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.
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.
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.
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.
I’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.
On 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.
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.
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.
We’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
- 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.
- 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.
Look, 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.
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.
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.