Slow Down – Donors Ahead!

“Enthusiasm without knowledge is not good. If you act too quickly, you might make a mistake.” (Proverbs 19:2 NCV).

Absalom orchestrated a coup against his father starting a civil war, so David sent Joab and his army to crush the uprising (see 2 Samuel 18:1-33). As Absalom was fleeing for his life, he rode under an oak tree and caught his long flowing hair in the thick branches, but his mule kept on going. He hung there helplessly until Joab came and plunged three javelins into his heart killing him and ending the war.

An interesting event happened next. Ahimaaz volunteered to run take the news to David, but Joab refused saying, “You may take the news another time, but you must not do so today” (2 Sam. 18:20). Instead, Joab assigned a Cushite to run with the message to David. Ahimaaz loved to run so much, he begged Joab for permission to go, so Joab relented. Ahimaaz took the route through the plain, outran the Cushite, and reached David first. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any message to share. David told him to step aside as they waited for the Cushite to arrive with the bad news that Absalom was dead. We can learn four fundraising lessons from this account.

Enthusiasm isn’t Enough
Ahimaaz loved to run just for the sake of running. Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 9:26, “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly.” Some fundraisers are full of zeal but don’t have focus or a purpose for their donor meetings. Determine the outcomes you want to achieve for each major donor. What information do you want to learn? What messages do you want to convey and what call to action will you propose? If you don’t aim at anything, you will hit it every time.

Clarify Your Message
Ahimaaz arrived first but had nothing to say. It doesn’t matter if you are the first ministry to connect with a major donor; if your message is unclear, you will miss the opportunity. Donors give to ministries that have a clear vision of what they intend to accomplish. Fine tune your message to make sure it’s compelling.

Don’t Act Too Quickly
Slow down. A rookie fundraiser in her zeal submitted an initial grant application to a foundation for $2 million. The foundation had given grants of that size but had no relationship with her organization. She jumped the gun and missed the relationship-building step. Unfortunately, the foundation director moved her application to the circular file.

Avoid Mistakes
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Sometimes you may never get a second chance to connect with a potential major donor. Be intentional with your major donor strategy. Make sure the right person in your ministry shares the right message at the right time.

Think About This: The speed-accuracy trade-off is a behavioral science theory that proposes decisions made slowly have high accuracy while decisions made fast have a high error rate. Don’t rush your donor relationships but don’t procrastinate either. John Wooden, famed UCLA basketball coach, taught his players, “Be Quick, But Don’t Hurry.”

Response: Father, give our team zeal and wisdom to make the greatest impact for you as we engage major donors.

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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