Putting the FUN in Fundraising

The other day I received a letter from Lydia Patterson Institute (LPI). If you do not know what LPI is, you should-- it is an incredible story. It is a United Methodist mission school in El Paso. Students from Juarez walk across the bridge to attend high school. More than 95% of those kids go on to attend college in the U.S. It is an amazing, life-changing and life-saving institution. My wife Christy is actually a graduate!

Anyway, inside the envelope was a letter to encourage supporting the school. I regularly receive similar letters from Sam Houston State University, Perkins School of Theology at SMU, and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. Do you receive letters like these? If not send a gift to a local hospital or food pantry. Then check your mailbox regularly! These letters from non-profits are different from the typical solicitation letter one receives from a church in some very significant ways:

  • No ominous predictions (If you don't support us we'll have to turn off the A/C units for the kids)
  • No year-to-date budget updates (Amount needed: $500,000; received: $121,000)
  • They express thanks, not threats
Why are these things not included? Aren't budget numbers important? Well, yes, they are important; but these schools have budget teams to monitor income and expenses. Donors have an opportunity to serve there, or at least to attend those meetings. And threatening donors with stark realities does not inspire confidence-- or future investment. 

The Lydia Patterson letter included pictures of two recent graduates, wearing their LPI caps and gowns, and a brief summary of their experience at the school and plans for the future. Sam Houston and SMU tell stories of the learning and opportunities their students have. It inspires the donors to pull out their checkbooks and support the school they love. 

Using that template, this week we sent out mid-year giving statements including a letter from me. The letter said nothing about the financial state of the church; it told stories of how your giving is helping Grace share God's love with others. Hopefully folk read the letter, saw the smiling faces of young people growing in Christian faith, and felt good about what their church is doing. When people feel good about the organization, it is reflected in their financial support.

Last week in this space I mentioned a new communications strategy here at Grace-- specifically moving away from a monthly newsletter. One piece of feedback I heard was: where will we go to read attendance and giving numbers? We can make those numbers available in the church office. We can also discuss them at Finance and Administrative Council meetings, both of which are open to the congregation. What we communicate on Sundays in worship (including the bulletin), the website, and our Facebook page needs to be stories-based. It's the most effective way to share what we are about here at Grace. Positive and inspiring. Thanks to everyone who partners with us here at Grace UMC. Your support helps us reach new people for Christ, send out growing disciples in ministry, and experience God's love in powerful, new ways.