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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