An important question

I feel a tension inside of me sometimes as I talk or think about ministry, because one part of me looks at what is going on from a spiritual standpoint while another part of me is looking at it from a business standpoint.  What I’ve been thinking about, and what I’m about to ask, has brought that tension up again.

You see, I have a question that I’m going to ask, but it originates from a question that I have for my business clients.  But it’s one that needs to be asked.  And that is…

Why do people give to your ministry?

The question I pose to business owners is a bit different, and typically goes along the lines of “Why do people buy your product or service?”  Or if I wanted to be a brutal New Yorker, I could pose it as “Why should I give you my money?”  Spoken nicely of course, but still to the point.

Here’s the thing, and where my internal tension comes into play: from a financial standpoint, your donors could be looked at as customers.   After all, they’re the ones handing over the money.  I realize that they’re ultimately not who we serve in business; that’s for another post / another day.  But they are the ones handing over the money.

My question goes to their motive.  What’s behind their giving?  Did they grow up in a legalistic household where that is how things should be?  Do they give because they see others give?  Does the offering plate pass by and they throw in a couple of dollars so that they don’t look cheap?  Do they give because they have a personal connection with someone on staff?  Do they give in order to fund a specific ministry project or cause?  Do they give because they’ve bought into the vision of the ministry?

Understanding why someone gives–and not just gives, but gives to your specific ministry–is going to help you tremendously when it comes to asking for money.  You’ll know better who to approach and who not to approach, and what message will resonate.  I believe it also helps ministries to know where their donor’s interests are too, because these are ministry areas that God has put on their hearts that you should be aware of too.

So start to put feelers out and ask various people why they give.  Some things might be as you expected, but there may be some surprises there too.  And then start using this information for planning, budgeting, and fundraising.

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