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Fundraising First Steps

Fundraising first steps aren't always fun, but they are always important.

Fundraising first steps are those things that you should always do at the beginning. You just can’t get around them.

The I went to a Knights of Columbus meeting over the weekend. I’m new to the Knights, but I know a lot of outstanding men who have been members for a very long time. My wife’s grandfather, who we buried last week at age 98, was a member for 77 years.

It turns out that this weekend’s meeting focused on planning the fundraisers for the remaining part of the year. A Chili dinner. Egg roll sales. A paid service project. The fundraiser in me got all stirred up, and so I stood up.

“The best way to raise money is to ask for it. Why don’t we just pick a project and ask each of the knights to give $25, $50, or $100 dollars to support it, depending on how much they can afford? We can ask Father what he wants us to support.”

The idea was very warmly received. It had never occurred to anyone to just ask for money with a focus on some critical church need. They had been doing the same kinds of fundraisers for years, and were used to the status quo.

The conversation was kind of funny, because it turns out that the way things had been going were not exactly as they appeared. It came out in the discussion that many of the knights, myself and the grand knight included, always buy all of the tickets that we sell for the Christmas Wheel Barrel of Cheer (a wheel barrow filled with bottles of alcohol). Nobody had time to sell tickets, practically everybody hated selling tickets, but nobody wanted to let the fundraiser be a failure.

So a new way of doing things was appreciated.

Make new friends, keep the old.

I didn’t suggest that we cancel the other fundraisers, and other knights wanted to make sure that I knew that those events weren’t just about raising money. Hosting dinners and making egg rolls is about building relationships and community. I get it. You can’t build a friendship with the person who sits behind you in Church by putting a check in the offertory basket. If you never rub elbows with him, you’ll never get to know him.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t introduce a new fundraising practice that can change the game in the parish. Last year, the chili supper raised $600. If 6 knights give $100, they have just matched that amount. If all of the knights in our little parish give $100, it will be more than $5,000. This fundraising approach is a practically guaranteed win, and it can’t be matched by selling tickets to a meal. Who buys $100 worth of chili? Nobody!

Baby Steps

As much as I love more advanced fundraising techniques like grant writing, major gifts, and tithing, there’s a lot to be said with baby steps. Good fundraising requires trust and confidence. It’s hard to jump into a difficult kind of fundraising like major gifts, especially if a parish has never done that kind of fundraising before. So do a small thing that is not so intimidating.

When success follows, it will be easier to get more people involved the next time. Momentum begins to build. People who are skeptical at first will decide to jump in when they see their peers participating. No one likes to be the last person standing on the edge of the pool when everybody else is swimming and having a good time.

So pick a project that your parish needs done. Get individuals in your group to agree to give $25, $50, or $100 to the project. Then celebrate how awesome it was to raise so much money with hardly any effort. Share with the other ministries in your parish and repeat once or twice a year. Your parish will be transformed before you know it.


Would you like to learn more about raising money for Church and Ministry? Check out Letters From The Almoner, now available on Amazon.com. Image courtesy of Pixabay.com, via Creative Commons License, no rights reserved.