One Essential Element to Effective Church Fundraising
by Ben Crawshaw
I meet with people all the time who tell me they need to raise some money. I ask them how much. They shrug. At that point, I realize they’re trying to grab a vapor. They’re reaching for a reality that doesn’t exist yet.
In order to fund your church dreams, you need to clarify your plan. I’m not talking about an intimidating plan. I’m talking about a simple, one-two process:
- Pick a dollar amount you want to raise.
- Pick a date you want to raise it by.
Just like that, people will go from taking no steps to taking big steps. That’s why this step is such a big deal. Because when it comes to raising money, clarity creates certainty, and certain people take massive action.
Another thing clarity does is serve as a magnet between you and your goal. Clarity will pull you through tough times. It’s the anchor you can grab when you feel like you’re going under. If you say you’re going to raise 30 grand in 30 days—and you start to feel anxious—you can look at your date, look at your dollar amount, and then take the next right step in that direction.
My wife and I said we wanted to be completely debt-free by the time we were 30. I’m not sure why we said that. Maybe we lost our minds. But knowing what we wanted—and when we wanted it by—influenced every dime we spent (or, more specifically, didn’t spend). That what and when pushed and pulled us through.
You’ve got to clarify your future. Complexity and mystification kill action. When you say, “sometime soon,” it really means, “nowhere fast.”
Back to my wife. When she and I were dating in college, I knew that I loved her. But I was wrestling with the idea of telling her. I was nervous because I didn’t know what she’d say in return. But one day I decided, “It’s time.” I don’t know what was so special about that particular day, but I woke up and made the decision that today would be the day I would tell Kacie, “I love you.” I immediately started sweating. To calm my nerves, I put a Smashing Pumpkins CD in (remember CD players?) and played “Tonight, Tonight” on repeat. The goal was very clear. My mind was made up. It was happening tonight . . . actually, it was happening “Tonight, Tonight.”
On our drive back to campus after our date, I knew it was time. I thought back to the commitment I made to myself earlier that day. I couldn’t back out now. I can still picture it vividly in my mind. Red light. I counted down from 10 to one at least three times. Then I blurted out, “Kacie, I love you!”
Victory! I was so fired up. I did it! I set a clear goal and made myself follow through with it.
Holly, on the other hand—not so fired up. She said nothing. That’s right . . . total silence.
I later realized that blurting at a stoplight wasn’t the most romantic way to say “I love you” to a girl for the first time. But that’s not the point (at least, not in this blog). The point is, I made a commitment to myself, and that commitment pushed me past my fear and anxiety. It propelled me toward my goal.
And a couple of years later—for reasons I’ll never understand—that same girl agreed to marry me. I’m not sure if it was because of my stoplight declaration, or in spite of it.
Here’s what I’ve learned: you can be uncertain about outcomes, but you can’t be unclear about them. Think about people who go off to war. They’re never convinced of the outcome. But you better believe there’s a clear plan in place.
You see, without taking this step, you can’t move forward. You’re just floating around in the dream world of I hope, I wish, and sometime.
Two important things about clarity when it comes to effective church fundraising:
- You need it. Clarity will help you stay grounded in the present. It allows you to measure your progress. You will feel motivated to push harder because you have a solid understanding of where you are and how far you have to go.
- Donors need it. Clarity gives donors perspective. And it drives them to make a decision because they feel a sense of urgency around a deadline.
Let me give you an example. My wife and I went to my daughter’s kindergarten open house. The PTA had fundraising tables set up. I’ll say this again: thank God for the PTA. That crew gets a lot of stuff done. But in this particular instance, the people sitting behind the tables were doing just that—sitting behind tables.
I think there was a sign on the table that said Make Kids’ Futures Brighter or something like that. But there was no specific information. My wife asked them what they were raising money for. They handed her a sheet of paper that was general and vague. There was no deadline on when the money needed to be raised.
I’m sure the people behind the table were incredible. And I’m confident they were doing the best they could. But my wife and I couldn’t have been more underwhelmed. We certainly weren’t inspired to give. But because we had struck up a conversation—and we were standing right in front of them—we felt obligated to give something.
This is important to know: a check written out of obligation is always smaller than a check written out of excitement.
Recently, I was standing in line at Smoothie King. If you’ve never had their Gladiator Smoothie, you should try it. It’s a protein shake, and for some reason it makes you feel like your muscles are bigger. Trust me, I need all the help I can get! While I was there, a student approached me and said he was raising money for his high school football team. He explained that he had a coupon card that would save me money on the smoothie I was about to buy. Then he said, “I have to sell 20 of these cards by the end of the week. Would you like to buy one?” Of course I would.
This student used a date and a dollar amount to drive me—a potential donor—to give. I knew what I was contributing to. And I knew why and when. I bet he sold all 20 cards in one day.
One reason people don’t do this is because they don’t have clear goals in their own lives. I define goal setting as deciding what you want and writing it down. I have a mentor I admire from afar named Jim Rohm. He says that only three percent of people actually write down their goals. It’s a lot easier to say, “I’m going to lose some weight,” than it is to say, “I’m going to lose 10 pounds in one month.” Because, then we have accountability. It anchors our commitment. That’s why, at the end of this section, you’ll have an opportunity to anchor your commitment.
Another reason people struggle with this is they’re afraid to get it wrong. They think, What if I fail at hitting my dollar amount by the date I set? First, I don’t set goals that are next-to-impossible. I set goals that stretch me. A goal to lose 10 pounds in a month makes a lot more sense than a goal to lose 50 pounds in a month. But losing 10 pounds isn’t easy, either (I know that firsthand). Secondly, you’re not always going to hit the mark. Even though Kacie and I were fully committed to being debt-free by 30, we didn’t hit our mark. But we did when we were 31. If we had never written that goal down, we’d still be in debt today. Because it drove and pushed us to keep working toward our objective, even though we didn’t meet our initial deadline.
This step in The One-Page Plan comes with a number of benefits. For starters, you gain confidence. If you were about to jump off a cliff and knew that a net would catch you at the bottom, that would be encouraging, right? Grant it, at the end of the day you’re still jumping off a cliff, so you’re probably not going to be too encouraged. But it’s certainly a lot better than jumping off a cliff and hoping a net will catch you at the bottom. When it comes to raising money, knowing exactly what you need and when you need it by creates stability, a net. It’s assuring. Without it, you’re jumping off a fundraising cliff with no certainty about what’s going to happen next.
Another benefit of clarity is that you reduce stress. I know people who’ve been raising money their entire professional lives. They never rest. They’re always tense and anxious. Why? Because they don’t have a date and dollar amount clarified. They live in a constant state of “I need to raise more money.” Listen, even if it’s your job to constantly raise money, you still need deadlines. You still need some quarterly or bi-annual date and dollar amounts that allow you to track and measure your progress. This is especially true of church fundraising, and getting more money for ministry.
Finally, you increase generosity. If you’re unclear, people won’t give as much. My wife and I gave some money to the PTA table. But I’m confident that we would’ve written a bigger check if the people at that table would’ve explained their plan and purpose. Clarity prompts people to give more.
When I meet with churches, I ask them to write down their top three objectives. Almost 99 percent of the time, none of their goals line up. Everybody just assumes they’re on the same page. But because they’ve never clarified their objectives, they’re not. So, I help them move toward clarity. Because when people get clear, they get going. They move. Just like a runner who sees the finish line. They reach their goals and ultimately fund their dreams.
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