December 2010
Fundraising Principal #4: Clarify the Vision Click
About VanderWyden Consultants, Inc. Click

In this edition of Wyden Your Horizons, we offer the fourth installment in our series on the basic principles of fundraising. We began this series this year to respond to the many questions we hear in our work regarding basic fundraising principles. We have taught these principles at workshops throughout the United States, and the churches and organizations that have implemented them have reported to us that they have experienced inspiring increases in generosity. If your church or non-profit organization would like to host a workshop in your area, please feel free to contact us to discuss the possibilities.

As we enter this special season of giving, we are reminded that many in our world are suffering. We have found that the Joy of Generosity is discovered when we give not just to our family members and friends during this season, but also when we go above and beyond, and give generously to causes or agencies that use our donations effectively to help those who are truly struggling. Many of our readers head churches and other agencies that have seen the demand for their assistance and services increase dramatically during this past year due to the continuing world economic turmoil. As you think about your end of the year planning, we encourage you to join us in striving to increase your generosity toward your church and other social service agencies, so that they can respond to the urgent needs that they are aiming to meet. And of course, we wish for all of our readers that you and your families have a most blessed holiday season.


Prospective donors must be provided with a clear, compelling vision if they are to be inspired to give generously and sacrificially. A clear vision provides inspiring, specific descriptions of the improvements that can made in individuals' lives through the gifts of your donors. A vision is not like a dream, which can be "fuzzy." A clear vision provides specifics: how many individuals are in need, how your assistance/services will be provided, specifically how the recipients of the gifts will be benefited, and how many individuals will be helped through the gifts of the donors. Alternatively, you may break down the needs into affordable blocks for your prospective donors: if $X are given Y number of individuals can be helped, and if $Z are given twice as many individuals can be helped, etc.

If you are conducting a Capital Fund Campaign to raise funds for renovations or new facilities, you will want to be sure that your clear vision includes:

  1. Inspiring stories about how the renovations or new facilities will enable you to provide new services or programs to individuals who are in urgent need, and/or specific numbers regarding how many more individuals you will be able to help through your present programs that have proven to be effective and efficient.
  2. Floor plans of how the renovations will be changing your present facilities, or floor plans of the new facility, and in each instance noting in the floor plans the specifics about what will be done in these new spaces and how many individuals will be helped with these new facilities.
  3. Accurate ballpark total costs of the renovations or new facilities. It's best to break the costs down according to groupings relating to the services/programs that will be provided. For example: $X for making our facility more accessible, $Y dollars for enlarging our space for serving meals to those who are in need, $Z dollars for a new entryway, etc. It is best to have three to at most five large cost figures using the functionality groupings, rather than having a line by line breakdown of all the costs.

    Human nature is such that some people will want to quibble about a $1,000 line item that is a miniscule portion of the total project, where they will actually be more hesitant to talk about large round numbers. So to avoid this tendency, keep your breakdown to three to at most five basic functionality groupings. Accurate ballpark numbers mean that you have gotten verified costs from the architect or engineering firm that will be supervising your renovations or the construction of your new facilities. You do not need working drawings and the correlating specific costs.

    Once you have completed your fundraising, then you can order the working drawings. Invariably, once things are put out to bid, some things cost more than was estimated and some things cost less. The key thing is that the ballpark number of the total cost of the project that was specified at the beginning of your fundraising must not be exceeded. It is very difficult to go back to donors at the conclusion of a successful campaign and say, "Oh, we underestimated the total costs, we need you to give more money." Not only will it be very difficult to motivate donors to give more for this project when they have already given generously and sacrificially, but the credibility of your organization or church will be damaged, and your next fundraising effort will be challenged to explain the problems in projecting inaccurate total costs for the previous effort.
  4. Specify the fundraising firm that you are going to hire to provide the professional guidance for your fundraising campaign, and the exact costs of those services. It is unethical in the fundraising field to charge fees based on a percentage of what is raised. Yet we often hear stories of organizations who were charged on this basis, and who paid exorbitant costs per dollar raised. Always have a contract in hand from your selected consulting firm, which specifies the total costs of the professional consulting services, before you launch your Capital Fund Campaign. Be alert for firms that talk about add-on costs for travel to and from your site, and on-site costs. All of these costs should be specified in the contract. There should be no add-on costs, unless you request additional services beyond what was provided for in the contract.

If you provide your prospective donors with a clear, compelling vision about how their giving will meet urgent needs, they will respond with generous donations. A clear vision inspires members to envision how they could make a significant difference in the world, and consequently it attracts sizable donations. Remember a clear vision provides two key elements: Inspiring stories, and honest appraisals of plans and costs. Inspiration does not excuse a lack of due diligence.

If you follow the basic principles of fundraising that we are providing in this series, including those outlined above, your members and donors will find the Joy of Generosity. You will not only raise the funds you require, but your members will grow in their faith in God's abundant providing. Top


VanderWyden Consultants provide professional fundraising guidance to churches and non-profit organizations throughout the United States who require professional assistance with their fundraising. We provide professional guidance for Capital Fund Campaigns, Stewardship Operating Budget Campaigns, Planned Giving Campaigns, Comprehensive Financial Feasibility Studies, and Workshops on the dynamics of stimulating growth in membership. If you would like to meet with us, since we provide our services throughout the United States, we can be available to meet with your leadership. If your church would like to host one of our Professional Workshops for churches or non-profit organizations in your area, we can provide a discount in our services for your church.
Or if you would like to explore how our services may help you to meet your needs, don't hesitate to call us through our toll-free number (888-245-5826) for a no obligation free professional consultation.

Our staff has conducted over 350 successful campaigns throughout the United States. Our "Joy of Generosity" Capital Fund Campaign program enables churches to raise as much as 13 times existing giving levels, and our "Wyden Your Horizons" Operating Budget Stewardship program results in increases of 15 - 45%.

All ideas and commentaries in Wyden Your Horizons are copyrighted. Quotations may be freely used when the source is cited. Top