November 2, 2017

How To Ask For Money At A Church Fundraising Event

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Occasionally, as an MC, you may be asked to help raise money to support a church building project. The usual method is that the person in charge of the fundraiser announces a target of, say, 10,000. He or she then proceeds to beg, bully or cajole would-be donors into parting with their hard-earned cash. This way of asking for money is time-consuming.

Often the event kicks off with a demand such as "I want four of you to each give me 2,500!" Immediately there is a hush in the room. Eyes studiously avoid the searching gaze of the fundraiser lest he misreads a certain look as one's willingness to cough up the amount.

Because of the high-pressure nature of this style of fundraising, often it can take up to ten minutes before the first donor reluctantly hands over a cheque for the amount or requests a pledge form. Trying to find the other three 2,500 donors is as easy as getting a cat to dance and so the process is repeated with a lower figure (Can I get four people to each give me 2,000?). On and on the process drags with the audience's boredom increasing in tandem with the fundraiser's frustration at the slow pace of takings. No wonder some church members leave early when a fundraiser is announced.

There is a better, less painful way of raising money for church projects. I observed it at work at a recent church service. It worked wonderfully. Want to know how?

The easy way

The pastor announced that the congregation needed to raise 20,000 to begin work on the foundation at the new premises. He then enquired about the cost of a bag of cement.

"20," someone shot back anonymously.

"Great” replied the pastor, “that means we need 1,000 bags of cement to finish our foundation. But don't worry, we'll find them step by step. We have twenty minutes to wrap up this fundraiser. Who can start? Who wants to give us 50 bags of cement?"

I thought to myself, what an interesting twist to the usual way of asking for money. I was curious about what the response would be. I didn't have to wait too long before my curiosity was satisfied. In five minutes, 5 hands had gone up, their owners each pledging 50 bags of cement. A team of ushers sprang forward with every raised hand to take down the contact details of the donor.

"Thank you very much. Fifteen minutes to go and 750 bags of cement still remained to be 'bought'. Who can spare us 30 bags?"

In a short while, ten people had answered the reverend with their pledges. The skilled fundraiser kept reminding us of the passage of time and lowering the amount of cement bags needed from 20 to 10 and finally to 5 bags. By the time his deadline had elapsed, the pastor had achieved his target, ended on time and entertained the audience.

Why did he succeed where other church fundraisers had so woefully failed in the past? Here are two lessons you can learn about who raise money effectively at a church fundraiser.

Convert and break down

The pastor expressed his target in the form of something tangible. Most people can't visualize an amount as big as 20,000. However they can readily see a single cement bag in their mind. What they can't easily picture is a thousand of those bags piled up one on top of the other.

The pastor started by asking for only 50 bags. Now the task suddenly looked manageable. The proof is in the number of people who initially made donations. Suddenly they could see what their money was being used for. And they could identify themselves more closely with the project.

Wouldn't you be proud knowing you had contributed 50 bags of cement to your church building instead of coughing up 1,000 in your hard cash?

Tell them time is ticking

It's a fact that more goals are scored when players realize they're running out of time. The pastor made use of this reality by constantly reminding his congregation of the passage of time.

The advantage of this strategy is that more people will tend to give as the clock ticks. In addition, your fundraising event will not drag on and on. Your audience will know how much time will be used and that demonstrates to them how serious you take their decision to be at the event. Of course it is important that once you plan to spend twenty minutes, please wrap up when you've used up all your time.

Job done!