Reviving Dead Donors

“Take away the stone… take off the grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:39, 44).

Lazarus fell sick and died so Jesus and his disciples traveled to Bethany to comfort Martha and Mary. Jesus loved Lazarus. When they showed him where they laid him, he wept (John 11:35). Mary wondered why he didn’t come in time to heal him, but Jesus had much bigger plans. Jesus brings new life. How can he bring new life to your donor base?

Take away the stone
On Easter Sunday morning Jesus rose from the dead and an angel rolled the stone away, but at Lazarus’ tomb Jesus asked for help. Jesus can supply all the resources for your ministry, but he has given you the assignment. What stones are preventing your past donors from giving again? The list of possible barriers is endless. Perhaps someone in your organization offended them by something they said or didn’t say. When you know of an offence, take the initiative to remove that stone and re-win your friend.

But, Lord
Martha objected because Lazarus had been dead for four days. Sometimes our donor list is not just stale, it stinks. At one time your key donor was a vital part of your ministry, but something happened, and you’ve not talked to him or her for decades. It’s easy to find excuses of why that person would never give again. We assume they’ve moved on or got interested in another ministry. Breathing life back into dead mailing lists is challenging. But if you had a personal relationship with your donor, there is hope.

Lazarus, come out!
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead because he was the Son of God. He called him by name because he was his friend. God has the power to rekindle an old relationship, he can “open doors that no one can shut” (Rev. 3:8). If your lapsed donor won’t respond to your emails or voicemails, ask a mutual friend to reach out to your lost donor on your behalf. Perhaps your friend can make the connection.

Take off the grave clothes and let him go
When God blesses you with a renewed ministry partner, start fresh with new communication. Most donor relationships deteriorate because of poor communication. You keep major donors interested by increasing the frequency and quality of your personal communications. Donor retention is like building a friendship. You contact your friends in a variety of ways—handwritten notes, letters or cards, emails, texts, and phone calls. Treat your long-lost friends as brand new friends.

Think About This: A school in Canada launched a capital campaign but soon realized they had neglected their alumni for years. They researched old lists and began reconnecting with their grads. The development director called on a lady who graduated 50 years earlier and was now living in New York. He explained the opportunity and asked if she would like to learn more. She responded positively and eventually gave $2 million—all because of a phone call.

Response: Lord, you are “the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being the things that were not” (Romans 4:17). Please breathe new life into our donor base and open doors to our past friends.

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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