“Fearless Fundraising” is a series on church fundraising by Charles LaFond, an Episcopal Priest, author and master potter living on a farm in New Mexico. Charles is the author of many books including Fearless Church Fundraising and now, Fearless Major Gifts: Inspiring Meaning-making. For more information, videos and model documents go to fearlesschurchfundraising.com.
These mugs have just come from the kiln last night. The white mat glaze has a pink hue and the over-glaze falls in rivulets of dusty rose and fir green. They are good mugs for my table at the farmer’s market this weekend.
But like stewarding a gift, the process of caring for this mug from beginning to end involves a lot of care over a period of time – many steps after the initial making of the mug. One can feel quite well having thrown the mug on the wheel from a ball of clay, however that mug form needs careful stewarding through a series of processes only at the end of which a mug for your tea or coffee is ready to use. Once a cylinder is thrown on the wheel it needs to dry – just enough but not too much. As the pot dries slightly for the next step, you must know your clay body and the moisture of your space and weather. At just the right time a handle needs to be pulled from a lump of clay and added to the cylinder- add it too early and you warp the pot but too late and it will pull off and crack as it dries. Then there is the bisque firing. Then the glaze process and the glaze firing. There are dozens of steps – not just the initial forming of the cylinder.
Similarly, with fundraising the winning of a gift to your church or social profit agency is just the beginning! Like the mug, it is only step one in a whole series of steps, each of which need to take into account many realities so that just the right decision at just the right time can be discerned. So, a pledge or gift has been made…what happens next?
Well most people so dislike or fear the process of fundraising that they will abandon the process when the pledge or gift has been made. That is like throwing the mug cylinder and then leaving it sitting on the wheel and walking away but hoping that when you return to the studio, a wonderful new, glistening mug will be waiting for you to use with your tea. Neither processes work like that. Just as a potter must take a mug through many steps with many careful observations and calculations, so too must a fundraiser take a gift or pledge through many steps before the process is complete.
You may feel that the pledge or gift is “in” and that the whole, long process of cultivating and then asking for the gift is over; but you are wrong. In a way, it has only just begun. If you are raising money but not stewarding the gift through the many steps between acceptance and the next request, then you will only be given the one gift and not the second, third and fourth.
What is involved in the stewardship of a gift? Well, that depends on your agency, your gift size, your campaign design and the uses of the gift. But here are a few suggestions:
- Personal phone call within 24 hours.
- Thank you letter within 48 hours.
- Hand-written note within the next month.
- Letter in 3 months to say how the gift is being used and what returns the donor can know have been achieved from the investment.
- Phone call in 6 months to thank again and report on the use of the gift for mission.
- Correct data in your records – the correct spelling of the names, the right address, the correct records of how the donor likes to be mentioned in print
- A brief letter asking if you may mention their name of list “anonymous” in the annual report and confirmation of the way they wish their names to be listed.
- Name in annual report (if the donor is willing) and the mailing of the report to show the donor what you have accomplished.
- Invitation to an awareness dinner which explains how your mission is going and what needs you can foresee in the next 5 years.
- A handwritten note three months before the next time you ask for a gift, telling the donor what you have accomplished with the gift and that you would like to ask for another to build on the success of the last.
Stewardship is not just how a donor makes their gift to your mission. Stewardship is also how you care for that gift along many steps before the next request and the care of the relationship you have with that donor which lays just slightly behind the gift; the way the clay lays slightly behind the glaze on a potter’s mug.