Creative Leadership

What Donors Are Looking For

Bill Enright of The Lake Institute recently revealed in World Magazine some of the priorities donors consider in giving to religious organizations.  In an economy where most churches, ministries, and non-profits are feeling the pinch, these might be worth remembering and incorporating into your fundraising strategies:

1.     Investment:  Donors want to invest, not bail anyone out.  I’ve always said that donors aren’t interested in paying off your debt, and this certainly confirms that truth.

2.     Accountability:  They want to know where the money goes and expect progress reports.  The age of big ministry arrogance – of telling donors that they’re giving to God and don’t need to know where it goes – is over.

3.     Effectiveness:  They want the gift to accomplish a goal.  You have to show, show, show.  Let them know the change that’s happened because of their gift and what goals were accomplished.  If they don’t see it, in their mind it doesn’t exist.

4.     Partnerships:  They want to be partners with the organization in deciding where the money goes.  Most major ministries have what they call “partnership” programs, but the truth is, the donors aren’t really “partners” and have little or no influence in the organization’s finances.  Donors are apparently getting tired of that dismissive treatment.

5.     Sustainability:  They want the recipient to stay in business.  So your last minute appeals that you need donor’s help to keep you from going out of business will fall on deaf ears.  Donors want their support to go to organizations growing, moving forward, and accomplishing their mission.

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  1. Thanks so much for this, Phil. As a missionary at a church on a college campus, our entire ministry depends on outside donations; people who don’t personally experience the ministry, but only see it from a distance. This is a really great set of guidelines to help drive our development department.

  2. BTW, I wouldn’t actually obnoxiously post this around my office. However, I did print it out and stick it in a binder. Our organization will be having regular meetings with a marketing firm and it’s my goal to (diplomatically) address some of these issues with the experts around. 

    Thanks for sharing. 

  3. Phill…

    Great catch on this article.  Currently I am are working on a project to capture evidence of what is happening in culture regarding “charitable giving.”  I work with one of the largest ad agencies in the US.  Our inisghts team produces as a insights resource for our clients like, Wal-Mart, Taco Bell, Pepsi and the list goes on.  We are exploring what it might look like to bring those insights to the faith communites and non-profits.  Coming from a life in and out of the corporate world and occupational ministry… I believe the faith communites, giving the right resources can make a huge impact in culture. 

    Would love to chat with you sometime.  Our insights might be of assitance to you as your experience might be to us.

    Our premise is… stop responding and reacting to culture, when we can help you influence or create it!

    Thanks again for all you do.


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