By Denise Kuhn
How do you find new givers? Begin a relationship with a potential giver? Motivate a giver to give for the first time? Keep them giving? Ask a giver to increase their giving? The answer is to tell your story well.
Don’t assume that people get it. Don’t assume your board members and loyal supporters get it. You need to do the hard work of describing your life-changing work and connecting God’s people to it.
As a leader in your ministry, you set the pace in telling your story well; all of your ministry’s representatives, including board members and staff, take their cues from you.
Remember basic principles.
Understand why people give. Then connect your story to the reasons people give. It is surprising how often donor communication overlooks this critical rule.
People don’t give because you have a shortfall. They don’t give because of your strategies or goals. They don’t give because they’ve given before. But often appeals for financial support start here and sometimes they don’t go any further.
People give because they believe in your work and your unique ability to do it. They give because they can help change or save a life. They want to make a difference, change the future and give hope. They give because they care. This story is harder to tell but it is infinitely more effective.
Help Believers Care About Your Work
I am not suggesting you manipulate emotions for the sake of fundraising. I am suggesting you help believers feel the despair and heartache in our world (it’s there, isn’t it?) and help them do something about it.
You can do this by relentlessly telling the story of the people you serve and how their lives were changed by God’s provision through your givers.
Illustrate your outcomes and your results. Resist the urge to focus on your activities (the meals you serve or your youth meetings) or the details of how you do ministry (help people find jobs) or your accomplishments (5,000 people attended the rally).
- Take your givers to the front lines. Take them all the way there.
- Show them don’t just tell them.
- Push your ministry reports toward the life that was changed.
- Tell your givers who have hope because of what you do together every day. Use a name. Tell them specifics.
Credit the giver for these results. Connect them to the life that is changed. Simple changes in language reflect your attitude toward your givers. Instead of saying, “Please help us open more shelters” (which focuses on your organization and “how” you do ministry), you can say, “You can help keep a mom like Vanessa and her children safe tonight” (connecting the giver with the outcome of safety for a vulnerable family).
Then tell me how I can help Vanessa specifically: Three nights at the shelter costs $160. Will you help keep a family like Vanessa’s safe and off the streets?
Tell One Story
One representative story that communicates your impact is more effective in connecting believers with the work of God than details of your activities, strategies and statistics.
When it comes to our hearts and what helps me care, one individual trumps the masses. Mother Teresa understood this when she said, “If I look at the masses, and I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”
Consider the worldwide impact of the diaries of Anne Frank. We understand the horrors of millions who died at the hands of the Nazis because a young girl wrote her story.
We can extrapolate that principle with our givers.
To tell your story well:
1. Find your person.
2. Tell her story.
3. Tell your givers how they can help.
As you practice, you’ll get better at telling your story well. You’ll communicate the outcome of your work: saved or changed lives. You’ll get better at crediting the giver and connecting them to the changed life. And, you will tell one story.
God changes lives. He lets us be a part of that. Tell THAT story — for the sake of the gospel, for the glory of God and for the good of those around us.
Denise Kuhn, CFRE, has been fundraising since 1980. Currently she consults and counsels a variety of ministries and nonprofits through her association with OneAccord Nonprofit. Today’s post is an excerpt from the 2015 Fall edition of Outcomes Magazine.
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