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Author: Jacob Young (page 2 of 4)

Getting People to Care In Fundraising

One of the main struggles of all fundraising is brining people into the mission. How do you present what you’re fundraising as important to somebody who didn’t feel it was important 5 minutes ago? Moreover, how do you do fundraising that’s envisioning and accessible?

We’ve all experienced bad fundraising in one way or another (or done it). Last week I wrote about how fundraising is primarily about leadership. This week, let me speak to a practical aspect of fundraising: Accessibility.

The Five Yes’s

Accessibility in fundraising is essential. It understands that people need ways to engage with what you’re fundraising for without having to go immediately to the “Big Yes”.

Within the fundraising world there is the idea of “The Five Yes’s”. I’m not sure if that’s the official term, but here’s the principle: Fundraising needs to have distinct appeal stages where people can affirm a new and meaningful Yes to the mission before the Big Yes ($$$) is presented. The reason it’s called “The Five Yes’s” is simply that in fundraising studies, it takes 5 distinct phases to lead people from knowing nothing about a fundraising project through distinct steps where they are asked increasingly more until they are at the final stage of being open to the Big Yes of financial appeals.

Developing On-Ramps

That’s my operating understanding of the idea. As a fundraiser, someone needs to think through distinct ways for people to affirm the mission and get on board with it’s vision that will lead their interest towards functional support of the fundraising goal.

I call these on-ramps. These are ways people can say “Yes” to the mission without every appeal having to be financial appeals. Often, fundraisers haven’t thought through what they’re doing. They think, “If I just tell people what we’re doing and how awesome we are, they’ll just want to give us $1,000.” First, that’s dumb. Secondly, it’s dumb. Thirdly, it’s not how people work. Unless somebody is already vested in a project’s meaning, they won’t see its value and thus will rebuff financial appeals (and feel offended by them – double loss: relational and time investment).

The Five Yes’s principle treats people as real human beings and recognizes the needs of a developing relationship. Just like asking a woman the Big Yes (Will you marry me?), the relationship is progress, from notes in the school hallway, to prom, to that special picnic. We understand the principle there, but have we connected it to fundraising? When we make financial appeals, we’re asking people to give their hard earned cash to our vision. The “Five Yes’s” principle honors people’s personal investment and desire to be good stewards and gives intentional leadership to leading them through meaningful steps of support towards considering investing that hard earned cash voluntarily into the project.

What we’ve done

So, there’s all the principle. Now you want to know how it works out. Let me tell you how we’re applying this as a church plant.

Newsletter

 

If you’re looking to fundraise and don’t have a monthly newsletter, you’re being, uh… not smart. A mission moves forward by people feeling involved. They way you involve them is by…. that’s right, telling them what’s going on. (Confession: I have not done a great job at this in the past.) When people read this or sign up for it, they are saying “Yes” to the church plant in a way that works for them. They may not be able to give, but the more they hear, the more likely they are to give. And right now, they may only want to hear. I’m deeply grateful for anybody who joins our mailing list.

VIEW OUR NEWSLETTER or SUBSCRIBE HERE!

 

Oh look, we’ve stumbled upon a mini soap box. Don’t mind if I do. Make this short, sweet and to the point with lots of pictures! I’ll speak to this another time, but wordy newsletters never get written. I’ve seen and receive wordy newsletters. The more words, the greater the attrition rate. Keep it simple, punchy, crystal clear and to the point. And pictures.

Information cards

postcard_layoutI’ve made these up to have available at any church I speak at. It presents our logo, mission and vision in simple, accessible bites. Each section is 80 words or less. It points people to our website, Facebook, and Twitter. In picking up and taking an info card home, people are saying Yes to learning more about the plant, and they have a clear Call To Action in their hands, the directions to the next phase of our relationship: the website or Facebook page.

 

Facebook page

facebook_2015_logo_detailOn our Facebook page people will see regular quotes from our church, updates, and more info on what’s going on for us than they will get in the Newsletter. By “Liking” the page, they are saying “Yes” to a new phase of our relationship. It builds our momentum by having X number of likes, but it also gives us access to tell people what’s going on in a space that they spend a lot of time. It’s like having access to somebody’s fridge door where you sit right next to their cute dog pictures.

