Each month Advancement Trends in the Life Community brings to you a "thank you letter" that you can send to your donors. February's letter is below:
Dear Joe and Jane,
February means Valentine's Day; a time when many of our young people are desperately "looking for love." Young people want to know they are valued—loved. Yet, we see many who are sold the idea that love somehow must involve intimate physical involvement.
And whether through TV, online, other media or from friends, too often our clients are led to believe that physical involvement is the very definition of love.
When they come in our door however, these valuable young people are offered a life-changing, counter-cultural message they aren't getting on MTV, the most popular web sites or on their IPod.
We want each person who comes our way to know what love truly is, to know that love comes without conditions, and to realize that they can love and be loved, and that waiting for marriage is a concrete, powerful way to show true love.
Your gift makes this possible, and because of your gifts young people are not only hearing this message here, they are responding positively. As we talk with those who come to us, we see more and more that teenagers desperately want to know what the standards should be, and want to believe they can live up to those standards.
Young people want to be loved. But more important, they need to know what love is. Your support is making that happen, and we appreciate you.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
Click here for more of this month's Advancement Trends in the Life Community.
Click here to download this thank you letter as a word document.
by Kirk Walden, Advancment Specialist
Boards of Excellence
As board members, a primary responsibility is to monitor the budget and make sure the organization is wisely stewarding the funds entrusted to its care. At the end of the year, a reasonable goal is to finish with more funds in the bank than when we started, right?
Yet if a board isn't looking at what happens "after the budget," it is missing the bigger picture.
Beyond the budget, we must consider the amount of funds we are setting aside for next year, the next and the next. Ultimately, we must lay in place a financial foundation for future boards, staff members and most important, those who come in our doors as clients.
For forward-thinking organizations, an Endowment provides this foundation. Webster defines "endowment" as "a large amount of money that has been given to a school, hospital, etc., and that is used to pay for its creation and continuing support," but we can go further. For our non-profit organizations, an endowment is a fund we can draw upon (whether we use only the interest accrued or choose to withdraw a certain amount each year) to fund different aspects—or a large portion—of our ministries.
Every non-profit organization needs to at least carefully consider an endowment. Used wisely an endowment can be a perfect blend of faith and stewardship, two attributes that should complement each other.
Whether a ministry is launching an endowment or looking for ways to grow this fund, one starting point is the ministry budget. Placing a line item in the budget for the endowment reminds us each month that a portion of today's funds should go toward a better tomorrow.
Whether we start with $50 per month or $5,000, we are on our way to a brighter, more successful future for our ministry.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement Trends in the Life Community.
Tweet this! When I think of what we call a "Case for Support" I yawn just uttering the words.
When I think of what we call a "Case for Support" I yawn just uttering the words. Couldn't we have come up with a better name for the very document that should convince our friends to join us in a mighty endeavor that could literally change history?
If you are wondering, a Case for Support, by definition, is a document whereby a ministry gives a "case" for why a particular initiative, or the ministry in general, deserves financial backing from a particular person, or the community at large.
But I'm going to be direct here: The terminology is boring.
Consider, if your ministry has a bold initiative that will save lives and change lives forever . . . This initiative—whatever it is—will change the course of history. Really! (And you need to know, I rarely use exclamation points. For this however, I make an exception. So there.)
Sadly, unless we want to recreate fundraising and development terminology, we're stuck with the dry, "Case for Support." What we can do however, is give the document itself some pop, some excitement. When we do, those who are thinking about joining our financial team will notice. We will build stronger relationships, and those we serve will be the ultimate beneficiaries of new financial gifts.
This month's issue then, is about ways we can give this document something extra, and why. In addition, let's look at some new recipients for this document. We might find that the Case for Support (CFS) can make all the difference in an exciting development plan for our ministry.
Our Case for Support can be a huge boost to our development plan, if we maximize its potential for reaching our financial friends in the ministry. Let's take a look at some questions that will help us identify an effective CFS and how it can make a difference for us in 2015:
What is a Case for Support (CFS), and why do we need one?By definition, a CFS is a document outlining the reasons why your ministry is important and lays out a plan for the future and/or a specific initiative which needs funding. In most cases, a CFS contains an individual ask for funding the organization or the initiative.
It is a smart idea for every organization to create a CFS whenever a major new initiative is rolled out ("Major" might mean an initiative with a price tag of $25,000 or more), or each year—as a way of sharing with its supporters the plans for the coming 12 months.
How many pages is a typical CFS?We will look at the key elements in another article ("Core Elements of a Winning CFS"), but this document will likely end up with anywhere from 8-12 pages. Keep in mind, every element needs to be concise. We need plenty of white space in our CFS, to give our friends a chance to glance. We don't want to take them on a literary journey.
Who should receive a copy of our CFS?If our CFS is primarily referencing a major initiative (expanding our medical ministry, renovations, the purchase of a new property, etc.), the CFS goes primarily to those who can give larger gifts (of $500 or more).
