Strategy & Marketing

Fundraising Secrets for Religious and Non-Profit Media

Mary Hutchinson of Creative One sent me this “Top Ten List of Fundraising Tips” for Christian media programmers. It’s particularly focused on religious and non-profit media, but many of the ideas could impact the way you raise money outside of media as well. Do you agree with these techniques? Let me know your thoughts…

1) If they only called for prayer or asked for a free gift, there is a less than 12% chance they will ever give to your ministry.

2) Younger preachers attract younger responders regardless of the format.

3) People will respond financially by email and direct mail better to a good story about a real person than a sermon/teaching.

4) Even if you are Southern Baptist, your donors are more likely to also be supporting a charismatic ministry as well—rather than another evangelical organizations.

5) Offering a product “for a gift of any amount” will out net a price point (i.e. $25) on television offers.

6) Ditto direct mail offers.

7) There is a segment of your audience that only will respond to you via direct mail. There is another segment that will only respond to you via web. There is another group who will always call. And a tiny group will always find their own envelope and write to you. Know who they are and treat them as they want to be treated and you’ll have a breakthrough.

8) People want to have a two-way conversation with you. Open that door any way you can.

9) You don’t have to be in the homes with mail before the first of the month. That was true before direct deposit became a way of life, but not today.

10) A well tooled “Welcome Series” of mailings for new names and donors will cause people to be twice as likely to be a monthly partner by the end of the first year than simply putting people in the regular communication program.

You can contact her at: Mary Hutchinson, President – CreativeOne Direct –
978-392-4525 Ex. 49.

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  1. #3 & #10 are both very good points I have not considered.


    There's a great letter I get from AIM Air occasionally. It always focuses around a really good story which is well written. It is probably the most inspiring letter I get from any individual or non-profit.

  2. #3 is a great tip. Being as specific as possible is a great way to help the individual see the need for their help.

    As for agreeing with these techniques, I don't see anything unscrupulous or unethical with it as long as you use the monies received wisely. I would much rather give to an organization that is efficient in its use of funds by maximizing its ROI than an org that haphazardly mails out cruddy DM with no clear direction or strategy at all. 

  3. I think in general, these are truths borne out of experience.  Knowing them, (assuming they are true) is simply useful information.  How you use them is of more importance in my thinking.  Stewardship would demand effectiveness in terms of a return on invested effort and time.

    My response on each one in brief would be:

    1.  If you're giving a free gift and measuring the effectiveness only on the immediate return of the gift itself then it's not really a gift is it?  It's a gimmick.  Try examining the motives and the purpose, not the impact of manipulating people to give out of guilt or just up the contacts.

    2.  I don't know of many effective younger generation evangelists so this may be a skewing based upon the general audience and not necessarily follow as a factor in other contexts.

    3.  Story telling is key.  This is true in preaching as well.

    4.  True.  Charismatic ministries are more effective in general appeal.  So is professional wrestling, but maybe that's an unfair stretch …….

    5.  No real comment here.  I wonder if that will hold true if we enter a period of stagflation in the general economy in the near future.  That may be a reflection to some degree of the general economy and not always a hard and fast principle.

    6.  Ditto.

    7.  Targetting and segmenting your appeals to people's demonstrated preferences or means of giving makes sense.

    8.  I'd add, not just a 2 way communication, but a sincere and meaningful one, not just a gimmick.

    9.  Agreed.  Pay cycles are more evenly spaced in general for people making the 1st of the month less meaningful in terms of timing.

    10.  Again this makes sense.  People can sense I think too, when they are just "put on the mailing list" …… We're less prone to imagine there's a real sense of relationship and belonging to the ministry and its purpose without something more geared to recognizing the stage of relationship that person is at.

    What's the goal?  Ministry first or just working the angles to maximize cash flow?

  4. The goal?  No media ministry can do what it is called to do without funds.  Unless a large church or large donor underwrites it, there is a need to have a segment of viewers (the choir) to support the work.  That's my job–and my calling.

  5. 1) If they only called for prayer or asked for a free gift, there is a less than 12% chance they will ever give to your ministry.

    I don't know if ORM is still doing it, bu the last time I called them for prayer for my grandmother who had cancer, before they would pray for me, they asked me if how much seed I wanted to sow.

    I was so flabbergasted I hung up and have never called again. For me, number 1 is right. Money and prayers are not a good combination. It is very devaluing to the individual who comes forth and asks for help through prayer.

    Christians have this reputation of always have their hand out asking for "freebies." I think we need to do a better job of making the ministry more important than th money to run it.

    Remaining Steadfast,


  6. Dominique, I could not agree with you more re prayer calls.  When someone calls for prayer–pray!  No strings!

    Further, if they do give their name and address–don't hound them for a gift for months on end.  Mail a warm welcome, perhaps a gentle offer of something meaningful for their situation–then STOP. 

    It wastes money and irritates the caller to do more!

  7. Phil and Mary,

     Thank you for posting these items. Great line of thinking! I'm not a non-profit, but I try to employ some of these ideas to bring my audience closer (e.g., sending thank you notes, etc.).

    I'm surprised how difficult it is to engage people even if it's not asking for something. However, when it happens it's so great – I had a mom email me pics of her kids w/ my show's color sheets colored. That was amazing!

    Hope to see you are NRB!

  8.   I know one thing. I'm so glad that there are no ministries overturning my tables like Jesus used to do. It's hard to shear the sheep when prophets are running around exposing legitimate techniques to HELP people do what they want to do anyway. People WANT to give! But there are so many things to give to. If I don't give them a better reason to give to me they'll give to some other ministry! I mean it's not as though these people are made of money. In fact some of them are flat out poor.  I have to work smart if I'm going to fit in their limited donation budget. Furthermore if my manufactured personal touch techniques like fake hand written notes on the margin of the letter make them feel like I really know them and have something personal to say to them, then I have given them something special haven't I? If they believe it's real, then it's real for them. Isn't there a spiritual gift for that somewhere in the bible….?

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