It can be quite complex to balance a friend relationship simultaneously with a donor relationship. Sometimes a donor relationship becomes so friendly that making the bigger asks become difficult and awkward. Other times a relationship starts with a friendship but you also have a keen awareness that this friend is a potential major donor to the ministry. Like good friendships, donor relationships are built with trust, respect, truthfulness, courtesy, honesty, sympathy, joy, love, and a shared understanding of Jesus as the hope of the World. There is no greater shared interest than that of a Shared Lord and Savior.
The challenge is to make this good friend, apart from your personal friendship, a friend of the ministry. Grow this friendship with the ministry in the same ways you grow personal relationships: with a shared passion in Christ as the foundation, building trust, respect, and confidence will flourish.
Below are some ways to cultivate a friend of the ministry relationship that springs from an existing friendship or relationship. This is addressed in three phases: before any gift, growing smaller gifts to larger giving, and maintaining a friend of the ministry.
Before any Gift - Introducing your friend to the ministry is the first step to assess the potential for this relationship to grow and flourish. Assuming there is a high level of compatibility, the friend of the ministry will need to be educated about the ministry. Start by inviting them to visit the ministry and to attend special events, meetings or conferences relevant to the ministry. Show them promotional materials; mail your newsletter in a personalized envelope and with a personalized note; provide them with a copy of privileged communications about future plans, campaign development, strategic planning and ask them to provide input and suggestions.
Once they have been engaged, ask key leaders in the ministry (Board Chair, Founder, President) to host this friend of the ministry in their home. Offer complimentary tickets to kick-off or other special events for the friend of the ministry.
Growing Smaller Gifts to Larger Giving- First, it is important to continue doing the things that made the relationship flourish from the start. Build on this by making this friend of the ministry a special friend that is a confidant and mentor to the ministry. Inform them of future initiatives and seek their guidance and support early in the process. Be sure they are among the first to see information about the Pre-Campaign Study. Continue to grow their involvement seeking guidance in their specific areas of expertise and ask them to support the ministry as committee members for important projects. Get feedback on plans while still in a conceptual phase and share draft strategic plans and ask for their perspective. If this friend of the ministry is in a different geographical location, talk to them about being a project lead for a specific state or region.
Share exclusive premiums such that connect with the ministry with the friend of the ministry. Connect them with other major donors to the ministry and ask them to introduce the ministry to friends. It may even make sense to ask them to host a business leaders' symposium specific to their industry, region, or sphere of influence.
Publicly recognize the friend of the ministry in newsletters, websites, and social media venues. Of course, first ensure that the donor is comfortable with being known as some donors prefer to be less public. As appropriate, seek to have the donor recognized by others in the press or industry publications and then send the press clippings when the donor is recognized in the news.
Continually engage the friend of the ministry in the mission and vision of the ministry by helping them see the impact of the ministry. Share photos of those served by the ministry and ask those that benefit from your ministry to write personal testimonials. Invite the friend of the ministry to become a prayer partner and ask them to pray for specific needs, projects, individuals, or initiatives. This should not be a general "please pray for the ministry" but a specific such as "please pray for our manager in Jacksonville who is struggling with an illness."
Likewise, allow the ministry to be a friend to the individual. Sympathize with the friend of the ministry and pray for them and their personal needs. Ask them if there is anything you could pray about for them and offer to pray with them. Send get well or sympathy cards as well as celebratory cards for birthdays, anniversary, and accomplishments. Visit with the friend of the ministry on a regular basis and make sure the visits are in good times and bad. Be sure the ministry really gets to know the friend of the ministry. Know their family members, know their personal hobbies and interests, know what is important to them and where their heart is.
Maintaining a Friend of the Ministry - Again, continue the friend of the ministry suggestions above but also consider additional activities.
Thank the friend of the ministry and ask others important to the ministry to thank them such as a ministry founder, president, or other respected donors. Make your appreciation known both publicly and privately and seek to have others outside the ministry recognize the friend of the ministry for their generosity and commitment.
Provide them with special premium gifts to acknowledge their donation and provide a certificate of appreciation or engraved plaque. When considering these activities, be sure to take note if the friend has other plaques, certificates of appreciation, or newspaper clippings displayed in their home or office. If it appears unlikely that the friend would display the personal sign of appreciation, instead consider including their name on a giving tree or donor plaque in your lobby.
Become involved in the friend's circle of influence and meet others connected to the friend who may also have an interest in the ministry. Request that they host a table at an annual banquet or special event or ask them to host a reception in their home and invite others that the ministry may otherwise never have contact with. In this way you are asking them to help you raise money. As the relationship grows, the ministry may want to request that they join your board of trustees or a special advisory board.
Continue to request gifts from the friend on a regular basis but be sure these are always personal requests and not requests from a newsletter or mailing. The friend should be removed from your general appeals and should now be communicated with as the friend and confidant they have become. Have a separate newsletter that goes to an exclusive list of friends that does not contain a request but does keep them up to date on ministry activities.
Growing genuine friends of the ministry is an investment in the ministry that will pay huge dividends well into the future. The more involved the ministry becomes in the lives of these close friends and they, likewise, become involved as a friend of the ministry, the more profitable this relationship will become for both parties. The purpose and heart of this development process is so important to the success of growing friends as a development strategy. With a shared passion in Christ as the foundation of the friendship; building trust, respect, and confidence through mutuality and friendship, the friendship with the ministry as well as your personal friendship, will flourish.
Dr. Jeffrey J. Rodman is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and a Certified Grants Specialist (CGS). He is an experienced grantwriter, fundraiser, and nonprofit executive, who operates Here-4-You Christian Grant Consulting and Church Grant Writing providing consultation for grant writing to Christian ministries and Churches worldwide. Jeffrey received his BS and his M.Ed. from George Mason University and his PhD in Religion from Christian Bible College in NC.
Jeffrey supervises a team of writers, researchers, editors, and administrative staff in providing consultation for grant proposal writing, nonprofit development, and fundraising in almost every state and a dozen foreign countries and has worked on proposals to Federal, State, and Local government as well as to Foundations, Civic groups, and many others. He has written 100's proposals, secured millions of dollars in funding, and maintains a funding rate of nearly 80%.
Here-4-You Christian Grant Consulting <> Dr. Jeffrey J. Rodman, CFRE, CGS <> Website: http://www.npfunds.com Phone: 1-866-HERE-4-U-1