WOULD YOU LIKE OUR FACEBOOK PAGE?

Twitter

Maybe this is a more limited medium, but it’s so easy, why not? This maybe plays to my strengths since I’m very popular on twitter (read: sarcasm). But if people use Twitter, why not ask for a place on their newsfeed with updates, sermon posts, quotes, etc.? Same principle as with Facebook: When people “follow” @KingsCrossNH they are saying yes to the mission.

Website

On the King’s Cross website, people learn how to join the newsletter, join us in worship, etc. This is the front yard sign of the church plant. The site is designed to direct people towards joining our newsletter, and makes it clear for locals how to join our groups. You have to have a clear demographic and narrative target for your website. Too many churches have horrible websites because, like Kevin Costner, they believe that all they have to do is build any ol’website and they will come. That’s a lie from the pit of Hell. Rebuke it, and get a good website. Also, pay somebody to do it.

Podcast

SoundCloudWe’ve just started preaching at King’s Cross Church. Ever notice how Desiring God has that nice, inviting closing to each podcast telling people how they can support their ministry? Not only are people saying Yes to the church plant by subscribing to the podcast, but they are being directed towards how to support the ministry. The intro/closer directs people to act on their Yes of listening to the sermon. They’re being directed to the next phase of the relationship. It’s the Five Yes’s principle: They’ve said yes to listening to the podcast, now give them clear steps for the next phase.

Two tips here

  1. If you want a good opening and closing voice over, check out Fiverr. Cheap and important. This is the guy we used – super great experience. Did a few back and forth. He did it right. It sounds great.
  2. Host your audio on SoundCloud. They make it super easy to push to podcasts (iTunes, etc.) and they integrate flawlessly with all forms of social media. Not only is it a socialized space for audio content, but it also makes your content easily shared on all venues. Just do it. Trust me.

T-Shirts

kingscross-frontLook, we’ve got a sweet logo, and we’ve got a gifted graphic artist in our team. She threw the shirt together, and it came out looking awesome. When I visit churches, I sell the shirt for $15. The point of the t-shirt isn’t to be a major fundraiser, it’s an accessible, tangible way for people to support the church plant. At $15 per shirt, we’re making some money, but we’re bringing people in on the mission, which is more important. Now they advertise the church plant. Now they think about us when they decide to wear their cool new shirt. Hopefully they pray for us. As importantly, it keeps us on the front of their minds amidst all the things that’re competing for their attention. Maybe they’ll decide to support us more. Maybe they’ll remember a relative who’s in the area that would be interested in the church plant. All of those have happened. All that for $15. (Comment if you’re interested in getting one. $15 + s/h.)

Side note: Don’t over charge for these. I almost did $20 per shirt. I think people would pay that, but begrudgingly. More than $20 and I think it’ll leave a bitter taste in people’s mouths. Yea, they supported a cause, but only because that’s what “Good People” do gosh darn it… yea, that doesn’t taste of Jesus. My experience has been that people are happy to give more (and often leave it at “just keep the change”), but $15 is accessible and much easier to pay. Plus, a married couple can both get shirts for $30. If you charge more, they may only buy one. I want people to enjoy their support of the church plant. If they want to give more, that’s great, but both of us are getting value with the low-bar $15 they invest.

This blog

Look, I love Sovereign Grace Churches and want to invest in our future. I want us to succeed in our mission to plant and build churches in the Gospel of Christ. But this also gives me another platform to push the church plant. It also gives me a platform to strengthen Sovereign Grace, which in tern strengthen’s our ability to fund church plants, one of which happens to be mine. I don’ think of it as self-interest, but strategic, long-term investment in the future of Sovereign Grace Churches.

Conclusion

You’ll see in all of these that relationships and time are essential. None of these come out of a box pre-made. But there are all intentionally designed to guide a relationship. The fundraising goals need to be met, but they need to be met in ways that build people into the vision, and aren’t just money grabs. The more they’re built in, the more they’ll give to support the mission long term. That’s most important, because the mission is the goal, not the budget.

Vodcast: Jacob and Ricky Talk Stuff

On this very first episode of Plant/Replant, Jacob and Ricky bring you into the conversation. From the spiritual value of The Goonies, to why Rob Low left The West Wing, Jacob and Ricky also get around to talking about why their partnership with Sovereign Grace Churches is so essential. Join us to hear from a very special sponsor, and please stay tuned to hear about our guest on our next episode.

