Think like a Donor


Why do so many donors decline to give to your ministry in any given month? Perhaps your requests for help seem compelling to you — but are uninteresting to the donor. The deadliest words ever spoken in a ministry marketing meeting are: “Here’s something really interesting!”

Those of us who live in the rarefied atmosphere of ministry marketing, locked in a world of ministry employees, with nary a “civilian” to be found, come to be fascinated by our own ministry programs — but wrongly think of them as fascinating to donors.

We are fascinated, not fascinating. Our donors have different needs, motives, and priorities than we do.

When you take a long, hard look at how many donors don’t respond to your requests for financial support, you may be forced to come to terms with the fact that you haven’t made the difficult leap to thinking like a donor as you construct your appeals for support. Perhaps you don’t have a handle on your donors’ real needs, motives, and priorities.

Don’t “Divide and Conquer”


Does your ministry suffer from the Divided and Conquered Syndrome?

When a Christian organization sees its ministry and its marketing as separate things, that schizophrenia often grows into (or out of) an even more fractured environment.

A ministry can become a virtual war zone, with board members maneuvering for position and power … or the leader and executive staff regarding each other as adversaries … or the staff holding the leadership up to secret scorn … or the development agency and employees viewing each other as morons.

Fractious staffs are tragically commonplace in Christian organizations. In these ministries, not only have marketing and ministry come to be regarded as separate things, but each function of the ministry — each department, each office — has evolved into a miniature “state” all its own.

In such Balkanized organizations, frustration runs high, efficiency runs low, and both the quantity and the quality of the ministry itself suffer grievously.

The Community-of-Specialists Model

As important as the ideas of “community” and “unity” are to a ministry, equally important is the fact that each member of the ‘body’ or ministry, has a specialty.

Everyone is united, but each devotes himself to his own calling — for maximum efficiency and ministry productivity.

The truth is this: When one member of the body tries to do another’s job, disaster’s ahead. When a ministry worker at any level gets into an operation where he has no business, feelings can easily get hurt — and the ministry itself gets hurt.

Failure to work by the community-of-specialists model dooms your organization to inefficiency. Employees duplicate each other’s efforts. Some do what could be done — should be done — faster or better by others. Overworked workers don’t get the essentials accomplished, or miss deadlines. Costs go up. Net return goes down. And the pressure inevitably goes up on your marketing effort.

Don’t allow ‘masochism’ to destroy your ministry from the inside out!


18 Jan 2018

Stay focused!…

Stay focused!

When it comes to asking your donors for help, you must “stay on message.” If you’re not getting enough response from your target audience, it may be because your messages to them are all over the map.

In today’s frenzied marketplace, with a zillion messages zinging through every donor’s life every day, you need a message that communicates the unique mission of your ministry. Here are four critical guidelines to follow:

  •  Your message needs to be a single, simple thought.
  •  Your message will need to be something you can live with for a long time, because you will need to communicate it to your  donor frequently.
  •  Your message must be expressed in terms the donor understands.
  •  Your message must count to the donor

Designing a “Donor-Edible” Message

It’s easy to confuse the concept of the message with the concept of the mission statement — or even an operational blueprint.

“The Message” of the ministry can’t be a multi-page document detailing everything the ministry does. “The Message” of the ministry also can’t be a paragraph so long and involved and confusing that it can only be interpreted by a veteran staff member.

Your message must be donor-edible.

If I can gobble up your message — if I can see it, want it, reach out and grab it, pop it, chew it up and swallow it, all within about eight seconds of reading time — then I may want to eat some more of what you’re cooking. You’ve offered me a donor-edible message, and I am grateful!

But if I have to study your message — if it makes me furrow my brow, like a five-year-old contemplating fried mushrooms — if I have to ponder it, figure it out, sniff it warily, cut it with a knife and fork, or otherwise process it … well, then, I may as well have cooked for myself — and I am very, very unlikely to want more of whatever this stuff was that you offered me.

You may have heard this kind of phraseology in the offices of some Christian organizations:

  • “I have people who handle fundraising for me.”
  • “They do our development; I just do ministry.”
  • “We try to keep fundraising separate.”

This way of thinking carries terrible risk! Keeping the two separate, on the face of it, doesn’t seem dangerous — or even mistaken. In fact, it sounds honorable — sort of a ministry equivalent of the separation of church and state.

But separation of church and state wasn’t God’s idea. The state needs the influence of the church — civil government, after all, is ordained by God, and His design for government is fully compatible with His design for the church (according to Romans 13:1, 1 Peter 2:13,14, and elsewhere).

Likewise, your marketing efforts need to be fully informed by your ministries. Their designs should be fully compatible. God’s idea is that the marketing — the communicating, the inspiring, the persuading — will grow directly out of the ministry itself.

If you take the Holy Spirit out of the fundraising, the work He wants to accomplish — in the lives of those your ministry is helping, even in the lives of your donors themselves — goes undone.

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