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A ‘Fishy’ Parable for Fundraisers

Dear Mrs. Sanderson,

I understand how hard it is to set up meetings with people about the food pantry. It’s not their top priority. I think you and Mr. Jenson are doing great and should keep it up. I do agree that the $450 a month that has been committed gives you enough resources to get started. You might have to start out doing one day per month rather than two, but that’s still a great start! Just feel it out.

In the meantime, I think you should continue doing one-on-one meetings. Actually, I think opening the food pantry will probably help you fundraise. You’ll get some stories to tell the people when you ask them to donate. It will no longer be something that might happen… It will be something that IS happening. That will do a lot to quiet the doubts of skeptical potential donors.

Gentle, persistent reminders

I think it’s time to include a new strategy to your approach. The person-to-person approach works great, but you need to reach more people in a short time. The way to do this is to put announcements in the bulletin. They’ve already heard you talk about it during Mass. I’m sure many people have thought to themselves, “Oh, that sounds like a good idea,” but just haven’t taken the time to act on it.

The bulletin announcements will bring the food pantry to the top of their minds again. We can talk to Fr. Zagloba and get permission to put in some pictures and a story of our first day of being open. I know that’s a month or two away, so in the meantime we’ll just put in a brief invitation to be a part of this good work.

You might worry that we’re being too persistent and are going to start annoying people. That simply isn’t the case. People tend to forget ads almost immediately. The marketing geniuses of the world insist that the more people see an ad the more likely they are to act on it. While I don’t know the hard science on this, it makes sense that people are busy and need help remembering to donate.

The Kingdom of God is like a net

Bulletin ads are a different way of doing what fundraisers call ‘donor acquisition’. Think of donor acquisition as being like the parable of the fishing net. You know the one where Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a fishing net that catches all kinds of fish. The good are separated out and kept in jars while the bad are thrown back into the sea.

Every person that donates after seeing your ad is a fish in the net. Those donors have been ‘acquired’. But your work isn’t over after that first donation comes in. Now you have to start the process of sorting the good from the bad. The good fish are those people who will give again if you thank them properly and ask again. The bad fish are people who are not interested in giving on a more regular basis.

(Now this is not to say that people who only give once are bad people. I’m just using the descriptions from the parable to make the comparison. We’re as thankful to the one time donor as we are to the consistent giver.)

With ‘big net’ donor acquisition, the connection that you’re making with people is nowhere near as strong as the connection that you make during a face to face meeting. Most people who donate through this kind of fundraising are going to be doing one time donations. This is to be expected. But you will need to have a plan to communicate with ALL of the donors and sort out those who will continue to give and those who won’t.

Finding and keeping the good fish

Email is the pot we’ll use to hang onto our good fish. We can get reports from Carmen in the office and use the email addresses they used to give online. I know you said that you hate computers, but maybe we can convince your granddaughter to help out. You’ve said that you’re always looking for ways to get her involved at Church. This would require that she learn how to use MailChimp, one of the leading e-mail marketing companies. It’s a great tool and for the number of e-mails we’re going to be doing, it’s free.

I know when I start talking about technology, your eyes glaze over a bit. But this will be fun. You’re going to be writing a monthly letter to your friends about the good work that they are doing when they donate. You’ll share stories, pictures, ask for prayers, say thank you. I’ll work with both of you to come up with a monthly email to everyone who has already donated to the food pantry. And occasionally (not every time) we’ll ask them to give again. We’ll even ask them to consider making their gift automatically every month. If they don’t give again after a year’s worth of e-mails, we’ll let them swim back to sea.

I’ll show your granddaughter how to create a separate email list for the people who have already committed to giving every month. Instead of asking every month, we’ll just send the thank you note with pictures and a story. We want to make sure that they feel connected to the service that the food pantry is doing. Their gifts make it possible for you to serve. We need to make sure that they know it, and know that WE know it. We also want them to be excited and gratified by the good work that their donations are making possible.

I think that this approach combined with the person-to-person approach will bring us enough consistent donations for the pantry to really get rolling.

Blessings,

Nathan – The Almoner

P.S. It is probably better to use the phrase ‘long term supporters’ instead of ‘good fish’ and ‘one time donors’ instead of ‘bad fish.’ Especially if you’re talking to anyone else about our plan. The parable provides just gives such a good illustration of the process of acquiring new donors that I couldn’t resist.


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