The following is a guest post by Dr. R. Scott Rodin. Dr. Rodin is the president of Rodin Consulting, Inc. and has been serving non-profits for the past 29 years. He specializes in helping organizations take a biblical approach to strategic planning, board development and capital campaign fundraising. He has written 8 books on the related topics.
Direct marketing as a vehicle for transformational giving
Sometimes even the greatest strategies hit a wall. That’s how I felt when asked by a colleague about how transformational giving can be applied to direct mail. I have a fairly deep background in the direct marketing arena, so after some consideration I had to reply, “I’m not sure it can.” That was a hard thing to admit.
For the past decade I have been writing, speaking and consulting on this topic of transformational asking and giving. In brief, this is the practice of being used by God to minister to His people through the process of encouraging, inviting and supporting their call to be faithful stewards of God’s resources.
The focus here is on the journey of the giving partner and the work of the Holy Spirit as the motivator for all giving.
Transformational vs. transactional thinking
Transformational giving differs from a more a transactional approach that focuses on the gift, the urgency and the needs of the organization. The former ministers to giving partners, the latter attempts to raise money from donors. The two are fundamentally different, even mutually exclusive.
The deep one-to-one relationships developed within major donor programs provide the easiest opportunities to minister to our giving partners. So naturally, development leaders who want to move this direction have integrated transformational giving into this portion of their work. When they do, everything changes – from cultivation, to invitation, to follow-up, to acknowledgements, to long-term goals, to measurements of success.
So when the question about direct mail was raised, it was easy to write it off as impractical to expect that we could make such a dramatic shift through such an impersonal medium.
I couldn’t be more pleased to say that I was wrong!
A framework for transformational giving in direct marketing
Over the past year I have been in dialogue with Steve Woodworth and the folks at Masterworks on this issue. Candidly, we started miles apart. Steve wasn’t convinced that transformational giving was even the right way to go and I wasn’t convinced that direct mail could be used to cultivate hearts to become rich toward God – the end goal of transformational giving.
But we talked, and continued to talk. And as we did our perspectives came closer until we found a place of clear alignment.
We now believe that transformational giving language and principles can be thoroughly integrated into a direct-mail and direct-marketing program. That is, we believe God can use this media to minister to His people, encouraging them in their stewardship journeys and opening hearts to even greater support for His work.
Together we have developed a framework for a process that we believe will walk ministries through the steps of transitioning their direct-mail program to a transformational approach for raising Kingdom resources. This process will require testing and refinement as it is developed and we know we have much to learn. But we are committed to this step of faith and discovery, and the continuing journey that we hope to take with Christian ministries who share this commitment.
What excites me most is that we are not developing this framework because it is a better tactic for raising more money, although we do believe God will use it to bless His work financially. We are doing it because we feel a sense of calling to this biblical, God-pleasing way to connect His people with His work, for His glory.
I’m looking forward to a long and blessed relationship to that end.