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I, Me, Mine

I see myself in you 

A familiar face in the picture 

What’s the Big Kahuna of donor relationship? Relevance. 

Here’s where the greatest number of ministry trains leave the tracks. 

Unfortunately, relevance is the most conspicuously absent component of friendship in the entire world of donor relationships. 

The marketing of your ministry must make the ministry relevant to the donor. 

You may talk all about your organization, you may talk all about the specific needs you’re facing, you may talk all about the lives that will be touched and transformed by God through your efforts, and you may plead with me to help you accomplish something important and wonderful… 

But I will respond only to the extent that I see myself in the picture. 

The appeal must be about me; it can’t be just about you. 

  • The message must be expressed in ways that make it count for the donor. 
  • The cause must involve ME. 
  • It must have some impact on MY existence. 
  • It must bring some dynamic into MY life. 
  • It must change ME somehow. 
  • It must alter the way I feel about MYSELF. 
  • It must bring a welcome adjustment of MY SELF-VIEW. 

Does this seem selfish and shallow? Perhaps. Yet this is still how every human being thinks and operates. 

Even if I am the most selfless, big-hearted, giving person on the planet, I am still regarding every opportunity for action ultimately in terms of its impact on me. 

  • An example: The late Mark Buntain was the Protestant Mother Teresa. He spent virtually his entire adult life in Calcutta, feeding hungry street children, building a hospital, a school, a church. His heart shut down before he turned 70.  

When he died, it was revealed that he had suffered from leprosy for many years, the direct result of his intimate daily sacrifice of love for the children of India. 

Mark was one of the most selfless people who ever lived. (Imagine spending decades doing the same difficult work as Mother Teresa while she got all the press!) Yet Mark Buntain regarded every opportunity for action in terms of its impact on him.  

When he saw a need, how did he decide what to do about it? He had to ask himself, “How do I fit into the picture? What can I do about this?” Give him a situation where he could make no impact, and Mark Buntain quickly lost interest. 

  • A Harvard professor quit his academic career to care for a profoundly disabled friend. It appeared that the ex-professor had made the most selfless decision imaginable. And he had — except that he could tell an interviewer precisely how he had grown spiritually as a result. 
  • A husband wants to believe he is completely selfless in his devotion to his wife. Sure, he wants to please her because he loves her — regardless of any benefit to him. But he also knows he is going to experience a burst of warm satisfaction when he walks through the door with fresh flowers and sees her eyes light up.  

He may be fascinated by her, but he responds to her because of how delighted he is to be in the picture with her. 

Relevance is the inescapable requirement each one of us places on every action we take.  

It has to be about us.  

I have to be able to make a difference, or experience an impact — or my interest is minimal. 

Even the selfless question “How can I help?” belies the fact that we wish to be involved. 

How, then, does this phenomenon of the human psyche affect our communications with donors? 

  • If I’m your donor, every appeal must be about me — not you. 
  • I have to perceive a connection between the cause and myself. 

This is more than simply saying “Give and you’ll accomplish this and that” — although this approach goes in the right direction. 

Making the appeal relevant to me involves intertwining my own experiences and my own emotions with yours.  

Especially since I’m busy, bored, and a bad reader, the very beginning of your letter or email to me needs to be about me — to cut through all the noise I’m being bombarded with.  

If it’s about me, I am enormously more inclined to take a moment and explore the proposition. 

More on this, next time.  

In the meantime, we’d be happy to have a conversation with you about making your ministry more relevant than ever to your donors and prospects. Please feel free to contact BBS & Associates today.