When a leading philanthropist meets with an organization seeking his support, what does he most want to know about them? Peter Strople has been called “One of the World’s Great Rainmakers,” “The Most Connected Man in America,” and “One of the Most Connected People in the World.” He is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Zero2 Ventures, and he advises investors and executives involved in start-ups to Fortune 25 global companies.
He’s also my good friend.
I asked Peter to share the top things he would want to learn in the first 30 minutes of meeting with an organization that is seeking his support.
Vision-based fundraising invites involvement
The vision-based approach invites people to come on board and participate in fulfilling the purpose for which the organization was formed in the first place. It engages them and encourages deeper and deeper relationships with the organization. So the idea is to move from need to vision, because then people come into partnership with us rather than merely being cash cows. Nobody likes to be a cash cow. But people love to be part of something that’s meaningful.
One thing that’s really surprising to me is how few ministries and organizations and churches have a compelling, clearly defined vision that ignites them and their community and guides their efforts. But without doing the work of clarifying your vision and making it clear to people, it becomes very difficult to engage them in what you’re doing.
Every visionary leader wants to engage members of his or her community and invite them to participate in fulfilling the ministry vision God has given.
When a leader is intentional about inviting people to participate in the ministry, there are four levels at which an individual may engage with that vision.
Once they begin to see it—to experience it up close—they begin to catch it. When they begin to catch the vision, they ask real questions. Thoughtful questions, not casual questions like “How many people go through your soup kitchen?”
Instead, they really want to know how effective you are. When they begin to catch it, it engages their imagination. It engages their prayer life. They discuss it with who are close to them. When they catch the vision, they really start to think it through.
The “own it” level
When they catch it, from there, as God would lead them, more and more they become “own-its” in your ministry.
And that’s where you want them to be. That’s real engagement.
At the own-it level, they are asking themselves, “How can I help? How can I share what I have? How can I be a part of this?” Every time they see an opportunity or an event, they ask themselves how they can be involved.
You’ve heard the old statistic, that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if 80% of the people were doing all of the work—all of the funding, all of the volunteering?
Your ministry could be like that if you had them all engaged at the catch-it and own-it levels. And that's the amazing product of a visionary leader who is intentional about sharing the vision God has given them and inviting others to join them in it.
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As a former pastor, I shudder to think that someone might have been able to say this about my church. Actually, As a former pastor, I shudder to think that someone might have been able to say this about my church. Actually, it makes me shudder to think of it being said about any church. I am now a sales manager for a major steel company. In the almost thirty years of my professional career, my church has never once suggested that there be any type of accounting of my on-the-job ministry to others. Our church has never once offered to improve those skills which could make me a better lay minister. Nor has it ever asked if I needed any kind of support in what I was doing. There has never been any inquiry into the types of ethical decisions I must face, or whether I seek to communicate my faith to my co-workers. I have never been in a congregation where there was any type of affirmation of a ministry in my career. In short, I have to conclude that my church doesn’t have the least interest in whether or how I minister in my daily work.– William Diehl in Christianity and Real Life
Except for the church staff and those who work in the home, it’s likely that all of the adults in your church spend their working hours in the marketplace, not at a church or ministry job. And perhaps we should include teens and young adults, who are just entering the work force and figuring out what their life’s work will be.
So why do churches give them so little support? Why do so many churches fail to equip people to live for Christ in the place where they spend most of their waking hours?
When someone volunteers to serve in the youth ministry or Sunday school at church, leaders usually want to provide at least some basic training so that the worker can be effective for an hour or two a week. Yet that same person may spend 40-plus hours of every week working in the marketplace without ever being taught what the Bible says about their work.
Church leader, I want to challenge you to dig into God’s Word and find out what it says about living for God in one’s daily work. Then teach it to your people.
Imagine the impact it would have for the Kingdom if every marketplace worker in your church knew how to turn their daily work into an ambassadorship for Christ.
How does your church help your people to be faithful in their daily work?
I love fun, creative approaches to fundraising. If nothing else, creative thinking moves us away from the rubber-chicken dinners and spaghetti feeds that fundraisers are notorious for.
One event I heard about took place on a golf course. The organization numbered thousands of golf balls, and the guests all had numbers that matched those printed on the balls. The balls were carried up in a hot air balloon over the golf course. When the balloon floated into position, the balls all were dumped out above the first hole. The balls that went into the hole won the door prizes for the guest with the matching number.
Well, regardless of whether your event is out-there creative like that one or something more traditional like a spaghetti dinner, there’s one strategy that we propose that can make planning it a whole lot easier.
It’s what we call the event captain approach.
Say your event is a banquet. You would select table captains from among strong supporters of your organization. They should be people who have a good relationship with your ministry or nonprofit.
First you’ll ask your captains to cover the cost for all the guests at their table, and only the cost, not the cost plus a margin added to it. For example with promotion, food, staff time, and hall rental, a table might cost $500. So you’re going to ask each table captain to spend $500 and then invite four couples they’re friends with to be their guests.
Typically those four couples will be people who are going to be their peers, and so they’ll likely be at the same level of giving.
Now, in order to bring in the kind of money you hope to raise, you may want to look for table captains who can give at the level of $5,000 or $10,000 a year or more.
The event captain approach also works with other group-type events, such as a golf tournament, where the captains would invite friends to be on their foursome and would cover the cost for them.
Let’s say you’ll have 100 tables at your banquet. As the leader you only need to focus on 100 table captains. Instead of trying to focus on 800 guests, you just focus on 100 tables. When you take the time to focus on the table captains does two things.
First of all it relieves the burden on the organization to have to run around and sell 800 tickets.
Second, it takes you out of that mode in which it’s so easy to look at people with dollar signs in your eyes. If you address people that way, they will know it. Instead, the table captain approach allows you to focus on taking these folks to a deeper relationship with your organization.
A ship should only have one captain, but for your next fundraising event, the more captains the better!
Do you have some suggestions on how to take some of the stress out of event planning?