Wisdom Wednesdays: Fundraising as Ministry

by Heather McGinness, CNM, CFRE

Why are you here?  What’s your purpose?  Do you feel you have a calling?  Can fundraising be considered a calling or a vocation?

Lutherans take an inclusive view of vocation.  The traditional view of vocation was that there were four main “offices:” priesthood, religious, married and single.  Lutherans, however, believe in the priesthood of all believers, that we don’t need to be in an ordained or vowed religious role to serve God.  Luther talked about the many “masks of God,” and felt that God was present in all activity.

“God who pours out his generosity on the just and the unjust, believer and unbeliever alike, hides himself in the ordinary social functions and stations of life, even the most humble. God himself is milking the cows through the vocation of the milkmaid.” – Martin Luther

McGinness-Heater-2013FSo, if we take our lead from Luther, fundraising can certainly be a call.  Henri J. M. Nouwen takes it one step further.  He said, “Fundraising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry.”  Ministry?  How so?

To best explain Nouwen’s assertion, I defer to my favorite googly-eyed, blue furry monster.  That’s right, Cookie Monster.  To understand fundraising as ministry, you need only remember Cookie Monster’s famous line, “C is for…” C is for cookie, C is for CFRE, but, in the context of Henri Nouwen, C is for three other things: communication, conversion and communion.

Communication: There are two parts to this C — proclamation and invitation.  As fundraisers, we are proclaiming the mission we’re serving with passion and enthusiasm and sharing a vision with our constituents.  Furthermore, we are inviting them to be part of that vision, inviting them to join with us in our mission and inviting them to invest the resources God has given in the work to which God has called us.

Conversion: Conversion means a change, that God is doing something new through the collaboration between our donors and us.  It might mean a shift in relationships with money, a conversion from viewing it as a resource to be acquired to seeing it as a gift to be shared or a move from transactions with our organizations to relationships within our mission.  There also may be a conversion in our own hearts, being converted from our fear or anxiety about asking and instead seeing that we belong together with our donors, brought together through Jesus Christ, to share a mission.

Communion: Fundraising as ministry calls people together in communion with God and with one another.  It is connecting hearts and hands so that, together, we are part of something bigger than ourselves.   It is about all of us — fundraisers, donors, implementing staff, beneficiaries — joining together to build up the Kingdom of God.

Pretty profound for a Muppet, right?

Fundraising is, indeed, a form of ministry, and it is our sacred gift to faithfully steward the gifts and relationships that are part of our work.  In doing so, we help transform our world into the place God envisioned for us, a world where love prevails over all.  May God bless you in your calling!

Heather McGinness, CFRE, was brought to you by the letter T and the number 9, and has a special place in her heart for googley-eyed, friendly monsters.  She is Associate Director of Philanthropic Engagement with Lutheran World Relief, and is based in Wickliffe, Ohio.  Learn more about LWR at www.lwr.org.


Wisdom Wednesdays: Closing Year-End Gifts — the Countdown to December 31, Part Three

by Dawn M.S. Miller, CFRE

Back to Part Two

As a professional fundraiser, your goal is to encourage, motivate and inspire your donors to give a gift before December 31 — not just this year but every year they have a relationship with your organization.

Miller-Dawn-webWhen preparing your year-end fundraising strategy, consider the following donor questions to help pace your work:

  • Who’s closest to the gift? In other words, which donors are most likely to give a gift before the end of the year?
    We know that once a donor has lapsed, it becomes much more difficult to reengage him or her. Encourage as many gifts this year as possible.
  • What specific steps can you take to bring these donors closer to your organization before December 31?
    Remember, fundraising is truly about building relationships and each “move” should reinforce the relationship between the donor and your organization.
  • Which donors are part of your organization’s “inner circle” but haven’t made a gift this year? Think in particular of board members, advisory committees, volunteers, etc.
    This is important for many reasons — including the many foundations and corporations that expect 100 percent annual board giving prior to making their own commitments.
  • What stories, photos and stats can you share with donors to show the impact your organization is making?

Now is also the time to plan ahead for a final December 15-31 push to help drive the last gifts in the door. Consider emphasizing online gifts and giving through your website, especially if your office is closed between the holidays. Utilize email blast software (i.e., Constant Contact, MailChimp, etc.), and/or send postcards with an update on where you are to goal — “We are 92 percent to goal …” These actions, which can be set up in advance, could provide the final impetus needed for donations this year.

Just a quick note on best practices and counting gifts in calendar year 2013:

  • Checks: Postmarked by December 31, 2013 – The date on the check is not a legal date. The customary “legal” date of the gift is the date of postmark.
  • Credit cards: Contributions charged on a bank credit card are deductible in the year they make the charge. The legal gift date is the date the charge hits the donor’s account.
  • Stock certificates: A properly endorsed stock certificate is completed on the date of mailing or other delivery to the charity or to the charity’s agent. However, if a stock certificate is given to an agent or to the issuing corporation for transfer to the name of the charity, the gift is not completed until the date the stock is transferred on the books of the corporation.
  • Items sent by third parties: For items sent via third parties (i.e., FedEx, UPS, etc.) the gift date is the date signed for the package, not the date it was sent.

~Please note: If your organization has questions about counting gifts in 2013,
consult your tax adviser and online resources (IRS, associations, etc.).

By charting your donor course today, you can implement creative strategies to close year-end gifts to sustain the mission of your organization. Good luck with your year-end solicitations!

Dawn M.S. Miller, CFRE, is Director of Consulting for Fund Development Services at Zielinski Companies in St. Louis, Missouri.  She can be reached at dmiller@zielinskico.com (800) 489-2150Zielinski Companies is an ALDE Resource Partner. 

Founded in 1957, Zielinski Companies helps nonprofit and religious organizations address their financial, management and planning needs.  The firm has a broad range of consulting service areas, including: Fund Development and Mission Advancement Consulting; Audit, Accounting and Tax Services; Property and Facility Planning; Organizational Management and Planning; Long-term Care, Facility and Staffing Consulting and Cash Management and Credit Card Services.  For more information, please visit www.zielinskico.com.