Fearless Fundraising: Keeping on task

“Fearless Fundraising” is a series on church fundraising by Charles LaFond, an Episcopal Priest, author and master potter living on a farm in New Mexico. Charles is the author of many books including Fearless Church Fundraising and now, Fearless Major Gifts: Inspiring Meaning-making. For more information, videos and model documents go to fearlesschurchfundraising.com.


How to manage a weekly system of productivity in major gifts: the weekly engagement journal list


Do you mean to engage donors but the week somehow just gets away from you?


You know that there are a dozen or so people in your church of 120 families (or your diocese of 5,000 families) who have the capacity and interest to make a major or planned gift to your church or diocese.  You wake up on the first day of your work-week and you say to your self:

“Self, part of my job is to raise major gifts for our mission.  It is scary, time-consuming work but I must do it for the mission. This week I need to engage a few of my donor-prospects, host some conversations and move some along the way towards deeper engagement with our mission so that in a few months, we are both ready for me to ask for a major or planned gift and they, ready to make one.”


I assume at least that first line is one you say to yourself from time to time or is, at least, said to you by those to whom you are accountable.  I hope and assume that your vestry and Bishop’s Council say this to you in loving accountability.  It is your job to raise major gifts if only because the donors need to give some of their money away and need help with that task.  The schools and hospitals, YMCA and social service agencies are asking your congregation members, I promise that! Asking for major gifts is a pastoral act with logistical implications, not the reverse! It must be done.  But how to get to it?!


As for the rest of the statement to self, you may agree that this needs to be done but how many are like me and INTEND to do this work but get to the end of the work-week not having done it?  It happens to me all the time.   I intend to engage major donors but then I get caught up in the “death by a thousand paper cuts” of minutia.


There are pastoral calls.  There are liturgies.  There are meetings (lots and lots of meetings.) And suddenly it is the eve of my sabbath and in the past five or six days, nothing, NOTHING happened in the lives of my major donors which might incline them to keep our mission in their mind and keep a major gift to our mission in the conversations they are having with their financial planners or family.  And it is true.  We are very busy. Who has time for major gift engagement when there are so many emails to write?


The problem is that by not engaging these donors, you are kicking the can down the hall to the next priest, the next Stewardship Committee, the next Bishop or the next Executive Director. In short, you are failing at a major part of your job.  And yet I have compassion for this failing since I fail all the time at it! I meant to make seven calls or write three notes or make four visits to major donors on Saturday of last week but now it is Thursday night, the eve of my sabbath day, and well, I never connected with any of my major donors. And yet I was SO busy and now am SO tired.


So what is a leader to do?  Well, I have a suggestion.


On the morning of your first day of the work week, open a small spiral note book which you keep on the lower right corner of your desk.  It’s just something cheap from your local book store or office supply or stationary shop.  On the cover in black bold letters you have written “Confidential” above your name.  It is a spiral note book so that it remains open all week to that page of the “this week” list – always able to be seen by me (A notes page or a calendar to do list in your phone works but it is not as visible on the desk…a reminder daily, the way a physical book is). Turn the page to a fresh page on your first day of a new week and run three vertical lines down the page with a ruler.  In the first column title it “date accomplished.”  In the second title it “donor prospect.”  In the third column title it “engagement” and in the fourth title it “result and next step.”


Then write the names down the second column “donor prospect” of the people you plan to engage this week. (Leave the “date” column empty for the date when it actually happens.) There!  Done!  What gets measured, gets done. You have your little major gifts “to do list” for the week. Now all you need to do is engage each donor with the right engagement (an email, a visit, a tour of a project, a conversation about vision and future, a lunch to get to know each other, etc.)  True, the work will take up 3-4 hours of our week.  But the work of major gifts will get done and then, when you divide the hours spent at this work into the dollars raised at the end of the year, you will see the value of the work, not to mention the beauty of the financial pastoral care you have given to your donors.


And when the Bishop’s Advisory Committee or the Vestry or the Board of Director’s meeting comes around, you have a log of your engagement moves and you can make that number a part of your report and your sense of accomplishment.


“Self, part of my job is to raise major gifts for our mission.  I did my job this week.”

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