Investing in Development
By Andrew Robison, President of Petrus Development
This post was originally written for the CCMA (Catholic Campus Ministry Association) Fundraising Focus Newsletter.
People sometimes come to me and ask if it’s worth it for their organization to start fundraising. It seems like a fairly straightforward question that would solicit a straightforward answer from me, but I understand why people would ask the question. It’s not so much a question of “Should my organization have more money for our ministry?” That one is pretty obvious. I believe that most people asking that question are really asking “What will the return on investment be if we start fundraising?” In order to answer that, the Petrus team has put together a list of ten “returns” that come as a result of “investing in development.”
- Expansion of programming: In the words of Mike Perkins, President of Heroic Media, Inc., “When you have more money, you can do more ministry.” This is evident when you look at nonprofits and ministries around the country with the strongest programming and highest levels of participant engagement. Without exception, these ministries are well-funded by alumni, parents, advocates, foundations, and “friends of the organization.” Having more resources gives directors and staff members the ability to offer more programs which draw in more members and allow them additional experiences to go deeper in their relationship with Christ.
- Increased physical space: For many ministries, a limiting factor for growth and higher levels of engagement is the organization’s physical space. Whether that means that the space is too small, too far away, too old and rundown, or too poorly designed, this can be a significant challenge for many ministries. Having a strong development program can provide resources for gradual enhancements over time or a major capital campaign to make transformational improvements.
- Increased staff: As with physical space, too few ministries have an adequate number of ministry staff to connect with and serve their member base. For example, on a university with a student body of 40-50,000 students, the campus ministry program is too often operating with one or two full-time campus ministers. Missionary groups, like FOCUS or Saint Paul’s Outreach can be an affordable strategy to expand a staff, but there is still a cost for those programs to come to campus. No matter the type of organization, increased funding can allow a team to grow and offer more and better programming.
- Freedom to plan: Every year, organizations and ministries will go through a planning period where they look at their programming from last year and make decisions about the upcoming year. There are a number of variables that go into this planning process, but there’s no question that available budget is typically one of the key drivers. There will probably never be a ministry with unlimited funding, but organizations with strong development programs will always have more resources to make decisions in the best interest of those they serve instead of cutting or delaying programs because there just isn’t any money.
- Lower program costs for participants: Nonprofits typically exist at “no cost” to the people they are serving. That said, there are some activities that participants may often be asked to pay for. Retreats, mission trips, conferences, Sunday night suppers, etc. Having a robust fundraising program can provide funds that would cover some of those activity costs and make it affordable for more individuals to participate.
Investment Returns #6 and #7 are specific to Catholic campus ministry
- More vocations: Virtually every young man and woman is in some way discerning their future and making decisions about the direction of their life. Having a strong development program will allow an organization to have a more robust ministry, which will allow those young men and women to come to the Center to find answers to their questions. Inevitably, this will lead to more marriages among faithful Catholics, more careers in fields of fulfillment instead of finances, and more men and women following their call to the priesthood and to the religious life.
- Continuation of ministry beyond graduation: Students engage in your ministry while they are on campus but when they graduate, is there a way for them to continue to engage? The answer may appear to be no because they have moved away or have a job and less time, but the answer could also be yes. As donors, your alumni can continue to feel a part of the ministry because they are funding the activities that they used to participate in while also living out their Christian call of generosity and stewardship.
- More fulfilled donors: Almost every ministry will have donors, even if there is not an intentional effort to fundraise. Whether these are parishioners, resident community members, alumni, parents, etc, their giving experience vastly improves when solid development practices (such as regular thank you calls, informative newsletters and Matching Gift Programs) are employed.
- Leadership in the community: Catholic ministries can work in close concert with the community, including with other denominational campus ministries throughout the course of a year. When a ministry is well-funded, this gives it increased credibility in the eyes of community leaders and other ministry leaders. This credibility can often lead to having a better seat at the table when the community is making strategic decisions that will directly impact the people they are serving.
- Ability to say “YES” to opportunity: The Bible is full of examples of ordinary men and women saying “Yes” to God. This includes Noah, Moses, Mary, the disciples…and the list goes on. When we say yes to God, he blesses us abundantly. As those involved in ministry, God is constantly providing us with opportunities to grow, to innovate and to bring more people into relationship with Him. When ministries have the funding to be bold and take on these opportunities, God blesses those ministries and those they serve with abundant graces.
This list of “investment returns” is not comprehensive. God doesn’t work in lists of 10, or 20 or 100. His love and his grace is endless. Our hope, however, is that if you are hearing the call to explore the possibility of development in your ministry, this list can provide clarity on what benefits are possible by stepping out into the deep to heed that call. If you have questions or want to better understand your options, reach out to anyone on the Petrus team or one of your colleagues in ministry who currently have a development program.
– Andrew Robison
Andrew N. Robison is President of Petrus Development. He has worked for over 13 years in development roles in Catholic campus ministry, higher education and academic medicine. Andrew works with organizations of all sizes to build sustainable development programs that allow them to better serve their constituencies.
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