Fundraise at the Speed of Relationships

“You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results” (1 Thess. 2:1).

Paul spent three weeks in Thessalonica proving why Jesus had to suffer and rise from the dead. Some Jews believed, along with some God-fearing Greeks, and several prominent women. The Jewish leaders were jealous of Paul’s success and recruited some bad dudes from the marketplace to start a riot which forced Paul and Silas to escape during the night (see Acts 17:1-9). Paul was only in town for a brief time, but he developed some deep friendships and successfully planted a church.

Cultivating friendships is a vital step in fundraising, yet it doesn’t have to take years and years or even months to establish meaningful relationships with major donors. Let’s apply five fundraising principles from Paul’s experience.

Sincere friendships are built on love. Paul expressed, “Because we loved you so much, we are delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well” (1 Thess. 2:8). Paul didn’t just talk about love, he lived it. You can feel it when you’re the presence of a ministry leader who really loves you. Be that person. You can also tell if someone is insincere.

The believers in Thessalonica knew Paul was the real deal. His motives were pure, he never tricked them, never used flattery, never put on a mask to cover up greed, or sought praise from anyone (1 Thess. 2:3-4). Unfortunately, Christian ministries are full of posers. Be transparent in your finances, relationships, board decisions, and plans.

Hard Work
Paul had a reputation for diligence. “Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone” (1 Thess. 2:9). Your donors have worked hard for what they have, and they appreciate ministry leaders who also work hard. Ministry partners notice if you have a reputation of sticking with the job until it’s done or taking extended sabbaticals.

Imagine how encouraged you would be if Paul wrote this note to you, “We constantly pray for you that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith” (2 Thess. 1:11). Do you pray for the success of your donors’ business endeavors? Have you encouraged them recently?

In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Paul answered some deep eschatological questions about the antichrist. How amazing that Paul’s discipleship curriculum included a section on prophecy. “Don’t you remember that when I was with you, I used to tell you these things?” (2 Thess. 2:5). This should encourage you to have deep conversations about your ministry’s mission and vision. Don’t shy away from difficult topics. Iron sharpens iron and your key donors look to you for answers to tough questions.

Think About This: Everyone wants their major donor relationships to move fast, but few are willing to invest in the hard work of building trust. Be intentional about every major donor move.

Response: Father, thank you for our faithful donors–old and new. Give me wisdom to identify, cultivate, and solicit new ministry partners.

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 two books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising and Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for At the Center magazine and Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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