Funders who are sympathetic to faith-based causes are generally turned off by fundraising practices that mimic the corporate world, such as highly-polished direct mail campaigns or multiple or duplicated appeals in a short period of time.
Faith-based fundraisers should put aside the trendy telemarketing efforts, the unsolicited premiums and the commercial hard-sell in favor of a low-key, sincere campaign that will better connect with their audience, says Dan Busby, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) president. EFCA is an accreditation agency dedicated to helping Christian ministries and faith-based organizations improve fundraising and accountability.
Busby offers six tips that can inject charm and earnestness into the message.
Thank your donors. Too often ministries are so busy raising the next dollar, they forget to appropriately thank donors for their last gift. Ministry policies may require you to provide a receipt for gifts received, Busby says. But you should go beyond that. “Thank you” means finding appropriate ways to let major donors know about the impact of their work, whether that means a personal note from field staff or an invitation to visit the project and the people it helps first hand. One survey reported 40% of donors said that a great thank you letter alone had the power to influence their next gift; 85% would give again if a leadership volunteer called them to acknowledge their support, Busby says.
Better reporting of ministry outcomes. Many donors expect much more than just a good story. Outcome reporting is hard work. It requires intentional planning for the collection of data — often from remote locations half way around the world. However, EFCA surveys have shown that donors have positively responded to periodic reporting — including comparative data by time periods — of gospel presentations, decisions for Christ, discipleship and church integration, with more detailed breakdowns in each category, Busby says.
Watch out for outcomes that are “too good to be true.” If claims of ministry outcomes stretch a donor’s imagination, it is generally wise to communicate the basis for the data or statements. Even though the information may be completely truthful, if a donor finds it hard to believe, the decision of whether or not to give could be impacted. For example, what if a ministry claims that every dollar of every gift goes directly to program because a major donor has funded overhead expenses? Possible? Yes. A little hard for donors to believe? Perhaps. A few words to explain all this to the donor will be very helpful, Busby says.
Clear up fundraising appeals. Before any fundraising letter is sent, a ministry or faith-based group should decide whether gifts in response to the letter will be recorded as unrestricted or restricted for accounting purposes. Likewise, when a potential donor reads the letter, he or she should have a clear understanding whether an unrestricted or restricted gift is being solicited. Then, the response vehicle must also be consistent with the appeal letter. For example, if the appeal letter presents the need for a certain project, the response vehicle should give the donor an opportunity to give to that project, Busby says.
Beware of restricted appeals. New donor acquisition mailings should generally be limited to unrestricted appeals because the cost of acquiring each new donor is often so significant. Let’s say the cost to obtain a new donor is 80 cents of each dollar raised, so 80 cents of each dollar raised pays fundraising costs and 20 cents goes to program. In a restricted appeal, most donors would think their gift will be dedicated for the project, never dreaming that only 20% of their gift actually goes for the project, Busby says.
Use the correct terminology for challenge/matching funds. Faith-based groups continue to confuse the difference between matching gifts and challenge gifts A matching gift opportunity is typically defined as an “at risk” promise by one of more donors to match other gifts, usually with a dollar and/or a time limit on the match.
A challenge gift is generally considered to be a completed gift whereby the donor challenges other donors to support the ministry. There is no matching or multiplier effect because the challenge gift has either already been completed or will be completed regardless of how much other donors give, Busby says.
Contact: Busby, 540/535-0103.