What follows is excerpted from my book “Major Gifts 101.”
The heart of your faith-based organization is in the right place. You want to follow the teachings of your religion and apply them to your missions and goals to better the world.
Having heart — and faith — behind a mission mean there’s a foundation in place for the work to come. It’s a place to start and build, but it takes professionals to execute the plans and avoid costly — and sometimes, irreversible — mistakes.
You wouldn’t plan a house, then hire just anyone to build it. Nor would you depend on faith alone to deliver a completed building. Lastly, you know you will have to spend good money to get a solid structure that will be standing long after the workers have moved on.
Building a long-lasting and successful fundraising group works the same way.
Here are the three top mistakes faith-based organizations make when undertaking a fundraising campaign, and their solutions.
- A Qualified Staff – The biggest impediment to successful fundraising is having unqualified team members. Fundraising departments seem to be the catch-all for employees who had to be reassigned, couldn’t be fired, and simply “have a big heart.”
Fundraising is the only department in which leaders seem comfortable placing unqualified employees, and then they are baffled when the organization’s fundraising falls short. Because leadership does not understand fundraising, they are incapable of hiring the correct people to entrust with this most important job.
Solution: Hire professionals with solid experience to get professional results.
- Depending on Faith Instead of Initiative
“As long as we are doing the Lord’s work, He will provide.”
Leadership that fails at fundraising repeats this line almost daily. It reassures them they do not need to invest time and talent in fundraising. Never would they use that same rationale regarding programming. The lack of entrepreneurial spirit wrecks countless organizations.
Solution: Get up and do something. Take a chance. Be proactive. Do not sit on your laurels and hope a millionaire congregant dials your office and hands over money.
- Underfunding the Development Office
Many organizations feel it is almost sinful to allocate resources to a development department instead of putting them into programming or direct services. “We always want the donations to go directly to helping others, not fundraising.” While this statement sounds admirable and righteous to some, it reflects shortsightedness and fails to equip the one department that fuels the entire organization. The No. 1 oversight for most development departments is a fundraising database. Budgeting for the development department takes a back seat to programming every single time.
Solution: Amply finance the department that will multiply your money and expand your vision beyond what your organization imagines. The adage is true: You must spend money to make money.
Ben’s Takeaway: “Faith-based organizations often have admirable missions, but lack expertise in fleshing them out. They need professional guidance to help them build for the long term on their foundations.”