Why do you matter?
Many Christian organizations innocently communicate messages about which the donor doesn’t care in the slightest.
How does this happen? Well, every detail of your operation is important to you, and you earnestly want every detail of your operation to be important to your donors. This is natural.
But the harsh truth is, most donors will find most details of your operation boring.
You also want to think of your donors as high–minded, selfless loyalists — but in fact most will have to perceive some benefit to themselves in order to respond to your appeal letter or email … even if the only benefit is an improved feeling about themselves.
The toughest challenge for any charitable ministry is to figure out a connection to the donor — something that is truly about the ministry, but also somehow about the donor.
Many Christian organizations spend a disproportionate chunk of their resources on the mechanics of asking for money — without having refined the message which absolutely must drive every request for funds.
Secular charities are generally better at this. You may have noticed massive American Red Cross semi-trucks on the road. What do they need semis for? You probably have no idea. Because the American Red Cross has never bothered to tell us. Instead, they’ve spent decades telling us just one thing:
In a disaster, the Red Cross gets there first.
They’ve built a massive, complex humanitarian organization out of that tiny little sliver of a thought.
They’ve asked millions of Americans for money millions of times, largely through the mail. But rarely if ever have they asked anyone to give to help them buy or repair their semis — or train body dogs to search disaster debris — or make up a shortfall in staff salaries — or establish their state-of-the-art blood system — or underwrite the Annual Red Cross Award, or the Annual Red Cross Award Dinner Dance where they give it away.
All Americans are ever asked to do is to give so that, when there’s a disaster, the Red Cross can get there first.
We in ministry desperately need to learn this simple but crucial lesson. We have wonderfully complicated, multi-faceted ministries, and we need loads of money to keep them going. But we make the mistake of going to our donors and telling them all about it.
- We explain the nuts and bolts.
- We reveal the rationale.
- We outline our outreaches,
- spell out our systems,
- chart our course —
… offering the donor a dazzling array of detail. Detail which, unfortunately, only our ministry’s leadership finds fascinating.
The donor, meanwhile, has already dropped the letter into the garbage or hit “delete” and moved on.
Certainly major donors to any ministry have a much higher tolerance for detail, maybe even a need for deeper levels of information. But the vast majority of a ministry’s donors are not as tuned in to the details of our cause as we would love to believe.
This is why BBS & Associates preaches the gospel of narrowing a ministry’s message to a single, laser-beam–like thought, and then hammering home that same message again and again, in every fundraising communication …
- Never explaining another thrilling ministry strategy.
- Never mucking up an appeal letter or email with another inspiring message on why we do what we do.
- But simply telling story after story of people whose lives were touched and transformed because of the ministry’s unique ability to do whatever it is the ministry does.
A simple strategy, but oh so difficult to accomplish, when we yearn to tell our donors everything we know!
Have you clarified the message of your ministry?
Do it. We are here to help!
Squeeze your message. Squash it. When you squeeze a grape, you get wine. Squeeze fruit, you get nectar. Squeeze a rose, you get perfume. Squeeze a lump of coal — you get a diamond!
Squeeze your message, whittle away at it, until it’s one sentence — one thought — that communicates the very essence of your mission.
A message that matters to donors. A message that can be easily understood.
Then the challenge becomes how to bring that message before busy, distracted donors so that it connects with them right where they are. As Paul says in Ephesians 4:29, say “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
A message you can live with month after month after month, in everything you say, everything you do, in every fundraising piece you produce.