Segmenting Donors Leads to Inspired Generosity

The annual financial campaign is often the one opportunity that faith-based organizations and the church provide for people to practice financial generosity.  They practice generosity by committing to share their personal financial assets with the ministry and mission of the organization.  However, this opportunity with an intentional focus on the individual giver is often neglected by leaders.  The typical leader’s focus is different.  The annual campaign is often viewed by leaders as the one opportunity for the organization or church to garner the financial commitment to underwrite the expenses.  The perspective for many leaders is one focused on organizational needs, rather than a focus on connecting faith and money for spiritual growth.

When the annual campaign focus is securing income to support budgeted line-items, the campaign falls short of its potential transforming impact on the congregation.  Moreover, it leads to an annual campaign that employs one approach when asking people to support the church or organization.  Granted people need to receive the same information numerous times in various ways in order to retain it.  Yet, the church and related faith-based ministries are among the very few non-profit organizations that do not offer a wide-continuum of funding methods.  We implement a generic plan to solicit funds, rather than create a strategic fund development plan that caters to the subtle individual motivators and desires of donors.  This generic technique is glaringly apparent when many faith-based organizations conduct an annual campaign. Identical material is provided to every constituent.  The same invitation is issued to every potential donor.  A form thank you letter is mail merged to all contributors.  

Fund development is challenging, time-consuming work.  When the leaders work to engage the congregation in year-round stewardship, people grow in their discipleship.  People connect their money practices with their faith.  So why do so many faith-based organizations and churches opt for the mass appeal?  At first glance, it appears easier, more efficient, less time-consuming, and less expensive.

However, look at the end result.  One mass approach makes funding ministry harder, not easier.  The message may insult some people.  The message may be considered irrelevant.  The message may communicate an impersonal attitude.  In a world of every increasing personal choice, we are challenged to conduct fund development with greater segmentation and personalization.  Segmented appeals and personal thank you letters are required in today’s culture.

Consider the many demographic segments in your donor database.  How many different methods of invitation do you implore when asking for generous support?  Determine at least five or six segments.  Invite their participation in different ways.  Provide them with different information by diverse means.  Repeat these efforts when you thank them for their contribution.  The end result will be a likely increase in contributions and in people’s spiritual discipline of generosity.