How to increase giving to your ministry

When I got the schedule for my speaking engagement this year at the Christian Leadership Alliance conference, my heart sank.  I was the last speaker on a panel scheduled for the last slot on the last day of the conference.

Anyone who has ever attended a professional conference knows that’s the graveyard shift.  By the last day, the excitement present at the beginning of a conference has worn off.  People tend to duck out early to catch flights and get back home.

I had nightmarish visions of speaking to an empty room.

Maybe it was the title, but a surprisingly large group showed up at 4 p.m. to hear our panel speak on “How to Increase Giving to Your Ministry.”

My fellow panel members were awesome.  Griff Freyschlag, vice president of development of the Denver Rescue Mission, presented a comprehensive overview of his community-based fundraising program, dispensing lots of proven, practical advice.  Griff runs a program that’s widely recognized as one of the best in the mission business.  Among his many excellent points, Griff gave a convincing case for maintaining a strong commitment to investing in new donor acquisition.

Next up was Lorraine Mazza, managing director of development at Joni and Friends.  During Lorraine’s time at her organization, she has seen remarkable growth.  She narrowed the focus and went in depth about her major donor program.  When Lorraine got to the key point of her presentation – “Keep it personal” – I nearly leapt up to shout “amen!”

Griff and Lorraine held the audience’s attention, so by the time it was my turn to speak at 5 p.m., there was still a crowd in the room.  I narrowed the focus even more.  I talked about how to increase giving through one single element of a fundraising program:  the newsletter.

I’ve blogged about the power of the extreme donor-focused newsletter before, and you can read all about it here

The extreme donor-focused newsletter approach assumes donors give because they love to give and love to make a significant difference in the world.  It reports back about what the donors have accomplished, and offers them a clear opportunity to give again.

We recently had the opportunity to test this approach against an internally produced newsletter at one ministry. This was one of those test situations you dream about:  head-to-head A-B panels set up for a statistically valid test and spread over 3 different newsletter mail slots.

The results were gratifying, with the Masterworks extreme donor-focused newsletter showing improvement across the board:

  • 419% lift in response
  • 19.5% lift in average gift
  • 521% lift in revenue!

We followed some simple principles as we created those winning newsletters. You can put them into practice when creating your own.