We confidently approach donors as whole persons
We build mutually transformative relationships for the people who provide funding for our work. We confidently approach potential donors as whole persons who may be called to join the mission, rather than solely as funders upon whose resources we depend.
Too many donor-nonprofit relationships are marked by asymmetry, alienation, and desperation.
Perpetually anxious for resources and often unwilling to professionalize the fundraising processes and teams that lead to financial durability, nonprofit leaders can become prisoners to fundraising crises. We treat prospects and donors as checkbooks instead of whole persons, granting them unhealthy power over us. In the belief that more money will solve our most pressing organizational challenges, we over-rely on their resources and overweight their influence on our priorities and plans.
At the same time, we can enable the shared lie that our team’s work is more noble, more spiritual, or more meaningful than that of our supporters—allowing ourselves false moral power over them. As our budgets grow, we may lose our wonder and gratitude for the generosity that enables us to do the work at hand, often moving from one “close” to the next.
At our worst, we grow cynical when we fail to raise the funding we seek, avoiding our own responsibility and instead passing judgment on what we perceive as the affluence or apathy of the “donor class.”
We can also be tempted to isolate our donors from the messy and unpredictable world of our programs and the communities we serve. We may justify unhealthy behavior and manipulation to convince donors to support our work, bringing about a mutually assured distrust as we chase after whatever we believe will secure funding.
Instead, we long for donor relationships of mutual benefit, respect, and trust.
1. Our funding relationships begin with an invitation to join our organization’s community as well as its mission. As mutual trust develops, we invite potential and current funders into closer relationship. If we discern that a closer relationship is not in the organization’s or potential funder’s best interests, we graciously withdraw from closer contact rather than pursuing money without relationship.
2. We solicit funds based on our organization’s clear and defined direction and our intended uses for the funds, based on our track record of managing the organization’s finances with discipline. We don’t only provide donors with the good news; instead, we appropriately share our successes, challenges, shifts in direction, and questions.
3. Our funding processes engage donors as people with needs and interests that we can serve, not only as those with resources that can serve us. We listen to their passions and aspirations, drawing them further into our work if appropriate, or joyfully introducing them to other organizations whose missions would be more aligned with their interests.
4. Where appropriate, we bring supporters to the locations of our service to help them develop a deeper understanding of the work being done. We creatively develop their interest and skill in our work, inviting them to learn together with us how to boost our impact.
5. We relate to supporters with unexpected care and respect—regularly thanking and serving them, communicating the impact of their support, and finding appropriate moments of celebration.
6. We invest in the people, systems, and long-term fundraising strategies that inspire confidence in our mission, support thoughtful donor experiences, and allow us to avoid desperate appeals.
THE GOOD NEWS
As stewards of our organization’s resources, we are free to rest in the assurance that God will provide the resources the mission needs. While we work with creativity and tenacity to encourage donors to give, we are relaxed and open-handed about the outcome of each proposal. We take a long view of our relationship with each supporter, which opens space for genuine friendships.
We experience the relief and mutuality that comes from telling an integrated story to our donors. We lay down much of the burden of anxiety over our organizational performance in the presence of supporters. Instead, we can see them as true partners, sharing that burden and working shoulder-to-shoulder toward the same goals.
We demonstrate and experience the power of the gospel as we subvert the predominant narrative of scarcity in our sector. We prove that we can be trusted with little or with much. We open new possibilities for abundance, collaboration, and impact as we bless funders and other agencies by connecting them with one another.
Having invested in capable fundraising teams and processes, we can be freed from the anxiety of fixating on transactional, last-minute appeals; instead, we experience the joy of cultivating donor relationships whose financial involvement may ebb and flow over time.
Our team members benefit from the chance to experience God’s good provision in times of shortfall and plenty. The people we serve can participate with dignity and mutuality in humanizing encounters and relationships with people of greater means.