Some Catholic organisations require a full-time fundraiser. But if your yearly fundraising revenue is under £2 million, or you are at an early stage of development, I believe you do not need one. To help you get started with fundraising, I recommend incorporating three simple habits that will keep costs low, increase donations and ignite your mission.
First habit St Paul reminds us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”, quoting Our Lord Jesus. St Francis of Assisi says “for it is in giving that we receive”. Today, we use the phrase “pay it forward”. Fundraisers most commonly direct these adages at donors. I challenge you, however, to flip them around. Before asking what people can give you, think about how your organisation gives to others.
If you are already reaching out, for example by offering free information booklets, I recommend raising your standard. Why not ask people which new resources would benefit them most? They will then recognise your organisation as one that gives before it asks. As a result, they will be more open to donating. You will also spend less on attracting new donors because people will already be engaged and eager to give.
Second habit When praying, we can find ourselves quite focused on asking God for what we want. The Catechism teaches us that petition is just one of four ways of praying. By bringing in the three other ways – intercession, thanksgiving and praise – we can discover a more fruitful prayer life.
Fundraising requires a similar balance. Too often we focus on asking for donations. Asking for funds is only one communication method. If we spend most of our time petitioning, we may be alienating rather than inspiring people. Before planning your next appeal, I recommend checking how balanced your communication has been since the last one. Have you thanked people? Have you praised their contributions? Have you shared how support is making a difference?
Third habit I recently read Evangelii Nuntiandi, Paul VI’s 1975 exhortation on evangelisation in the modern world. He writes: “The Church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilise these powerful means [mass media] that human skill is daily rendering more perfect. It is through them that she proclaims from the housetops.” Indeed, the Catholic Church has embraced new technology through the ages. In the 12th century monks used clocks to help them pray more precisely at specific times of the day. Later, the Church was at the forefront of printing books and building libraries (yes, books and libraries were technological innovations).
Bearing Paul VI’s words in mind today, I recommend that your Catholic organisation uses the internet and social media when fundraising. They will significantly raise your profile and increase donors. They will also enable you to keep costs low because they are mostly free.
I don’t recommend, however, running a social media fundraising campaign, tweeting your followers to donate and posting Facebook messages that ask for donations. Instead, I advise you to use these social platforms for amplifying your message, attracting followers and inspiring engagement. People want to chat and connect when checking their social profiles. They don’t want to read messages that ask for money. If you give them what they want, they’ll be more open to donating.
There has never been such a time in history when we have been able to attract massive attention while spending so little. Yes, it is a clamorous world, but you can rise above it and get noticed. As Pope Francis says, hacer lío – make some noise.
You may think, “I know nothing about technology, and that is why I need to hire a full-time fundraiser.” Almost every position within a Catholic organisation now requires certain tech skills. If you and your colleagues are willing to collaborate, learn, adapt and stay dedicated, I guarantee that you will see results, even without a full-time fundraiser.
In conclusion, I would advise small and growing Catholic organisations not to replicate the costly fundraising methods of large institutions. Many of these methods, used for decades, are inspiring fewer and fewer people to give due to changes in our social and cultural landscape. If a Catholic organisation wants to attract donors, its leaders will accept the realities and embrace change.
Yes, change is hard. It takes tremendous humility and courage. Blessed John Henry Newman offers us the first step: “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”
I see vast opportunities for any Catholic organisation that is willing to tread a new path boldly in pursuit of its mission. If you need help, I am just a click away.
Brice Sokolowski is an independent Catholic fundraiser. He offers free training resources and advice at catholicfundraiser.net
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