Careful with crises


Ministries must take care not to overdo the “urgent” message.

Donors often imagine that an “urgent” communication suggests a lack of oversight in an organization’s finances. An emergency-style appeal, then, must be carefully explained and justified.

The crisis must make sense to the donor, and the reason for it must be soundly reasoned.

One major negative for donors: the “I’ve already committed, now help me make good on the commitment” approach.

This reads to the donor as “bad business practices.”

What donors are saying…

“…At times, it gets so annoying when you get phone calls about having a need now…. You feel bad. There is that guilt thing about not saying no…. There is this urgency thing, and I get tired of that. I believe they are telling the truth, but — it is always, they have certain things they are trying to accomplish…”

What is a deterrent is when they call and put me on the spot, or there’s pressure — like a certain amount to give or something like that. Then they kind of get scratched off the list, because I feel that one should give [if] they’re motivated from their heart.”

“‘Special’ needs receive special consideration. But the ‘special’ need must have been caused by an outside force that was beyond the ministry’s control and/or ability to perceive and plan for. A poorly managed ministry is not an excuse to lapse into a financial crisis.

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How long has it been?


The donor’s rate of recall is extremely low.

Those of us in ministry are thinking about donors all the time; donors are rarely thinking about us!

Without prompting from the interviewer, only 6% of the donors we surveyed could come up with the name of the ministry that had supplied their name for the research project!

Furthermore, without a reminder, fewer than 13% of the donors could produce the names of the two largest ministries in America.

These were not results isolated among lapsed donors; they reflect active donors as well!

What donors are saying…

 “…The truth is, I think about them primarily when I hear from them, typically a few times a month by mail. And they are one of the few organizations whose stuff I always read.”

Quick-Stat: Fewer than 13% of donors can name America’s two largest ministries.

In separate studies of child-sponsorship ministries, as many as 20% of long-term sponsors had difficulty remembering the name of the organization through which they sponsored their child!

Incredibly, these donors typically recall giving to as many as nine organizations every year — so they are highly involved in ministry and apparently quite committed. Yet they demonstrated a surprisingly low “awareness” level.

Quick-Stat: 20% of long-term child sponsors can’t remember the name of the sponsorship organization.


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Invisible dividends


In earthly business, we can see our dividends pretty clearly. But when you invest in the Kingdom of God, you generate heavenly dividends that you may not know anything about, this side of eternity.

But these “invisible dividends” — supernatural, eternal dividends — are deeply satisfying to the person who is wired by God to generate wealth.

We’ve known people who finally discovered their purpose — using their giftedness to build the Kingdom — and they are the happiest people on the planet. Instead of laboring under a burden of guilt about their wealth, they work harder and smarter in order to give more to the Kingdom!

They are driven by what they see beyond this life. They are consumed not with earthly ledgers but with heavenly accounts.

God gives some of us high capacity so we can finance projects that are close to His heart but lie beyond the capacity of the church. Many ministry visions are bigger than any single church could undertake. This is why God raises up high-capacity, wealth-generating givers.


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Funding God’s ministry


A Christian entrepreneur has opportunities for creative giving involving hard assets rather than the cash gifts that most people think of first when looking to invest in ministry.

Hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars can be diverted into the Kingdom often without any loss to the donor.

A successful businessman friend felt guilty that he thought about money a lot.

But eventually he came to realize that he had a gift for making money, and that this gift came from God.

His focus changed: it had been “making more to have more”; but now, instead, it became “making all that is necessary to take care of my family and to fund the ministry opportunities that God places on my heart.”

His sons now run the business, and he spends much of his time encouraging businessmen to determine how much is enough — how big does the barn need to be — then working to invest the excess cash flow and assets into the Kingdom. The rest of his time is spent in countries needing the Gospel.

There he uses his expertise to help develop strategies for reaching the people; then he comes home to generate funds for those works.


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What are you thinking?


Does a donor see the world the way ministry leaders see the world?

We asked donors simply to name the ministries that they had supported through giving over the past few years. The average donor could name about three organizations without any help from our interviewer.

This indicates that your donors are probably not only giving to your ministry, they are giving to various ministries.

Is this a problem for your ministry? Do your donors tend to lose sight of you because they’re giving to someone else?

Actually, we found that the more a donor gives, the more likely she is to remember more of the ministries she gives to.

It seems a more generous giver is a more thoughtful giver.


What donors are saying…

“When I support a charitable organization, I feel like I’m a part of something that I believe in, and where I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do anything about it on my own. Many can accomplish much more than one.”


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Different strokes


Lapsed donors cannot truly be regarded as a single homogeneous bloc.

Some have lapsed intentionally, but most have lapsed unintentionally.

They are still giving to your ministry, but at a very low frequency. We might refer to lapsed donors as either “intentional” or simply “idle.”

In many cases, however, the forces that lead a donor to intentionally lapse are the same as the forces which lead a donor to give less often, or to give in smaller amounts, or to simply fade away.

To be precise, we must acknowledge three categories of lapsed donors: not only “Idles” and “Intentionals,” but also “In-betweeners.”

  • An “Idle” still considers the ministry to be an important priority in her life, and she still considers herself a supporter of the ministry.
    • Idles make up over 50% of the lapsed donor population.
  • An “Intentional” no longer considers the ministry to be a priority, and no longer considers herself a supporter of the ministry.
    • Intentionals make up roughly 12% of the lapsed donor population.
  • An “In-betweener,” however, still considers the ministry to be an important priority in her life — but does not consider herself a current supporter of the ministry.
    • In-betweeners constitute over 26% of the lapsed donor population.

Ironically, even among supposedly active donors, we found that some 10% are actually lapsed already — they have given too recently to show up in our records as “lapsed,” but they have made a decision, for whatever reason, not to give again.

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