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Engage Donors and Focus on Your Mission

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Focus on Your Mission

Part one of the Five Strategies to Engage Donors Right Now.

Would you ever turn down a major gift to your church?

Most of us probably can’t think of too many times we’d say no to a significant investment in our ministries. But it’s an important question to think about as we look at how to best engage donors.

I’ve watched ministries chase the shiny next “new” thing that ultimately becomes a costly distraction from their true calling. I’ve seen ministries accept sizable gifts that came with strings…restricted to a new facility, staff member or program that wasn’t part of the primary mission. I’ve also observed the tail-wagging the dog: churches and ministries who lean far too heavily on one donor family to provide the bulk of financial resources, which resulted in undue influence on the mission. 

In this blog series, we’ll explore five strategies for engaging donors. The first, and arguably the most critical, is having a firm handle and focus on your mission and vision. This does two things: (1) it prevents everything I’ve outlined above because you and your staff will view donors and donations through the lens of your mission, and (2) it creates a clear message for your staff and volunteers to carry across the entire ministry.

Do you have a succinct mission or vision statement? Can everyone on your staff articulate it, no matter their role? When every member of your church staff can articulate the mission and their role in it, there’s simply no more powerful accelerant for giving. 

I like how Donald Miller of Storybrand hones in on this concept of mission. He poses it in three questions: (1) Who are you trying to help? (2) What do you do that makes the world a better place? And (3) What do you want me to do to get involved?

Of course, the church in its broadest sense has a clear-cut mission, striving to meet God’s call and what He asks of us as followers. But consider Miller’s questions in this context: Whatever your denomination, location or history, your church has a unique niche and specific role in advancing God’s kingdom. There are concrete reasons your members call this their church home. If you haven’t gone through a recent process of honing that mission or vision statement, commit to doing that as part of your plan to grow your church giving program

Church members who have a clear concept of the church’s goals and mission are excited to support it and to tell others about it. This affirmation of purpose fuels donor passion and gives donors confidence that their investment is well stewarded.

Some congregations host town hall meetings or small group opportunities to talk about the coming year’s ministry goals. Engage your members in sharing what draws them to your church and what they think would draw others. Even the simple exercise of having members put sticky notes with these types of ideas on the wall can give you a sense of how your members translate your mission into action. This engagement of members around shared mission and vision is especially important in the seasons when your church is exploring or launching a capital campaign.

Engaging donors begins with inviting them into your Kingdom work. Churches and ministries that do this well and ignite donor passions have a concise, clear mission that guides their ministry work. A mission focus gives you permission to say “thank you, but not now…” when gifts or opportunities that are not aligned threaten to distract or sidetrack you.  

In the next few weeks, we’ll cover four other strategies for engaging donors now…including how to ask appropriately and how to best communicate with your donors in good times and bad.

Tim Smith has over 30 years of experience in Church, Non-Profit Administration, Management, and Fund Development.  Serving as an Executive Pastor and Chief Development Officer in growing Churches and Non-Profit Organizations has provided a wide range of expertise and resources. Tim serves as Founder and CEO for Non-Profit DNA, a boutique firm committed to helping nonprofits and churches build their capacity through fundraising, leadership, team building, staff recruiting, and coaching.

Additional guides on engaging giving include:

How to Talk About Giving

Visit Church Growth for many more guides on giving and growing giving

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