Dear Mrs. Sanderson,
I’m so sorry to hear that you’re feeling discouraged. I can completely understand that feeling of “I just can’t do this.” I went through a season as a fundraiser when I was supposed to do door-to-door cold calls to businesses for donations. I couldn’t do it. I ran into a brick wall. It just wasn’t my style. This might not be your gift! Don’t worry, all hope is not lost.
You need reinforcements!
The Battle belongs to the Lord! Right now, you’re feeling beaten, discouraged, like an army that is being chased away by the enemy. Fundraising for the new food pantry is conquering you, to the point that you feel you ready to give up. Don’t despair!!!
You have the passion for serving the poor and the vision for making the new food pantry warm and welcoming. This is irreplaceable! You just need help doing the fundraising. We need to find someone who shares your vision, but has no problem talking to people and asking them for money.
My first thought is Mr. Jenson. I laugh as I think of him. He knows everyone in the parish and has a heart of gold. He also could sell ice to polar bears or talk the ears off a rabbit. Let’s try to set up a lunch with him so you can pitch him the idea of the food pantry and I can explain the fundraising method that we want to use.
We can start by asking him to use the process that I described to you in my last letter. Person-to-person fundraising is still your best bet. He can use the list of people who you created as his starting point and add his own personal contacts if we need to go further.
If he looks at the list and says that it seems like it’s too much work, we can ask him to help find some more volunteer solicitors. In volunteer ‘terminology’ he’ll be the ‘fundraising captain’. He’s a veteran, so I think he’ll like that. He can build a team of volunteer fundraisers to make sure everyone on your list gets a personal invitation to support the food pantry.
There’s no shame in admitting that you can’t do everything in this new ministry. The fact that fundraising ties a knot in your stomach doesn’t mean that you’re not supposed to persist in starting this food pantry. St. Paul tells us to think of ourselves as parts of the Body of Christ and possessing different gifts. Just because you’re a hand doesn’t mean that you should feel ashamed that you’re not an elbow. You just need someone like Mr. Jenson to be the elbow that helps you to reach out to others.
In military terms, a force multiplier is something that enables a person or unit to have a bigger impact that they would have without it. So, for instance, a cannon enables a soldier to make a bigger dent in the enemy walls than a sling shot. Bringing in volunteers to help will enable you to do things that you never could by yourself.
You’re not going to be able to do all the work that this pantry requires, but you do have the vision to be the leader. A big part of the success of this ministry is understanding how many volunteers you’re going to need and what they’re going to be doing. As you call on people to do different things, your ability to make a difference is going to grow tremendously. With the right team of volunteers, you’ll be able to do things that would never be possible if you tried to do it yourself.
Gathering the troops
So, start thinking about what kind of help you’ll need for the pantry. We’ve already identified fundraising as a place to start. What about people to help you to pick up the food from the food bank? You’ll need some strong backs for that. To sort the food into boxes for distribution? That’s just time-consuming, so maybe the youth group could help there. What about people talk to the folks who come in for help? You’ve mentioned that you want this to be about more than just a food giveaway… that you really want to find out what’s going on in people’s lives and find more ways to help them. Getting helpers with the right kind of attitude and personality will make that vision a reality.
Your role as a leader is bringing all the different people together and giving them the vision of what’s supposed to happen and how they’re going to do it. Just like your list of potential donors, you’ll need to come up with a list of potential volunteers. Your list will have two columns – the first column will list the different volunteer roles you need to fill. The second column will be the list of folks that have the gifts to fill in that role.
When you start making phone calls, you don’t have to go so far as to get a hard, long-term commitment. What you’re looking for is a “Yes, give me a call when you need a hand.” You’re creating a list of volunteers that you can call on in your time of need. People will give freely of their time, but they won’t be able to do it all the time. So, you’ll need 2 or three people who are available for each slot. Having some backup people also helps to prevent burn out. And don’t worry, most people find that asking for volunteers is MUCH easier than asking for donations.
Please don’t be discouraged! This setback is an opportunity for you to get more people involved in your ministry. In the end, finding the right people to serve beside you will make the difference between victory and defeat.
Nathan – the Almoner
P.S. We can also put a list of volunteer needs in the bulletin once you’ve got your list. That will bring in volunteers that you might not have thought to call. A benefit of soliciting volunteers this way is that anyone who calls in after reading the bulletin announcement is interested in helping. In fact, you can reach out to people this way first, and then make phone calls to fill in any gaps. Easy peasy!
Need some new ideas on how to fundraise? Check out The Fundraiser’s Playbook and find the fundraising strategy that will work best for you!