Editor’s Note: This is the second article in our Faithful Fundraising series. Our series focus is to highlight the intersection of fundraising with Biblical principles—what Henri Nouwen called the “Spirituality of Fundraising.”
Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” Nehemiah 2:17
“So…what happened in there?” I asked a client after we just sat through a very uncomfortable meeting with a donor. The client was supposed to make a very clean and simple request for support. “Will you give a gift of $100,000 to our project?” became a serious case of verbal vomit. It was like the development director was trying to talk the donor out of making a gift. It was all the more painful because I was just far enough away that I couldn’t kick the client under the table. I could only watch the carnage.
The client responded, “I just couldn’t sell the donor.” And that was the challenge, my client was trying to sell in the first place. Faithful Fundraising is not sales, it is leadership. Too often, fundraisers have their eyes on the cost and sacrifice of the donor. Asking for that sacrifice is scary because “I don’t want to impose,” or “they might say no to me.”
In the great story of Nehemiah, we see a bold leader with a clear vision to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Note that Nehemiah did not say in 2:17, “Oh dear, look at how risky, hard, and scary this will be; if you could, I hope some might consider possibly joining me maybe but take your time…there is no hurry” Instead, Nehemiah directly stated an urgent problem, boldly proclaimed an inspiring vision, and powerfully invited his community to join. And join they did! In just 52 days, the Israelites rebuilt the wall!
Fundraisers need to follow Nehemiah’s lead. Not only do we need to, we get to! It is a joy for us to present a compelling vision and then invite donors to step into the excitement and joy of investing in work the changes lives for good! Why would we want to deny our donors and ourselves that joy?
Recently, I enjoyed a powerful, mountain top moment in my career as a development professional. I facilitated a meeting with a donor who announced to a mentor that he had made a very generous donation to a project in the friend’s honor. The mentor was crying. The donor was crying. I was crying. It was a beautiful moment of love and humanity. God was in that meeting. Part of what made that meeting so moving to me was the story behind the meeting. I worked with that donor for months to cultivate the gift. It was a process of learning about the donor and the donor’s passions and values. It was about building trust. When the moment was right, I lead the donor into an inspiring vision that precipitated in a gift to honor a dear mentor and friend. It wasn’t a hard sell, it was leadership.
Faithful Fundraising isn’t a burden. It is an honor. It is a blessing. It is a win-win-win-win-win for all involved.
To close, I would like to share a video from Pastor Stephen Buys. Pastor Stephen was resistant to fundraising from a theological standpoint. His transformation from skeptic to proponent was a gift from God to him. We hope Pastor Stephen’s words are a gift to you as well.