Growing Major Donors

“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29).

Jesus shared this parable of the growing seed to illustrate how God causes the Gospel to flourish in peoples’ hearts. When the seed starts growing it doesn’t stop until it produces a harvest. Some people new to major gift fundraising think they can plant the seed and immediately harvest a $1 million gift but asking and receiving requires patience and faith. Consider these steps:

Scattering Seed
The farmer sows the seed but is not responsible for the outcome. His role in the process is very limited. All he can do is plant the seed and wait. The only human act in the Gospel is telling the story. Evangelists can’t make someone place their faith in Christ, they can only present the Gospel and trust the Holy Spirit to change hearts. As a fundraiser, you can’t make someone give to your ministry, you can only share the story, ask for their partnership, and trust God to prompt their generosity.

Sprouts and Grows
The seed has all the power within it to reproduce itself which is why your ministry story is a critical aspect of fundraising. Your story must convey eternal results. The farmer doesn’t understand how the seed grows. Likewise, you can’t read a donor’s heart to know what might take root, so you need to sow many varieties of seed. Your giving opportunities should include people, property, and programs.

Stalk, Head, Full Kernel
Donors rarely give a seven-figure first-time gift, in fact many initial gifts are $100 or less. Stretch your donors by presenting them with greater opportunities. As your donors’ confidence in you grows, their gifts will increase. An eager major gift officer boldly asked for a $5 million dollar gift from someone who had the ability but no relationship to the ministry. The donor responded, “You need to give me more of an onramp. Ask me for a project that can start our relationship.”

The Harvest
Farming and fundraising are hard work. Both require knowledge of what, when, where, and how to plant, and both require reliance on God’s favor. The fundraising harvest comes after you’ve invested the hard work of relationship building and asking. The hardworking farmer does what he does so that he can enjoy the harvest. If you faithfully tell your story and ask, God will bring a bountiful harvest. He is ultimately responsible for providing for your ministry.

Response: Father, please help me faithfully tell our ministry story, ask for support, and trust you for the outcome.

Think About This: Mark 4:28 says, “All by itself the soil produces grain.” This phrase uses the Greek word automatē, from which we get the English word “automatically.” It’s divinely automatic. Fundraising is a divine-human cooperative, but mostly divine. Tell your ministry story well, ask boldly, and leave your results to God.

Friend, have a Spirit-led fundraising week!

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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