To leaders who want to raise more money

The numbers don’t lie, and you are still in shock.

You just received your year-to-date budget reports and only a few weeks are left in your fiscal year. The total giving this year is about the…

The numbers don’t lie, and you are still in shock.

You just received your year-to-date budget reports and only a few weeks are left in your fiscal year. The total giving this year is about the same as last year. While this isn’t a crisis, you can’t help feeling exhausted. 

In the quiet of your office you can hear your mind whisper the questions. After all that work and all the new things we tried? After all those newsletters I personally wrote? After all that work on those fundraising events? What are we missing?

The surprising answers have nothing to do with working harder or launching new programs. In fact, in a big way you are the answer to your own questions. Here are a few specific thoughts.

1. If you don’t grow, neither will your school.

I find most people in leadership roles in Christian schools serve because they are called and have a passion for the work and vision. They have a can-do attitude and can get things moving. Their God-given sense of calling makes them available and ready to serve Him.

But as the years go by, a lack of skills or growth in some key areas can hold the ministry back. John Maxwell calls this the “Leadership Law of the Lid,” which says an organization will never go higher than the extent to which the leader is able to grow their skills. Casting vision, building relationships and growing a culture of giving are all leadership skills that can easily fail to thrive if not carefully grown.

We humans are very good at self-deception. Without being completely aware of it, we will find ways to do everything but initiate actions that create a culture of growth toward a vision. We will fill our days with “good” things, frustrated that there isn’t enough time to do the very “best” things. All while avoiding anything in the world that smells like something awkward or uncomfortable.

I know it’s true because I can sit in my office with a list of people to call and talk myself out of calling every one of them. So if that’s true of me, someone who is driven and committed to what I am doing, couldn’t this be true of you as well?

But pushing yourself and your team members to move past what’s comfortable will help you live free of frustration and bitterness and be much more intentional about growing your skills as a leader. And the good news is it’s actually possible to connect who you are, and the success you’ve seen in other areas and projects, to the work of fundraising.

2. It’s not hocus-pocus, it’s where you put your focus.

Focus less on the idea of raising money from the community and more on helping people catch a vision for the impact your school will have on the lives of the students you serve.

You can start by sharing the amazing news that your school is located in a particular place. Your story is about a ministry that is emerging and changing the lives of people in your community. Use language that describes how God is working through your approach to impact students. You’re looking for people willing to get engaged in growing the awareness that God is using your school in a transformational way in the lives of individual people.

Explain how you are working to see your school become a force to be reckoned with in your community. Help others understand you are trying to grow relationships that grow the reach and influence of your school. Talk about moving forward or advancing toward your vision more than centering on fundraising or needing money. 

Commitments come through people committing to your vision, and that happens through growing influence in the community.

3. Ask more questions, get more influence.

The key to your growing effectiveness and impact is knowing that the primary currency you’re after is not money, but influence. And in order to grow your influence, you have to take ownership of sharing your plan for the future. 

I once worked to fundraise for a leader who was a visionary and very good at working strategically inside the organization. I took the personal responsibility of clarifying our vision in the form of a plan.

I began by interviewing our key leader. I asked him to take an hour with me and let me interview him about our vision. I crafted that into a clear message. Then I worked through the editing process with the leader. I wanted the two of us to be exactly on the same page with how we were communicating the vision.

He began to trust that I was “getting it.” He knew I wasn’t going to be out fundraising somewhere off-script, but that I would be telling his story. You must do whatever it takes to pull the vision out of your heart or the people around you and get it on paper!

Then I started spending most of my time face-to-face with people, building relationships. I spent a lot of time asking people what their vision for the school was and trying to find out what they knew about our organization.

Then I introduced a small glimpse of our vision and where we were trying to go. Next I asked how they would do this work if they were in my shoes. I focused more on the growing currency of influence than the currency of money, and the influence and reach of our school began to expand rapidly, along with the generous giving we desperately needed.

As we coach leaders through Development and Leadership Coaching, we have three effective questions we teach them to ask in their first meeting with people of influence or prospective donors:

  • What is your vision for this school?
  • What advice do you have for me?
  • Whom do you think I need to be talking to?

When you ask these questions, be sure they see you taking notes. That lets them know you are taking them seriously. This also gives you the opportunity to follow up later and tell them you heard them. 

Within a day of the meeting, send an email listing the things you heard the prospect say, a few points you were trying to convey, and some next actions. This positions you as a leader who moves relationships and projects forward. When the prospect gives you names of people to connect with, be sure to reach out to them. It is your follow-up efforts, more than anything else, that builds the currency of influence.

Leadership has been defined as “getting the right things done through others.” If you are a leader seeking to grow giving and position your ministry to move forward toward its vision, then the process of getting the right things done begins with you.

Keep building your skill at growing relationships and influence, and God will use the people you are connecting with to accomplish miraculous things.