional fundraiser by telling the powerful stories of your ministry or group. 

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Understanding Why Donors Give

As professional fundraisers, we seek to connect donors with ministries that satisfy their need to give to people, causes and organizations.

Nine years ago, I stumbled in to the arena of Christian marketing and fundraising for nonprofits when I took a job with a Christian marketing and fundraising agency.  Active in ministry my entire adult life, I was looking to supplement our income as my firstborn launched to private Christian college.  This new job presented me with a steep learning curve, new vocabulary and challenging tasks.  I quickly found, however, that the things we were doing for our clients as a fundraising company were not that different from what I’d been doing for years throughout church and para-church involvement.

I began my career as a professional fundraiser decades ago when I joined the staff of Youth for Christ and was immediately responsible for raising 100% of my salary, expenses and benefits.  The need for a regular paycheck will make a willing professional fundraiser out of the most reluctant letter writer!

I quickly learned what any good fundraising company will teach—that folks love to give to people, causes and organizations that are important to them.  In my case, the person, Meagan Gillan, was the appeal for one segment of donors.  These people would probably have supported me if I was hand-raising panda bear cubs in the Chinese rainforest.  They were behind me and wanted to let me know as much with their gifts and support.

For another group, the gifts and donations were targeted at a cause—ministry to a cottage of juvenile delinquent girls in a locked state institution.  For a variety of reasons, their heartstrings were pulled when they learned of the plight of these girls who, though guilty of bad choices, were victims of bad family situations, bad economics and other circumstances beyond their control.  These donors wanted to help girls know Jesus and gain skills that would help them when they were released from the institution.

A third group gave because they believed in and wanted to be associated with the organization.  Youth for Christ had already piled up decades of relevant, Gospel-focused ministry to millions of youth.  These givers were glad that I was serving a particular group of girls in a specific institution, but they were particularly pleased (and willing to give) because they knew and loved the organization with which I served.  Trust was a given.

That innocuous beginning has led to a lifetime of helping people live in to their God-ordained need to give.  I’ve had up-close experience with several fundraising companies, and remain in awe, with many fundraising professionals, of the extraordinary faithfulness of the family of God as they pump billions of dollars of charitable giving into the human efforts that advance God’s Kingdom on earth.  It never ceases to amaze me.

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How to Be a Good Client for Your Professional Fundraiser

I know … I’ve been there … when you hire a professional fundraiser, your most prevalent thought has more to do with the skills, abilities and behavior of the professional fundraiser rather than how you can be a good client. But even the best professional fundraisers shine more brightly when they have good clients with whom to work. Also, the better client you are, the less likely it is that you will waste money.

So, here are some thoughts on how to be a good client.

Define what you’re looking for in writing. Whether it’s a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) or simply a one-page outline, writing down what you want to accomplish will help you communicate clearly and succinctly and stimulate discussion on what is realistic and what isn’t.

Be sure you have the authority. Get approvals from your management to hire a professional fundraiser. Understand the expectations they have (put it in writing). Make sure the people with the decision authority are in all meetings, unless they give that authority to you. And if they do, be decisive. Also beware that having too many decision makers can destroy a project.

Put it in writing. Contracts protect both you and the professional fundraiser. The contract can be as informal as an email, but it needs to communicate specifically what you are paying for along with the remuneration and time frame. Include what you will deliver to the professional fundraiser, along with what the fundraiser is expected to provide. Terms of payment are important, and so is an arbitration agreement and an “out clause,” which gives both of you a way to end the contract amicably should things not work out.

Give room for creativity. The vision you have in your head may not be what will best accomplish your goals, even if it worked well for a friend. When you consider your professional fundraiser a partner, and clearly communicate your goals and vision, you might be surprised how differently your vision gets expressed by someone who is trained to think in marketing terms.

Be responsive. If you’re going to achieve your goals within your budget and time frame, you’ll need to return calls, answer emails, provide the resources you agreed to provide, line up internal decision makers for approvals and do what’s necessary to avoid delays, scope creep and budget overages.

Promote trust. This is a partnership, and you need to be transparent and respectful.

This isn’t the whole list, of course, but following these guidelines will move you toward a successful outcome in any project with a professional fundraiser.

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