You, too, can learn to love fundraising

The theme of the Harvard Business Review article is networking. However, the quoted comments from reluctant business schmoozers ring familiar to the way fundraising adverse nonprofit folk talk about asking for money.

Uncomfortable, phony, distasteful, a necessary evil, feels slimy.

figure_holding_happy_sad_signs_400_clr_10227I’ve heard them all, including from ministry leaders who claim to have accepted the good news of fundraising as ministry.

Nonprofit leaders understand that in today’s world, asking for money goes with the job. But that doesn’t mean they have to like it, and a lot don’t. There are long stretches when my consulting practice consists primarily of talking reluctant fundraisers – CEOs and board members, in particular– off the proverbial ledge.

If this is you, dear reader, the HBR article has helpful advice. Swap out “fundraising” for “networking” as I’ve done in the following, couple the article’s four points with a commitment to fundraising as ministry, and then give the strategies a try.

A FUNDRAISING FRAME OF MIND

Similar to successful networkers described in the HBR article, effective fundraisers are able to get beyond themselves and focus instead on the bigger possibilities of fundraising. In faith-based settings, the transformation comes as CEOs and board members re-frame fundraising as ministry – both personally and organizationally. The four strategies identified in the HBR article, in tandem with a desire to grow givers’ hearts toward God, can help accelerate your shift in attitude.

Focus on learning. If you approach fundraising with just one question (Will you give?), you’ll miss the joy that comes from hearing the stories of what it is that motivates generosity. Fundraising is more fulfilling when you take time to learn with, from, and about the good folks who support your organization. By paying attention to God’s work in donors’ hearts, you can be a channel through which God’s love and joy can flow.

Identify common interests. As a leader in a faith-based setting, this is an easy one. When fundraising is grounded in shared faith and assumptions about God’s grand plans for the world, it is more authentic and meaningful and more likely to lead to relationships that have those qualities too. For the purposes of nurturing both their commitment and their spiritual growth, nothing takes the place of meeting donors where their hearts are.

Think broadly about what you can give. Fundraising as ministry is a two-way street, with blessings flowing freely between an organization and its supporters. Effective fundraisers understand, as the authors of the HBR article tell us,

the more heartfelt the expression of gratitude, the greater its value to the recipient. People also appreciate those who understand their values and identities and make them feel included. You might also have unique insights or knowledge that could be useful to those from whom you are seeking a gift. When you think more about what you can give to others than what you can get from them, fundraising will seem less self-promotional and more selfless – and therefore more worthy of your time.

Find a higher purpose. The suggestion that “any work activity becomes more attractive when it’s linked to a higher goal” is a beautiful apologetic for fundraising as ministry. Christians engaged in fundraising are to look beyond their organizations’ needs and goals to the blessings donors will experience from their generosity – in the words of the Apostle Paul to “what may be credited to [their] account” (Philippians 4:17).

Do all this and the authors of the HBR article promise “you’ll become more excited about and effective at building relationships that bear fruit for everyone.” In short, you can learn to love fundraising.

For more about fundraising as ministry, check out:

The very reason for fundraising as ministry

These things I still believe about fundraising as ministry

A ministry response to the challenges of nonprofit fundraising

 

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