If our CFS is designed to put forth our annual plan, we will not only place it in the hands of major supporters, but we should strongly consider sending it to our monthly supporters, too. The cost is just a few dollars to send this to our monthly supporters but, with a strong thank you letter inside the front cover, it is a strong investment in building a long-term relationship (See our "CFS Thank You Letter" in this issue).
What's our most important goal for our Case for Support (CFS)? Getting people to read it.
Like our newsletter or E-blasts, if no one reads these documents, the news we want to disseminate goes nowhere. What are some characteristics then, of a CFS which garners attention and readership?
As an example, every CFS should contain a "History" page that walks readers through where the ministry has been. Use creative writing sparingly; use bullet points often. Consider two examples:
The AAA Pregnancy Center started in 1984, in the living room at the home of Bill and Mary Jones. There, a prayer group began gathering, praying about a way to address the abortion issue in a Christian fashion. At the meeting were 12 interested people, though more wanted to come. Two weeks later all would meet again and begin planning to create a ministry and obtain 501c3 status for our organization.
Or this:June 4, 1984—AAA Pregnancy Center's history begins with a meeting of 12 friends at the home of Bill and Mary Jones in Leighton Valley.
May 14, 1985—Our first client arrives on opening day at our first location: 284 Elm Street in Leighton Valley.
March 12, 1986—It's a boy! Jacob is the first child born to a AAA client. Today he is 27 years old; he and his wife have two children of their own.
January 9, 1989—AAA moves into a new home on Main Street. This location would serve us for 19 years.
In the first example, we see a paragraph with mostly superfluous information. The reader is already tired, and likely will not move on to further information on our History page.
In the second, we use almost the same number of words to communicate four milestones. With a bit of detective work, we might find fascinating information that will encourage and bring life to the entire ministry.
As a writer this is hard to admit, but our readers are drawn more to our photos than to our stunning prose. Those who support us want to see what we are doing, and photos are an excellent way to tell our story. We don't need professional photographers (though this would be great). We do need photos—that tell a story.
Tweet this! It is often more effective to show one client hugging her baby than it is to show fifty clients in a group photo.
It is often more effective to show one client hugging her baby than it is to show fifty clients in a group photo. The photo of one client tells a story; fifty faces is just another group shot.
In addition, use photography to highlight new initiatives, such as construction and renovation. Architectural drawings of new construction can be helpful, too.
What goes inside a Case for Support? You can add more than the following, but here is a good start:
Cover LetterPersonalize a letter to the recipient, thanking your financial partner for reading, briefly outlining the reason for the CFS and giving a short overview of the projects or initiatives inside. This letter is less than a page. Say thanks, tell 'em why, and tell 'em how. That's it.
HistoryA brief, bulleted list of milestones, recognitions and key staff changes ("Myra Jones joined the PRC as CEO, beginning a 12-year tenure that would bring our ministry into the medical realm").
Where we areLet your friends know what you are accomplishing today. Make sure results are measurable. Our readers will pick up on attempts to be vague in our assessments. Consider two sentences; which is more effective in telling our story?:
One attempt: "We are seeing a lot of clients and they are telling us how much they appreciate what we do for them!"
Or, "A whopping 87% of our clients say they would recommend us to friends. In addition, a documented 83% of those who come to us considering ending their pregnancies ultimately choose life for their children."
A clear picture of why we are askingWhether the CFS is for a specific initiative or for overall funding, create a clear image for readers of the ministry's needs. "We need more funding for advertising" is not clear.
Instead, try, "Our Outreach Initiative includes $14,400 for a more powerful web presence, $5,845 for signage on our city's main artery, Highway 000, and $4,200 for TV ads on several cable channels that reach our main demographic of 18-24 year old women." Your plan can include even more details, but you see the point.
Give actual numbers. Providing details (keep it concise, but details matter) shows good stewardship and careful planning. Both of these characteristics connect positively with those who can give to you.
A clear appealExcept for those times when a CFS is sent as purely an informational piece for current donors, Ask. People are always more likely to give when asked. Best-selling author Nora Roberts has some words of wisdom here: "If you don't ask, the answer is always No."
Ways to GiveTweet this! When it comes to clarity, "Ways to Give" must be at the top of our list.When it comes to clarity, "Ways to Give" must be at the top of our list. No ask is complete without the "How" portion, and Ways to Give shows our friends specific opportunities to support the ministry.
Here are a few to keep in mind:
One Time Gift—Make sure a return envelope and response device are included with your CFS. Make sure online giving is presented, with your donation site prominently shown. Then check the web site and attempt to make a gift online. Experience it yourself and make sure it is easy.
Monthly Giving—Provide an opportunity to make a monthly (open-ended; not for just one year) commitment. Present this on your web site as well.
Stock Gifts—Explain how to make a stock gift. For more information on this, search the subject online. You will find verbiage and information from universities and major non-profits.
