Part 3 of a 4 part series
When we take a look inside the mind of a donor, some of the questions we find can be awkward or difficult. But if you can anticipate them and answer them with integrity, your stewardship and donor engagement program will flourish.
In this blog series, What Your Givers Want to Know (…and likely won’t ask), we’re in the midst of examining the key questions on a church donor’s mind. These are often unspoken, unasked questions but ones that can get to the heart of your ministry and its mission.
We’ve covered four key questions in the prior blogs, and today we’ll spend a little time talking about if or when it’s appropriate to decline a gift. These can be the difficult and sometimes awkward questions of donor fit and organizational management.
#5. Givers are asking if your church can handle a sizable gift.
I know it might sound strange for someone who does fundraising for a living to tell you that there are gifts to walk away from. But there are times a church or ministry should decline a sizable gift.
One reason relates to how a church would handle a gift of a significant size. Donors are asking if your church can handle a major gift if they feel led to give you one. Will it help or might it actually hinder you? Can the organization use this kind of gift wisely, or is it the kind of gift that would ruin you?
One donor gave nearly a third of a million dollars to a ministry organization. After a rocky year, representatives from the organization returned and asked for another contribution. “I didn’t mind giving last year,” the donor explained, “to get that project underway. But now you’re asking me to correct your mistakes. Speaking as a businessman, I think you should just shut the project down.”
It was a tough spot. The organization came to us for counsel and guidance. We suggested that the donor might actually give again, if he could see that the ministry was turning things around. We helped the organization revise the components of the project that were in disarray. Then we returned to the donor. He gave immediately and generously. He saw a growing wisdom in the ministry’s leaders.
Donors who might be led to give you a transformative gift need to know that it won’t change your church’s focus, mission and culture…if that is what has moved them to give. Too many times I see small organizations, churches or ministries who are blessed with an unexpected bequest gift or major contribution. Rather than sticking to their tried-and-true processes for budgeting and prioritizing their mission, they quickly lose focus. And make poorly informed decisions and don’t handle the contribution wisely.
The flipside of the donor’s questions about the church’s management is the intent and desires of the donor. A donor whose vision isn’t aligned with where the church is going, whose gift is seeking to change that course or be used as leverage or control, is a gift you will need to decline.
Most often, I see a church or ministry considering a significant gift from a donor whose passion is a program not part of their core mission. There is a real cost to taking the gift. To focus or implementation of a program you aren’t set up, staffed, or called to be providing. Some of the toughest conversations I have had are with generous donors. Their gifts really needed to be invested in another ministry or organization, not mine.
The best advice I can provide to pastors and ministry leaders is to stay sharply focused on your calling and your ministry’s mission. Doing so with authenticity will attract and retain givers with the same passions. Be transparent, honest and open about your church and your staff’s capacity for new programs and ministry directions. The cost of spreading your mission and your staff too thin will be eroding support of members and givers. It’s a challenging line to walk, but worth the discernment.
In the next and last blog of the What Your Givers Want to Know (…and likely won’t ask) series, we’ll unpack the final questions your givers are asking of you and how to answer them.
Get more information on online giving solutions from ACS Technologies.
Loyal church donors are usually generous to other organizations and charities, too. Those nonprofit causes often do a better job than the church of (1) valuing donors, (2) anticipating and answering their questions, and (3) demonstrating the impact of their giving.
The tools in What Your Givers Want to Know (…and likely won’t ask) will help you and your staff anticipate – and effectively answer – the questions donors have but aren’t likely to ask you. Explore the six things your givers MOST want to know today.
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.