Do not assume when talking with major donors


I have spent the last 10 years helping churches raise money.  I have seen some things come and go while other techniques and strategies have strengthened.  Developing and implementing a major donor strategy for the senior pastor,staff, and leaders is essential to fully funding the vision that your church has for reaching people for Christ.  The % of dollars continues to be controlled by a smaller % of people in our country and around the world.  Major donors can play a significant role in the financial and spiritual success of a church, but most pastors and lay leaders are tentative to develop an intentional strategy for the major givers in their church. 

Many pastors are willing to develop a major donor strategy knowing that I am there to guide them through the process.  To start the process I always ask the pastor what are your fears or hesitations about talking with your major givers about giving to God’s vision for the church.  I get a variety of answers but I have been able to categorize three basic assumptions that I hear most often.  Here they are:

  1. I’m bothering people with my request and ultimately wasting their time.  People want to spend time with their pastor and hear the pastor’s vision for the church, so you are not bothering them.  People want to help the church achieve the vision, so you are not wasting their time.  We all have been given different gifts; some have the gift of making and giving money.  Leaders must connect people’s gifts with opportunities. 
  2. Everyone understands the vision for the church just like the pastor understands it.  Sometimes it will take weeks or months for pastors and leaders to pray about, discuss, and refine the vision he/she feels God is calling the church toward.  Most of this dialogue with God is private.  The only way people can catch the vision and get on board is for the pastor to start from the beginning EVERY TIME he/she is talking about a new path the church might take.  Don’t go too fast.  Let them tell you how much they know about the vision before you start.  Over communicate!  The only way for them to know is for you to tell them.
  3. People do not have the resources to make a major gift to the vision of the church.  If you are visiting someone to discuss major gifts there is good reason to believe they have more resources at their fingertips than the pastor does, right?  Often times pastors radically underestimate the potential resources people have to give because he/she has never had personal access to a large income and resources and it is hard to comprehend how someone could write a check for $10k or $50k or more!  However, unless you do some serious research there is no way to truly know what someone’s giving potential is.  The pastor’s job is to cast vision in such a way the donor will be able to clearly see how the vision being discussed can radically impact lives for Christ.  If the pastor can do this then he/she has completed their job.  Allow the donor to determine how much of their resources they might want to give to the vision.  Don’t try and make that decision for them.  The Holy Spirit is powerful!  Get out of the way.

You know what happens when you assume?  I think we all have had the word assume broken down at some point and time in our lives.  Do not assume when talking to major givers; communicate, communicate, communicate!

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  1. Lonnie Evans

    Alan,

    You are right on the money about asking for large gifts. I served as a pastor for 15 years and I saw all of those reasons in operation. I think you tapped on a very important one in #3 that often goes unnoticed. It is sometimes tough for pastors, who understand large personal debt to get through grad school and most of who understand personal budgeting to try to get out of that debt in a decade or two, to actually come to grips with the fact that some of their people have been blessed by God financially and wish to give in keeping with that blessing. They are just waiting to be brought into the conversation!

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