Welcome, new donors!
You want new donors, of course.
But what if, instead of welcoming new donors, we’re unwittingly shutting them out?
We do it accidentally, blindly.
- We devote enormous energy to accomplishing the work of the ministry itself (a good thing)…
- We perhaps devote somewhat less energy to cultivating relationships with our existing donors (maybe a sensible distribution of effort)…
- But we devote little or no energy at all to identifying and recruiting new donors. (Not a good thing.)
Many ministry leaders want to believe that their work is so exciting that people automatically want to get involved with it. Some feel constrained just to let God bring across their path whatever new donors He desires for them.
But this wasn’t the pattern Jesus promoted: He was an active recruiter. “Follow me,” He told His disciples-to-be. He found the healed paralytic in the temple. When He was looking to make an impact on people, He went where they were, He got in their space.
We, too, must work at acquiring new friends for our ministries. The art of “new name acquisition” or “prospecting” is as essential to the future of your ministry as brushing is to the future of your teeth.
Ministries that don’t prospect dwindle.
This is a simple fact of math.
- Donors get old.
- Their income can decline.
- They can die.
- Some can be lured away from you, believe it or not, by other interesting things to give their money to.
There are plenty of reasons why donors may leave you, and generally only two reasons why they may join you:
(a) they accidentally fell into your path and fortunately loved you, or
(b) you did the hard work of finding them, introducing yourself to them, inspiring them, and winning their participation.
The roots of prospecting need to grow deep down into your organization, in much the same manner as your testimony-acquisition effort. Whenever leading personnel from your ministry interact with people who aren’t part of your donor family, those personnel need to have a prospecting strategy in hand.
- For example: Does your ministry leader speak in local churches? Let him ask the host pastor if he may distribute a postcard that makes it convenient for his listeners to request a free quarterly newsletter.
- For years, Dr. Richard Dobbins of Emerge Ministries in Akron, Ohio, successfully prospected with an even simpler device: he wrote his own name, address, and phone number at the top of the first page of a yellow lined notepad, then asked attendees to pass the pad around and sign on if they want the ministry’s free newsletter.
- Media ministries have a huge prospecting advantage, but often fail to make good use of it. A valuable resource — physical or digital — can be offered on the air for free, or for any gift to the ministry. If the product is related to an issue the ministry deals with regularly, anyone who requests it has identified herself as a potential participant in your ministry, simply because you and she have a common interest.
(To keep your current donors from swamping the ministry with requests for the product, send it as a surprise gift to current donors in advance of the on-air offer. If it’s a physical product, size it to fit in your receipt envelope and let it go out with all receipts for 30 or 60 days before the offer begins; this will get it to most of your most faithful donors.)
Prospecting can also be accomplished through a wide variety of other means:
- staging special events,
- running ads in appropriate publications,
- “cold calling” via telephone,
- even renting mailing lists.
Almost invariably, prospecting is difficult, tiresome, and expensive work for ministry personnel. It is time-consuming to create a prospecting strategy, execute it, analyze the results, make appropriate changes, execute, analyze, change, execute, analyze, change. But it is enormously rewarding when you see new names appearing in your ministry family, and new donors emerging to help you continue your work!
It is also crucial to recognize that prospecting almost never generates immediate revenue.
It costs more money to acquire a donor than the donor will give initially. But prospecting is not intended to be a get-rich-quick scheme. It is, in fact, slow. It is an investment over time.
Each donor acquired will bring a certain amount of revenue into your ministry over his lifetime. This “lifetime donor value” is the crucial number, for it guides you in deciding how much you can spend to acquire a new donor. Here again, however, it takes a good tracking system to reveal the average lifetime value of your current donors.