Memorial/Honorarium Gifts—Your response device should present opportunities for Memorial Gifts (honoring those who have passed away) and Honorarium Gifts (Honoring those still living). A large percentage of donors utilize these gift avenues. Let's make them available.
Reaching our monthly supporters
Your Case for Support can be sent to your monthly supporters as a way to keep them informed and invested in the ministry. The following is a cover letter to introduce this document to your monthly supporters. This letter is geared toward a 2015 Annual Plan:
Each month you invest in (name of ministry), making you a vital part of our team and a catalyst in our bright future.
Inside this packet is our 2015 Vision, a look at where we have been, where we are and where we are headed in the coming you. We wanted you to have this report so you could see that your investment continues to change the lives of those who come in our door.
Thank you for your belief in the mission of (name of center) and your commitment.
Together we are saving lives, and changing lives every day. It is an honor to serve alongside you in this mighty work!
CEO Board Chair
Click here to download this cover letter as a word document.
Each month, Advancement Trends in the Life Community brings you a sample "Thank you note" to send to your supporters. January's letter is below:
Dear George and Laura,
As we begin 2015 we do so with an optimism that can only grow in the coming year.
Why? Because I'm seeing a trend in those who come in our door. More than ever, they see that we are a place of safety and of hope.
Those that visit us quickly realize that we can be trusted. We tell the truth, and just as important, we choose to love them without conditions.
As a result, I believe we are going to see more and more of our clients choose life for their children, and make other positive decisions for themselves, too.
Quite honestly, you make this happen. Your financial partnership makes this ministry stronger every day; and even brighter days are ahead.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
For pregnancy help ministry boards, it is easy to get consumed by major obstacles. When we face big challenges however, there is good news: Help is not far away.
Many sister organizations have likely walked in our particular shoes, and once faced the same challenges we are facing.
Tweet this! Often, major hurdles are overcome by capturing the counsel of those who have walked our road before.
Often, major hurdles are overcome by capturing the counsel of those who have walked our road before.
How do we find that help? Here are a few ideas:
Make ConnectionsAs a board, make it a priority to send representatives to conferences and make professional connections with other board members (Note: the 2015 Heartbeat International Conference is April 7-10 in St. Louis, MO). Getting to know other board members in other areas, or across a state, brings more wisdom to the table.
One to Follow, One to LeadMake it a point to create a close connection with another ministry geographically close by that you believe is on the same journey as yours, but has walked more steps on the path. Perhaps this organization is older; or has a larger client base and/or budget than your own. As questions come up, this ministry may be able to help with answers.
At the same time, offer assistance to a nearby ministry wanting to get to where you are. Be a sounding board.
As board chairmen reach out to each other in these ways, we all grow.
Check in with Your Affiliate NetworkWhether statewide or nationally, your affiliate network may have answers for you. Utilize its expertise and its connections to dozens, hundreds or thousands of ministries when you're "stuck." For instance, Heartbeat International fields questions daily from its more than 1900 affiliates around the world.
Stuck? Whether the issue be fundraising, staffing or a new initiative that doesn't seem to be getting off the ground, help is on the way. All a board needs to do is access the assistance and counsel already in place.
The board of directors plays many roles in a ministry, from visionaries to decision-makers to guardians of the ministry's public trust.
At board meetings we might be evaluating the chief executive or creating competitive benefits packages, making sure our staff is compensated justly. But outside of the board room we have a role just as vital: Ambassador.
Many of our constituents will judge our ministry by more than the newsletter, the events or even what they perceive to be going on inside our doors on a regular business day: They will evaluate our ministry based on the board members and the way we represent the organization.
So what are a few ideas on how we can be effective Ambassadors?
Name TagsReally? Is that all there is to this? No, but this is a beginning: Every board member should have his or her own permanent name badge (not one of those cheap, plastic badges—let's go for metal) telling constituents at events: Mary Jones—Board of Directors. This is a seemingly small touch, but a first impression like this makes a difference. At any ministry function where the public is involved, we ought to wear these in order to send a message of credibility.
Tweet this: At any ministry function where the public is involved, we ought to wear these in order to send a message of credibility.
As an Ambassador, why not write a note to those friends who support the ministry financially, once a year? Each board member should have a list of donors (some ministries will include amounts for board members, others may choose not to do so). Pick out a number of friends who we can thank, and jot a note to each. Most Christians give to seven ministries but in times of economic uncertainty, this number drops to three. These notes will likely make our ministry one of the three.
Invite othersAn Ambassador makes introductions. Pick three friends in 2015 who are not currently giving to the ministry, but whom you believe could, if they knew more. Invite them to lunch (or perhaps have an evening of dessert at your home for all of them) and include your executive director. Make the introduction, allow them to begin a relationship with your ministry's leader. This could lead to long-term ministry funding.
Three short ideas, none of which are time consuming. An Ambassador does all three and the ministry is stronger for years to come.
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