Four Types of Donors

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:3-8).

The parable of the four types of soil reveals different heart responses. Jesus’ message of forgiveness was the same for everyone, but not everyone could receive it. Your ministry faces these same reactions from potential donors.

This donor doesn’t resonate at all with your mission. Your message bounces off their heart and never takes root. A donor interested in athletics may not be interested in fine arts and vice versa. You can share all the benefits of your new fine arts building, but your words literally will fall on deaf ears. There is also a spiritual component. The birds came and devoured the seed on the path. The devil will blind your prospective donors to prevent them from giving.

This donor makes an emotional response to your appeal but has no genuine connection to your ministry and their support quickly fades. They show promise and may even get involved for a while but when it becomes difficult to give, they lapse because they weren’t committed to your mission. John makes an interesting observation, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” (1 John 2:19).

This person receives your message and responds but has too many other concerns distracting them from generosity. “The worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22). Unfortunately, many of your donors are like the rich farmer. “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20-22).

This donor receives your message and responds generously. Some produce thirty, some sixty, and some one hundred. How should this inform your major donor strategy? You can spend lots of time cultivating relationships with those along the path, on rocky soil, or infested with thorns – yet none of these soils produce fruit. Instead, focus your efforts on donors whose heart connects with yours.

Think About This: One Christian university analyzed their million-dollar gifts and discovered in almost every situation, the donor’s first gift was small, but their gifts grew as their relationship grew. Spend your time in the right soil cultivating gifts which are thirty, so they grow into sixty, one hundred – or even a million.

Response: Lord, please help me discern which donors to invest more time in cultivating.

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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