This week’s emphasis is on the “D” for Development as we go through another round of ARMED aspects of Advancement.
Here’s why you should feel good about being a Development or Advancement professional: Development work helps people get to their heavenly reward.
If you watch the news, you see stories about the war between Russia and Ukraine, school shootings, gun control, the stock market, our continuing COVID-19 pandemic, employment changes and Work From Anywhere (not just home), flooding, wildfires, protests and technological attacks, and the list continues. There is certainly not a shortage of “bad news,” and media outlets know that “bad news” draws viewers and listeners. The more members of the audience there are, the more their advertising rates increase. Sadly, we’re all drawn to bad news – just like slowing down on the interstate highway to take a look at the accident in the opposite lane. The problem is that we focus on the problem, or, more correctly, problems. Hopefully, we pray for those involved in the accident, the unemployed and underemployed, those in harm’s way, and those who cause all this grief in the first place so that the Lord will touch their hearts and change them.
Unfortunately, preoccupation with depressing news then spills over into our own lives, making us assume that everyone is deeply and adversely affected by a global concerns and an economy that continues to be challenged.
But that’s not the way it necessarily is.
Two years ago, the stock market was over 24,000 points. And even though we had a significant dip in March 2020, followed by a presidential election that polarized our nation and saw the unprecedented action of a sitting president inciting a riot, the stock market continue to surge. Last year at this time, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was over 33,000 points, and even with all the chaos we’ve experienced, it’s still over 33,000 points! Three years ago at this time, the price of gold was $1286 per ounce: two years ago, $1740 an ounce; last year, it was $1844 an ounce, and this year, it’s sitting at $1859. And while the rate of increase has slowed, there is still an increase.
Unfortunately, those funds don’t necessarily translate into philanthropic giving…unless someone asks, AND the person with the ability to give is engaged with the cause. Charitable giving has really never recovered to the point where it was before the Great Recession of 2008, and the recent tax law change didn’t help matters either. All schools – faith-based, private and public – not to mention governments and families, are now going to be looking to cut costs or generate more revenue! (Actually, BOTH things need to happen.) However, as people who are involved in doing great things, you still have to ASK, and now, do even MORE by telling the success stories of your school and engaging more people with the good work done by your school. IMPORTANT: Please note that this does not mean to tell the story of your school! The story of your school focuses on your school; telling the success stories of your school focuses on those who have received the benefit of your school. Want a quick way to determine the difference? If your text starts out, “At All Holy Men and Women School, we ….” – that’s telling the story of your school, and is the wrong approach. It’s easy to tell your story; it’s difficult to share the stories of others…because oftentimes, they’d really rather not have their stories told!
Here’s a personal example. Our youngest graduated from college seven years ago. For ten years, the college expenses of our three children were at the top of the “things on our family’s mind” list. We’ve had some great blessings financially, which has allowed us be a little more generous over the past few years. Several years ago, we received the regular appeal letter from our church, which said, “We realize that these are difficult times, but if you’ve been blessed, please consider giving a little more than last year so that we may continue the necessary work of our mission.” We were asked! But notice the wording: “Consider giving a little more.” I would contend that if people are asked to give a little, then, since Scripture says “Ask and it will be given to you,” the church got what they asked for…a little more.
But no one gave us a phone call to ask to speak with us about increasing the amount we give. I’m one of those who recommend not asking individuals engaged with the mission of the organization for specific amounts (since you shoot yourself in the foot either way – you could ask for too much and be laughed at or ask for too little and be told they could have given more), but I do advocate a personal ask over a written one if you really want to increase gift amounts.
Here’s proof: That college I mentioned hired six people six years ago with the specific intent to reach the fund development (note that I don’t call them “fund raising” anymore) goals the college has set out to achieve. While these folks have been hired as professionals, there are still “phonathon” volunteers who are trained to engage those they reach on the phone. Standard training for these college students includes the instruction to call alumni, parents of alumni, donors and other constituencies and, during the call, ask FOUR TIMES for a contribution. Unfortunately, for most people, that can border on badgering. As educators, you know the importance of “spaced repetition,” and how it helps in the learning process. With development, the same theory applies. Would you expect a student to “get it” after you’ve presented new material four times within the first 10 minutes of the class? If the person remains on the phone and finally says “yes” after the fourth ask, then there’s even more time spent on the phone to take down all the personal information required. Then the phonathon volunteer may ask for a credit card number – which opens up a whole new can of worms, especially in today’s environment of payment security!
By the way, you may ask why they hired 6 people in 2016. I would suspect it was to lay the groundwork (the silent phase) of the $100 million capital campaign that was announced on December 1, 2017. In 2020, during the height of the lockdown caused by the pandemic, my wife and I received a letter from the school asking us to participate. “Our participation is vital,” noted the letter…and even though the ask wasn’t personal due to lockdown and distancing, NOT ONCE did the letter say “Thank you” for anything – and we’re current donors!! Guess where the appeal went.
When I was in a position where I had to make “the ask,” I asked the donor to “prayerfully discern” their gift, since it is something that is between them and their conscience, which is the voice of God, the giver of all good gifts. Using the example of the college, their phonathon volunteers (from a Catholic college) have never asked me to prayerfully discern the amount I’d like to give. After the “yes” is received, the volunteer’s response is usually, “Great! How much would you like to give?” Many of the people they reach will usually say $10 (or some other incredibly low amount), and the volunteer will thank them, rather than risking any contribution at all by trying to increase the amount.
As for my family, perhaps my wife and I don’t meet that level of giving that necessitates a personal conversation or a visit from a member of an organization, which is fine with us. There are other organizations with which we are engaged, and those organizations also ask, do good work, and deserve support.
Know that what you’re doing is a ministry. You are ministering to those that have been blessed with material resources. If you’d like to continue to explore this perspective, I recommend a small book called “The Treasure Principle” by Randy Alcorn. Check it out at https://www.christianbook.com/treasure-principle-revised-updated-unlocking-giving/randy-alcorn/9780735290327/pd/290327 or http://www.amazon.com/Treasure-Principle-Unlocking-Secret-LifeChange/dp/1590525086/. I recommend getting the hardcover so you can keep it on your desk, and refer to it often. The main point of the text is one’s salvation is based on how well we share the gifts we’ve been given. As Development/Advancement professionals, you’re helping people to do that, making this a truly joyful ministry.
Now read the second line of this article again…and feel good about asking!
And you can never say “Thank you” enough.
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2006-2022