By Matt Aujero, Campus Minister at The Catholic Student Center at University of Maryland
This past week I attended a three-day virtual conference on fundraising put on by Petrus Development. Watching hours of online webinars one would think it would leave me exhausted and “zoomed-out”. Instead I felt energized and renewed. More importantly, I cannot deny that the content was striking my soul.
On day three, in the middle of the conference, I “left” to go to a virtual orientation for freshmen at University of Maryland to represent our Catholic Student Center. On that call were two other Christian ministers. One asked me (divinely timed?) how I go about fundraising. I found I couldn’t shut up! This inner joy in me came out of me like an open fire hydrant. In a half hour, I was sharing as much advice and stories as I could about our fundraising efforts at the CSC for the past four years. I shared the story of how when I first started fundraising, my chaplain suggested a monetary goal to work towards and how I responded saying I should strive for double that amount. And then I told my peers that over time, we accomplished that goal and are now raising more support.
"This is a calling, this is a joyful opportunity, this is a duty for the work of helping souls see Christ. God is for you. He ultimately is your case for support."
I find that any opportunity to talk or give advice on the subject, something in me comes alive. At the conference, this manifested itself in me blowing up the chat box or oversharing in small groups. There were people at the conference that found what I said helpful and told me. Though, I also can’t help but wonder if I annoyed the other dozens on the call by my over-enthusiasm. Either way, praise God!
Praying this morning before my four children (ages five and under) rise, I can’t help but now write my beliefs about fundraising that the conference validated, confirmed, and drew out of me. If you were someone beginning to fund-raise or considering the field or looking to sharpen your craft, (for example, I think of my FOCUS missionaries who are in the middle of their support-raising season) I would love the opportunity to tell you all I love about the work. Likely, you probably wouldn’t want to listen to me for as much as I would want to talk about it. My wife Mimi often tells me, “I’m beginning to lose interest in this conversation….”. But if you did, proverbial person, this is what I would say about my beliefs on being a successful support-raiser.
1. Always know your Why
One of the speakers, Mike Perkins, talked about the necessity of working for a cause or organization that you are head-over-heels completely in love with and believe in. If you can’t convey your why and passion to yourself first (as another pair of speakers relayed), no one else will be convinced. For me, my inner Why is to help guys see Christ clearer so they can then be the men their Church, their Brides, and their fellow brothers need them to be. Currently, for me, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than witnessing the Holy Spirit do that at the Catholic Student Center at University of Maryland. Where else have I seen…
...in six years, 18 men have a clearer vision for Christ and answer the call to enter seminary or religious life, including one young man this Fall 2020?
...our retreats having an attendance of a 2:1 girl to guy ratio to five years later having a 1:1 ratio, and for the first time ever, have more guys than girls?
...four days of weekly Adoration where our students sign up for half-hour slots to be with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in a chapel in the middle of a secular state campus?
I could go on and on and on especially with the stories. The point is, the conference answered my hypothesis that someone raising support cannot be successful just anywhere. The cause or organization has to strike something deep inside them that they can’t help but share with as many people as possible. Know your Why.
Recommended reading: Start with Why by Simon Sinek or really, just watch his Ted talk.
2. Prioritize your interior life
What I love about Petrus and the conference was that numerous speakers repeated that having a deep committed prayer life is the number one priority. I couldn’t agree more. Calling complete strangers to invite them to have a conversation about giving to your organization? Of course that’s hard! It is only the priority of showing up to one’s inner chapel, to fill up at the daily well of Scripture, an Examen, and dialogue with our true love Jesus Christ when we can be reminded over and over again that our worth and identity is being a beloved son or daughter of God that cannot be earned or lost. The No’s we get and even the Yes’s---neither are ours nor does either affect how God the Father loves us. It’s this freedom that God loves me no matter what I do that gives me the courage and audacity to put myself out there for the sake of the kingdom.
Recommended Reading: The Soul of the Apostolate by Fr. Jean-Baptiste Chautard O.C.S.O.
3. Understand your work is primarily about the giver
Something that truly resonated with me is from Kerry Robinson who said, “My job is to help donors maximize their philanthropic desires and potential.” This resonated with my core belief I learned from Henri Nouwen: “The giver is more in need than the receiver.” Here’s what drives me: If I can help teach young adults (in my case, alumni) the joy of tithing and sacrificially giving to God monetarily, it is better for them. I believe that if one can invite God into something as intimate as his money, it opens up the door of allowing God into other intimate areas of his life. And that my friends, is sharing the Good News! Fundraising is not separate from ministry but IS ministry.
"Fundraising is not separate from ministry but IS ministry."
For those of us who have been given the gift or the task, it is quite frankly our duty, there I say obligation to show up in front of our benefactors and give them the dignity of choosing between worthy causes, including yours. I cannot tell you how many stories we have of alumni I’ve gotten to present the joy of tithing with who have internalized the concept and have given more than what I ask or have increased their giving over time unsolicitedly because they have been given a more holistic view of tithing. What a joy!
Recommended reading: The Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri Nouwen
4. Be detached
The First Principle and Foundation of St. Ignatius of Loyola invites us to be detached from EVERYTHING except Jesus Christ and the will of God. Again, my worth and joy does not depend on whether or not a benefactor decides to join the mission. It’s just my job to show up and give them a presentation with open hands. This is how God loves us, giving us freedom of choice, and this is how we should treat our mission partners.
Remember our job is to help benefactors maximize their giving potential which may or may not include your ministry.
Recommended reading: Searching for and Maintaining Peace or Interior Freedom by Fr. Jacques Philippe
5. Strive for Professional Excellence
As St. Paul says, be a worker worthy of his wage (1 Timothy 5:18). Do we have a work ethic and professionalism as honorable as those whom we seek support from? Do I have a plan and schedule I stick to? Am I a good steward of my personal finances and with the ministry’s? Does how I spend my time, talent, and treasure honor those who partner with me and the ministry? Does my public material reflect excellence? These are deep questions that we have to figure out for ourselves and continue to sharpen.
Recommended reading: Seven Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey
6. Be a joyful giver first
In my head, how can I ask people to give if I’m not giving myself? This does two things: by being a donor myself I can empathize better with those I invite to give. It leads me to question why I give to certain organizations and the desire to replicate good practices I have received from good stewardship. More importantly, if we can experience the joy of giving and tithing first hand, it gives us the desire to invite others to experience that same type of joy. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” as Jesus says (John 15:11).
Recommended reading: Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money by Dave Ramsey and join a Financial Peace University group
7. Just do it. Ask!
In elementary school, I used to stare at this poster on the wall that had a picture of a basketball free throw line. It read below, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” People primarily give because you asked. Know that you are doing a God Ask as it’s presented by Steve Shadrach. I first must ask God who he wants me to invite to the mission and how much I should invite that person to ask God how much she should give His (God’s) money to the cause. This is all a conversation with God and I am out of the way. And then we ask because that is what honors God, honors the benefactor, and honors my call in this ministry.
Recommended reading: The God Ask by Steve Shadrach
There is so much more to say on the topic! To summarize for now, begin and end in gratitude. What a gift God has given us in this life and what a gift to share to others his Good News. Without our jobs, my fellow support-raiser, there would be no opportunity to build the kingdom of God. This is a calling, this is a joyful opportunity, this is a duty for the work of helping souls see Christ. God is for you. He ultimately is your case for support.
"In a conference, what I'm really looking for is the practical TOOLS on how to do your job well and the MOTIVATION to go out and be ready to get back to work. I've gotten both of those things from Petrus. I'm really excited to get back home and HUSTLE and really put my all into it."