13 Tips for Fundraising

May 2nd, 2012

When I first began the ministry of Inner City Impact in Chicago, I woke up one day to realize that if my ministry was to successfully function with proper funding, I would have to be the one to raise these funds. What a rude awakening and a scary thought! But through 40+ years of fundraising I have learned some valuable lessons, created a workable philosophy, and identified some practical principles that have enhanced my ministry as a fundraiser, which I have learned is really more about the people than the money. But let me share some of the misconceptions, and the right perspectives I learned, that plagued my initial well-intended efforts.

1. Do not take the giving decision away from your prospects and donors. In my early practice, I made decisions for prospects and donors as to whether they could afford to give and how much. In some cases I never gave them a chance to know of my vision because I failed to add them to my prospect list of people I wanted to approach. In other cases, they made the list but I decided that they could not afford to give that much so I simply asked low. And in doing so, I took the decision away from them for how they wanted to give.

2. Persistence makes a difference. I tended to give up on people too easily. I learned that just because a donor's initial response produced a small gift didn't mean there wasn't hope that future gifts could be larger.

3. Challenge people, ask high, and expand their vision. I often asked far too low. And if you do not ASK at all, the answer will always be NO.

4. Focus on vision, not need. Often I was so concerned about all my financial needs that this became my focus as I asked for funds. I soon realized that people were motivated more by my vision for the ministry than how they could help financially achieve that vision.

5. Think long-range, not short-range. There were some unfortunate cases where I tried to rush the fundraising process and lost the relationship. If only I would have been patient and thought about long-range partnership and not short-range return.

6. Your donors have a greater need to give than you have to receive. I was so focused on my need to receive money that I failed to realize that it was more important that they be given the great opportunity to invest in the Lord's work. To give is a privilege, but I was asking for a favor.

7. The Lord will bring in the funds. I thought it all depended upon me. If I produced the time and effort the funds would roll in. If I did not produce the effort the funds simply would not come in. I failed to realize the Lord was working behind the scenes. Even when my efforts seemed meager, He was at work.

8. Focus on effectiveness, not mere efficiency. Those early days I cranked out letters and had numerous church meetings. It certainly got the message out but only raised few funds. I soon discovered I needed to build relationships with people and sit down and ask for their gift.

9. Follow up, follow up, follow up. I assumed that after making the "ask" for funds that the prospect or donor would surely get back to me. No, I needed to control the follow up.

10. Recognize that all donors are not wired to give systematically. It would have been so nice if they all gave on a regular monthly basis and I could easily project the funds coming in. But some people love to respond to special needs and give from time to time.

11. Keep cultivating your donors. Getting the gift was just the beginning. I had to cultivate, thank, update, and stay involved and in touch. In this day and age there are so many options for people to give if I fail to keep them engaged on my team. 

12. Prayer is a two-way street. At first I thought prayer was all about me and my ministry, but I soon realized my prospects and donors had needs that required my prayer on their behalf.

13. Don't expect everyone to fall in love with your vision. After all, I was working with inner city kids. Who wouldn't lend their support? But donors have preferences when it comes to giving.

When I began the ministry of Inner City Impact we had no money, no staff, and no building. We literally started on a sidewalk. I sold pots and pans to earn a living, but I knew God had a call on my life and we needed to reach out to these inner-city kids. You can readily see from my early mistakes and misconceptions that fundraising does not come naturally, but the good news is that it can be learned and applied, and through it, God is faithful to bring together the generosity of others to bring about His good work.



Bill Dillon is the Founder and Executive Director of Inner City Impact and the President of People Raising, an organization committed to training people on how to successfully raise funds. His new and expanded version of his book People Raising (Moody Publishers, 2012) is available online at www.PeopleRaising.com.

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