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Are You Asking Too Much Too Often?

That depends of course on what you’re asking for.

If you’re asking for money to support your ministry and you’re asking on a frequent basis … then the answer is absolutely not!

In fact, you’re probably not asking for enough financial support, often enough. Honestly, is there ever enough funding to do all that you believe God could do through your ministry?

Years ago, I challenged the manager of a very large and very impactful ministry. He was exceedingly grateful for the support from their donors. And although their annual funding goal was met, the projections from all the data showed that the support was far less than what it should have been.

Rather than increase their fundraising appeals, they instead shied away from it because of fear that they would be asking too much, too often.

“But Todd, listeners get tired of always being asked to give.”

Really? How do you know that? Usually the answer is, “Because that’s what the they tell us.” Of course, hearing a handful of those comments doesn’t prove it’s true for everyone.

Granted, constant appeals, repeated in the same old way, do become obnoxiously irritating. It doesn’t matter if it’s your pledge drives; appeal spots; direct mail and email, major donor appeals or any other form of communication … if it’s the same ole, same ole, the listener’s will no longer have “ears to hear.” It’s just a lot of “fundraising noise” that can be ignored until it goes away.

So maybe it’s not so much a question of whether you’re asking too often. Perhaps a better question is, “Are you asking in the right way?”

Take a quick look at every form of your fundraising appeals. Are they pretty much “templates” with just a few variations repeated for the next appeal?

What about mixing it up? How about some creative, new, never attempted before appeals that are un-predictable? Appeals that have a different feel from what your listeners are used to?

I know, “Hey don’t fix it if ain’t broke.” Agree. But how will you ever know if your appeals can gain even greater response unless you start trying a few new things?

This applies to every tool in your fundraising tool box. As well as the tools you aren’t using because you haven’t yet discovered them.

It starts with your pledge drives, your main fundraising tool. For 42 years, I had the opportunity to plan, produce and host live, on-air fundraising drives. In all honesty, very little has changed.

Could they be better? If yes, how? What can you do to make the appeal sound different than what your listeners have heard before? And instead of the same week(s) year after year, should you change up the dates? Could the drives be more often but in shorter duration? What about a day(s) preceding the fundraiser, or following it, with nothing but celebration, testimonials, stories … and no appeal?

How will you know if anything can change for the better unless you try something new and different?

Or what about your direct mail and email appeals? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read an appeal letter or email that is so painfully predictable, that I can close my eyes and finish it without looking.

How about trying something you haven’t done before? Try completely new messaging, formatting, layout and design. What about an appeal written by a listener who will ask on your behalf? One of the highest responses I ever saw, was a heartfelt letter written by a mom asking her fellow-listeners to please support the ministry.

And the same is true for a lot of the fundraising spots you’re airing. Too formal and too predictable. Change them up with something they’ve never heard before. Grab their attention with pattern interrupters. Dump the imaging voice and use a regular sounding, everyday person. Be transparent and keep them real, sometimes fun, sometimes serious.

What about your major donor appeals? If I’m one of your major donors and I get your email or call or a scheduled meeting, what will you do differently this time? How will you grab my attention and my heart in a way you haven’t done with me before?

For the sake of your listeners, your staff and your bottom line, let me ask you to consider something if you’ve not already done this. Schedule one full day with your whole staff and do at least four things.

  1. First, pray. Yes, I know you flip a quick prayer before your meetings. But what if this was a more extended time of true, heartfelt, faith-filled conversation with God. Have an expectation that as you seek Him, He will inspire, guide and direct your fundraising efforts in a way that will show Him off.
  2. Next, identify and evaluate every single type of donor appeal from the previous 12 months. Look at each one through the eyes of the one to whom you’re making the appeal. What worked? What could have been better? How can you change it or dump it and replace it with something new?
  3. Now, interrogate your appeals fiercely. Ask tough questions. Kill the sacred cows. Then start coming up with more creative, un-predictable never-before attempted appeals. This is where the brainstorming has no limits. Change it up. Be different. Be daring. Take risks.
  4. Then, start laying out the specific plans for your fundraising calendar. Determine the needs, goals, dates, appeal types and expected response. Your calendar needs to look different than the year before. And make sure you have a way to clearly measure all the results with careful data gathering that gives you detailed specifics.

One more suggestion. If you think you know how well all your fundraising appeals work, test it out. Do a survey or better yet a focus group and find out the truth from your donors and non-donors about how effective your appeals actually are … or aren’t.

Are you really asking too much too often? Or are you just not asking in the right way?