Brevity is the Soul of Fundraising

“But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.” (Acts 24:4)

Ananias, the high priest, and some elders appeared before Felix, the Roman governor, to condemn Paul for being a troublemaker. They brought along their lawyer, Tertullus, who spent some time flattering Felix. When he realized he might be losing his audience, he quickly jumped to his closing argument. Perhaps, William Shakespeare was inspired by Tertullus when he wrote “brevity is the soul of wit.” Intelligent writing and speech should use as few words as possible. This principle is especially true in fundraising. Here are five applications:

News flash—donors aren’t waiting eagerly at inbox to open your newsletters, fundraising appeals, and emails. You must grab and keep their attention within the first sentence. Share encouraging stories of how your ministry is making an eternal difference and ask. Be ruthless with your red editing pen and cut out all needless words. Get to the point.

TEDtalks are 18 minutes. It doesn’t matter how famous, wealthy, or influential you are; you have 18 minutes to make your point. Set a time limit for your featured gala/banquet speaker. The longer they run into overtime, the less generous your donors will be. Coach them to get to the point.

Six second funny cat videos can get millions of views. Most YouTube videos are 7-15 minutes. Marketing videos should be two minutes or less. The quality of your content is more important than length. Your video should be as long as it takes you to tell your compelling story—not a second more or a second less. Get to the point.

Don’t overstay your welcome during a donor visit. Plan on 45 minutes to an hour. You can stay longer if your host keeps the conversation going, but don’t dawdle. Before your meeting, determine what outcomes you hope to accomplish and guide the conversation toward that end. Implement the 3 Bs: Be Good, Be Brief, and Be Gone. Get to the point.

The most critical moment of your donor visit is the “ask.” Instead of asking, some ministry leaders hint and talk around the ask. Some nervously ask for a gift but keep on talking after they ask. If you keep talking, you risk talking your donor out of the gift. Stop talking; listen for their answer. Get to the point.

Tertullus was wrong about Paul, but right about Felix’s attention span. He wisely said, “I don’t want to keep you too long. Please listen to us. We will be brief” (Acts 24:4, GW). Know your audience and share your compelling story with as few words as possible.
Think About This: Tertullus had just one audience before Governor Felix and did his best to make a strong case. Consider carefully what to share with your key donor prospect—you may only get one chance! Pray you will say just enough to be invited back for a second meeting!

Response: Father, please increase my awareness to know when to listen, when to talk, and when to ask. May your Spirit give me the words I need to say and nothing more.

Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored three books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising, Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving, and Keep on Asking – Bold, Spirit-Led Fundraising. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for  Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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