Managing Donor Expectations

“I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 2:11-12).

Nehemiah was on a mission from God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He asked King Artaxerxes for help and the king miraculously gave him time off, safe passage, and timber to make beams for the gates. He even sent along army officers and cavalry (see Neh. 2:7-9). Nehemiah could have marched into Jerusalem with pomp and circumstance, instead, he arrived unassumingly. We can learn much from Nehemiah about communicating vision and creating buy-in.


Leaders have many voices vying for their attention especially when it comes to fundraising. Everybody has an agenda and wants to fund their pet project. It’s easy for leaders to become people-pleasers and attempt to make everyone happy, but the most important voice to hear is God’s. Nehemiah was keenly aware of what God called him to do and he wasn’t going to let anything, or anyone stand in his way. What is God telling you to accomplish for his glory?


After three days in Jerusalem, Nehemiah decided to inspect the walls for himself. He didn’t tell “the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work” (Neh. 2:16). Instead, he took a few confidants on a night vision tour around the wall. Nehemiah was careful not to raise expectations before he had a clear understanding of what needed to be accomplished. Don’t cast a vision before you have a solid plan to carry it out.


When Nehemiah finished his due diligence, he preached a three-point sermon: (1) We have a serious problem, (2) God has already provided our answer, (3) Now is our time to respond (see Neh. 2:17). Share this same appeal with your donors—the problem, your solution, God’s provision, and a call to action. Perhaps Nehemiah sounded something like William Wallace’s rousing speech in Braveheart, “they’ll never take our freedom!” His pep talk worked because all the people replied, “Let’s start rebuilding” (Neh. 2:18).

Look Out

When you take a stand for the Lord, your enemies will spring into action. Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem were quick to mock and ridicule Nehemiah and the people. As an anonymous WWII bomber pilot said, “The flak only gets heavy when you’re over the target.” Nehemiah didn’t let criticism paralyze him. “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it” (Neh. 2:20).

Think About This:
Creating buy-in is ultimately about influencing others, not making demands on them. Nehemiah invited the people to join him in the work, “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Neh. 2:17). Don’t demand a gift from your donors, invite them to partner with you in the great work God has called you to accomplish.

Response: Lord, help me listen to your voice so I can inspire our donors to accomplish the tasks you’ve marked out for us (see Heb. 12:1).

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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