Network your champions, part II

When you are promoting a project or asking for support for a particular effort, it’s very common to send out a letter from the director (marked PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL – URGENT, of course) directly appealing for funds. Another approach is to have a celebrity or testimonial endorsement that says ‘This ministry is so wonderful, won’t you help them?’ And these are time-tested ways of getting a modest return from donors. But they don’t transfer ownership of the ministry vision to donors – instead, they keep that vision right in the ministry headquarters where it’s safe from ever transforming a donor’s calling.

Instead of a personal and confidential director’s letter or a celebrity or testimonial letter, you can transform donors into champions: by igniting in them the vision God has given to you both, and by acting as the stage or convening mechanism through which donor/champions give their time, energy and treasure to spread the vision to others and complete the work of the vision you both share.

Five years ago, Peacemaker Ministries (a ministry that does Christian mediation and arbitration, teaching biblical principles of peacemaking all over the world) decided to make this kind of change in its fund raising strategy. Instead of sending donors a letter reporting on the success of recent mediations or the urgency of receiving funds for upcoming teaching events, PM created a vehicle for transformational giving: a holiday peacemaking calendar.

Here’s how it worked:

In a mailing right before Thanksgiving, PM sent a letter to donors that noted the common experience everyone has that time of year; namely, that the period from Thanksgiving through Christmas is a surprisingly un-peaceful time for people, and that the principles of peacemaking writ small could bring focus to these days and turn them into the spirit-filled season of joy they ought to be. The mailing included a ‘holiday peacemaking calendar’, in which each day commended a simple peacemaking activity that a donor could do on their own, with a spouse, with their family, or with their co-workers.

PM distributed the calendars to the donor/champions – 1400 of them – and invited them to pass them along, and to send in requests for as many calendars as they could personally give away.

Those donor/champions ultimately requested another 60,000 copies.

Take the PM example to heart. If you want to raise more money, don’t build more two-way communication loops (e.g., fund raising letters or phone calls). Instead, build more n-way donor communications webs—preferably ones where you’re not even around when your cause is being talked about.

That kind of thinking is so foreign to us fund raisers that we don’t even have much of a vocabulary to talk about it yet. Some of the vocabulary we have is counterproductive, in fact. I’m not talking about ‘friend raising’ or relationship building! Implement a ‘friend raising’ program and guess what: you’ll end up with a bunch of friends. This may not be a total loss, however, since you can circulate your resume to all of your new friends after you get fired for failing to raise any money!

What I’m talking about is not a change in degree in fund raising. It’s not about doing more of something, or doing something more systematically. It’s about a change in kind. It’s a bold leap that’s awaiting anyone who’s awakening to the value of seeing fund raising as a powerful communal experience–an example of which we’ll share in our next post.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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