Certain key phrases stand the test of time because they are easily remembered and often help summarize complex ideas. Usually they are true, too!
In the fundraising world, you’ll find no better example than the proverb that says:
“Your goal is to ask the right person…
for the right gift
at the right time
in the right way
for the right reasons.”
The Art of Biblical Stewardship
Though often quoted by development professionals across the spectrum, these worthy words certainly reflect the fine art of biblical stewardship. As believers, we perhaps concern ourselves more with being “donor centered” than our colleagues who raise funds for secular causes. We apply Philippians 2:3:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves…”
We trust God to provide, but we know He always works through people. We steward the relationships He entrusts to us. Then, we allow Him to use us to shape donor’s hearts toward generous giving.
For this reason, asking the right person is key. Prayerful consideration may lead us to one donor over another on our list. We can bring all that we have to the decision-making process and carefully analyze the data. But nothing replaces the still, small voice of the Spirit guiding us to exactly who God wants us to contact.
(No) Fear in Asking for Money
Asking for money strikes fear into the hearts of many—inside and outside Christian culture. We fear because we see so many examples of bad behavior.
Asking for the wrong gift from even the right person could cause long term damage. Asking people to give above their capacity rarely offends them, by the way. It’s usually the other way around. I’ll never forget a former donor of mine who I actually offended with a $500 ask. She has a net worth of over $67 million!
Timing Is Everything
For Christian ministry fundraisers, ill-timed donor engagement can indicate a lack of homework, prayer or both. Knowing your donor’s life circumstances helps you know how to ask appropriately.
Caring about the timing shows you value the donor over their ability to give. People give to people they know and trust. They give inside the context of a relationship, responding to one permission-based step at a time.
Ask the Right Way
You simply must ask in the right way. Some major donors want all the details with your request. You practically have to give them bar charts and spreadsheets for them to make a decision.
Others just want the top line info, plus a clear statement of how you will use the gift. And more importantly, they want to know precisely what it will accomplish. Still others just long for you to inspire them with stories and real-world examples. These stories should prove you are effective in your mission and pursuing a worthy vision.
Your True Motivation
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, all donors want to know your true motivation. This is why it is often so hard to raise funds for your own salary. And it’s also why it is highly unethical for a fundraiser to be compensated by a percentage of what they raise.
Donors want to know your heart. Are you only friends with them because they can give? Or do you really care more about the Kingdom and their role as generous givers than yourself or your cause?
You should view His provision for the work He has called you to like a river, not a pond. Rivers keep flowing and all who have access to them are blessed. Ponds are finite, limited and represent a scarcity mentality.
Wise words stand the test of time. We’d all be wiser still to pattern our behavior after “asking the right person, for the right gift, at right time, in the right way for the right reasons.”