Fundraising is Leadership

Maybe it was just me, but my first impressions of fundraising were simply that it’s a nuisance, an inconvenient way to get the money I need to do what God’s called me to do. Notice the me’s in there? That’s a bunk way of viewing fundraising, but it’s how many guys think about it.

Here’s the thing, if you’re just looking at fundraising to get you over the hump into a full-time ministry calling, you’re probably thinking about ministry all wrong. If you’re a pastor, you will always be fundraising. You will always be providing a vision of God’s localized call for your people and asking them to contribute to make that God-lead vision happen. And that means money.

Fundraising is always about Leadership.

Thus, fundraising is always about leadership. It’s always about a certain type of leadership that clearly articulates vision and the value of that vision in such a way that people want to be involved. There’s no coercion. No guilting. No manipulation. Clear vision. Clear value. Clear appeals. We’ll get to how to do appeals later, but the leadership part is essential.

This view of leadership looks at the ministry aims that need financial investment and looks at the individual donor’s personal need for growth in Christ-likeness.

Leadership in fundraising wants to marry the ministry vision and personal donor’s personal needs and desires. That doesn’t mean morphing the vision to fit their needs (more on this another time), but having a view of people that sees that they give to ministries that say something about them, or actualize something that they want – either in the mission they’re supporting or in the act of giving.

Think about it like this. At the end of Paul’s letter of encouragement, after his famous statements about contentment, he turns to fundraising. The church at Philippi had recently sent him a financial gift, and he in turn says: This was very kind of you, but it’s “not that I seek the gift, but i seek the fruit that increases to your credit” (Phil. 4:17). His leadership aim in their lives was their sanctification – their growth in Christ-likeness. That’s the “increase to your credit”. He wanted them to specifically grow in generosity, to be more like Christ’s generosity who counted our needs as more significant than his own (Phil. 2:3). And they did. They grew in generosity, but not in etherial, unspoken praise report type ways. They grew in this specific act – they wanted to grow, and thus gave sacrificially to support Paul’s ministry.

That’s the point in leadership for fundraising. People are being invited to support a ministry that they value and want to contribute to realizing. Their personal interests are why they support your ministry vision.

This is the main principle: Money follows ministry.

That simple. You care for people, care about their needs, care about their personal growth and recognize their personal growth in their giving, and you’ll be a good leader. You’ll lead in a way that fundraising happens to be the context of your partnership with people in the grace of God.

As a fundraiser, you need to have a crystal clear vision of what you’re asking people to contribute to realize. Some things are easier to actualize than others. For example, “Hi, I think God’s called me to go to Africa and help build infrastructures to provide a better life for orphans” is easier to bring people into than “Hi, I’m going to school to become a better pastor”. The former has an immediate value. Orphans? Um, yep, they need my cash. Here’s my bank-number. Oh, so you need to become a better pastor? Take out a loan you slacker, there’s orphans in need!

In fundraising it’s easy to visit the Pity Party For Me, By Me party. Somebody said no to supporting me, therefore I’m horrible and probably shouldn’t exist. Well, maybe, but somebody’s No maybe just be the prompting you need to clarify what you’re asking them to give. You may also be asking them too soon (more on that at a different point), but often I see sloppy fundraising presentations that depend on “Hey, like me” rather than a clear “This is what God’s doing, wanna partner up?”

A God-given vision, not my wildest dreams

You see, you’re inviting people to realize a God-given vision. You’re not asking them to support you and make your wildest dreams come true. You’re the agent, the emissary of the ministry vision, asking them to partner in mutually making it happen. Thus, your leadership is about building a team, a team of donors that make X ministry vision happen. People aren’t cash bags just waiting for you to figure out the code to get them to open up. They’re people, and you’re inviting them into a ministry goal.

