In the fundraising world, there is no other commandment greater than this. This means treating others as you would like to be treated.

This begins with listening: one of the most valuable skills a fundraiser can have. Listening tells the donor that you want to know their opinion and value their support. The first step is to ask probing questions to discover what inspires and motivates them. Ask open-ended questions about their passions and interests … and then, simply listen.

Here are some strategic questions you could weave into an informal conversation with a donor to learn more about what motives and inspires them.

  • What would you like to accomplish with your philanthropy?
  • What are your impressions of (our mission / our plans to further God’s call / our plans to help the least among us)?
  • Do you find our explanation of why we need support inspiring and convincing? How would you make it more compelling?
  • What other organizations do you currently support? Volunteer for? Serve as a member of the board?

Listening to the donor’s answers can give you insights into ways to help potential donors understand how your organization and its programs fit in with their values and aspirations.

Another way to treat donors as you would like to be treated is with good stewardship. According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, “stewardship is the process in which an organization seeks to be worthy of continued philanthropic support, including the acknowledgement of gifts, donor recognition, the honoring of donor intent, prudent investment of gifts and the effective and efficient use of funds to further the mission of the organization.” Maintaining a strong stewardship program is vitally important in encouraging donors to become lifelong supporters who increase their gifts each year.

Traditionally the definition of stewardship has meant the tracking and recording of contributions to ensure that the donations are used exactly as the donor intended. While this is important, stewardship actually goes much further. Kay Sprinkel Grace, author of Beyond Fundraising, describes stewardship as the heart of the development process. She states that a good stewardship program is the single greatest contributor to an organization’s ability to sustain itself mission. According to Grace, “Stewardship is the essential function by which organizations develop long lasting relationships with their donors.”

Last but not least, everyone likes to be thanked, so the importance of showing gratitude cannot be overestimated. A personal acknowledgement does not have to be anything big — but it must definitely occur in a timely manner. Donors expect an acknowledgement of their gift or contribution, regardless of its size.

If a gift was received online, send an email thank-you within 24 hours. If the gift was received by mail, send a personal letter within five days. You can also use your thank-you message as an opportunity to remind the donor where their money is going. Volunteers should also be thanked, as they are crucial partners in achieving your organizational and fundraising goals.  

In summary, listening, stewardship and thanking need to be important components of your faith-based organization’s culture of philanthropy. These skills are crucial to your success in engaging and building lasting relationships with the individuals who sustain you and your mission.