At the end of the day, successful fundraising in a church environment will seek to build faith, not simply money. If we aim at faith and love unapologetically, with clear, accessible onramps for people to support what we’re doing, if they choose not to support us, but have been built up in the faith, we have been successful. And that personal relationship is essential to the long-term goals of fundraising (more on that in another post). While we are seeking to build people and their faith, fundraising is about money, which means we aren’t giving people the “Prayer Support” option for what we’re doing. That’s great, but not the aim. It’s a tension – I know you’re feeling it right about now. Not about money? But we don’t want prayer? No, that’s not what I’m saying. Your on-ramps for people expressing faith may or may not include financial donations, but your leadership in the relationship will guide their faith towards expressions that build the fundraising campaign. For example, subscription to your newsletter (which you must do, or you’ll die) is an onramp. This principle is called the Five Yes’s, and I’ll write about this more another time.

But the principle here is this: Successful fundraising builds people up in the faith with a clear vision for your ministry goals and accessible onramps for how they can participate tailored specifically for their needs. This is the type of leadership that fundraising requires.

This is hard work. This isn’t easy. It takes time, reading, thinking, crying, praying, crying and pain to clarify your ministry vision. And just to make this really clear, you need to get it under 100 words. If you can do that, you’ve got a clear ministry vision that will garner attention and interest. Often guys who are ministry-types like to talk, and get lost in the words. I’m on several newsletters that have too many words, not enough clarity and pictures (more on newsletters in a later post).

Thus, fundraising isn’t about hand-ringing and awkward conversations trying to make your budget. All leadership is a bit awkward at first. Suck it up. Be a man. Get out there and lead.

Why The Church Is Not A Tweet

I distinctly remember reading Malcolm Gladwell’s piece Small Change almost 5 years ago. I remember where I was, and what the weather was that day. I generally read articles and move on, but this one stuck with me. Certainly Gladwell is an engaging, wildly successful and insightful writer, but I generally don’t remember articles, so this one was special.

The basic premise of the piece was that social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, ahem) talk a big talk, and appear to promote social change, but they pale in comparison to real, genuine protests or campaigns waged by the social activists of previous generations. He opens the article with an example of four young black students going into a segregated diner and asking for a cup of coffee. They were protesting, and physically there to do it. You can imagine the comparison: Does a tweet “Such and such is outrageous in our day and age #justice” effect the same explosive power of protest? Hardly.

The main crux of the article comes in the closing paragraphs, though I’d encourage you to read it.

It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact. The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient.

That is to say, if social media is one’s choice medium of cultural protest, you’re protesting from the comfort of your couch. More often than not, there is no real skin in the game. No teeth in the bite, nobody cares in the end. I recognize that there are qualifications here and that this is not a universal law. One of the appeals of Gladwell is that when he unfolds an issue, it somehow seems so obviously simple – too simple, in fact. There are people for whom social media engagement is an outflow of their skin being on the line. However, in most cases, I don’t think that’s the case.

And yet, the Church.

To my mind, in contrast to all of that, stands the Church.

I am not one to say that the church is a protest to the world, or buy into those type of arguments. We are called to be holy – genuine, real holiness. And true holiness, like the Holy God, pursues and loves a lost and broken world. Holiness propels us towards the world, not to retreat from it.

Which leads me to simply point to the article with a reflection: The church is not a social media campaign for spiritual activism by #hashtag. Personally, I am deeply disinclined to buy into and support social media campaigns of any type because they are cheap, and require very little of me (might they in fact be cheap grace Herr Bonhoeffer?).

In contrast to cheap activism, the church is called to genuine love. Should we want real change – change without an agenda for personal comfort – then we must obey the simple command to love our neighbors. I’m often left wondering: Do our tweets and posts substitute for obedience to “love thy neighbor as thyself”? The church, in contrast to Facebook shares, is a family of people seeking to make new disciples by love, for love, with love – doing so by real, physical presence with their neighbors.

Tweets and blogs decrying this or that cause, this or that leader, this or that church or organization for supposed or real infections of love or justice – most are not brave. It is brave to press into the life of the church. It is requires grace to put your skin on the line, stay in the hardship, and commit to the long-term change of grace that only the Gospel can produce. The Gospel is the only change agent that produces real change in real people’s lives over time together. To use Gladwell’s language, if we want our lives and passions for Jesus to have an impact, we have to choose the harder path. The church, not twitter. The church is the mission of the real God, with real people in real community. The church is not a tweet.

To end, let me commend to you Malcolm Gladwell’s piece Small Change for your cogitation and brooding.