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Don Hughes
CEO Great Plains Christian Radio

Ten Points to Successful Fundraising




1. All areas of your organization need to be running a peak capacity.  If your automobile mechanic told you your car was in pretty good shape at 88% capacity. His analysis of the vehicle informed you that only seven of the eight cylinders were working which means the vehicle’s effectiveness is at 88%.  That is a “B” plus in a lot of schools, but the vehicle would not run well.  Think about this, if every member of a football team operated at 91% the offense and defense could fail because there is at least one person not doing their job on each play.  It could mean a missed block on offense or a missed tackle on defense.  It is the same way a not-for-profit organization dependent on free-will donations.  There is a need to have all of the organization developed and operating at peak efficiency in order to create the needed revenues.

2. Your efforts in ministry must be personal.  Most funding appeals I see basically ask the recipient to send a donation so we can minister to those people “over there”.  The work that you are doing needs to be vital both to the people “over there” and to those that are on your mailing list.  How does your mailing or funding appeal apply to the priorities of the donor?  There is a statement concerning politics that you have no doubt heard, “All politics are local.”  Even national and international issues come down to an application to the interests of the voter and the impact locally.  You need to make your organization personal even if your ministry is primarily focused half-way around the world.  The number one thing that motivates giving is overall vision of the goals of the organization.  In an earthly sense your goals are accomplished through the people that work in the organization along with donors.  Even though your ministry may be to people that are very different from those on your mailing list you need to see the mailing list as your mission field as well as those “over there”.

3. What are you doing in presenting your organization that will distinguish what you are doing from other appeals?  We all receive sales presentations in the mail.  We sort through credit card offers, automobile dealerships announcing a deal you can’t beat, grocery store specials and the latest sales event at the department store.  Advertisements are present in your mail box every day.  No doubt you at times have opened the mail over the trash can.  The first thing you need to do is make sure your organization’s presentation gets opened. The second thing you need to get the donors attention once the envelop is opened.  Please note that I referred to this as your “organization’s presentation” and not just a “fundraising letter.”

4.  How are you going to present your vision for ministry?  You must engage people and communicate what you are doing and get them on board with your vision for ministry.  You can make contacts through churches in gaining opportunities to present your vision in a Sunday morning or evening service or in a Sunday school class.  Look for independent Bible study groups where you can address five to ten people at a time.  There are groups like Mothers of Pre-Schoolers (M.O.P.S.) that may allow time to present your vision.  Visit business people individually that may share your vision.  Could you encourage some of your present donors to have a dinner for like-minded people in order to hear a presentation of your ministry emphasis?  There are companies that sell mailing lists.  Is there an age group that may be more inclined to support your work?  Purchase a mailing list to those people.  Develop a mailing list of all churches or at least those that may have a heart for what you are doing and mail to them regularly.  At Great Plains Christian Radio we have literally mailed to every home in our coverage area  three times.  We still have work to do in that we need to make contacts with all of them again.  Make contacts, make more contacts and do it all again. 

5. Don’t be afraid of rejection.  I have had several different positions as a salesman.  I was always told that I need to make twenty presentations to get one sale.  I was examining the data for Great Plains Christian Radio one day.  I did an inquiry of our mailing list as to how many donors we had.  I divided that number into the total number of addresses and discovered that one of eighteen names on the mailing list has given.  Remarkable!  It was almost identical to those sales jobs, one donor for every twenty contacts.  When you are examining your budget for the coming year you may want to figure out how to increase the mailing list in order to increase income for the ministry. 

6. Move people up the list.  There are people on your mailing list that give every month, others are small-gift occasional donors, some are large-gift occasional donors and there are those that do not give at all.  What can you do to move people up the list?  There are no people who will not give.  There are only people that you have not found the key to provide motivation or you have not adequately given them the vision for your ministry that will result in a donation.  Did you know that if you did a survey you will find people on your mailing list that have not given in over a year that consider themselves to be regular supporters?  They don’t realize it has been twelve months or more since they have given.  You have people that only mailed six donations last year that committed to monthly giving and would be appalled at their lack of faithfulness.  However, don’t blame them. It is your job as the manager or development director to motivate them.

7. You need to be visible.  What can you do to have a presence in each of your supporter’s homes?  My work in Christian broadcasting makes it a bit easier to be present in the homes of our supporters.  Faithful listeners that have heard our address a thousand times still do not remember it.  How can you place your name and address in your donor’s homes, so they always know where they can go to get your address, phone number, web address, etc?  Send something to your donors they will not throw away.  Calendars, devotionals booklets, pens, letter openers and other things could service this purpose.  Make sure your donors received return envelopes often.

8. Regularly stage an event that people can attend.  The bigger the event the better.  To fill up the local civic center with one to three thousand people or more shows that you are an organization that can get things done.  The event can help you to develop visibility and image.  Events like this can cost ten thousand to one hundred thousand dollars to stage.  This event does not have to be a fundraiser, but certainly you do not want to lose money or at least not much.  The event could serve to develop your mailing list and a return could be realized.  The event could be used as a focus point to help raise funds.  Money could be raised for the event and the ticket sales or offering at the event would be a positive cash flow to benefit the ministry.  Concerts usually draw the most attention.  Speakers usually draw fewer people.  However, it all depends on the performer or speaker.  Invest little and you will generally have very little return.

9. You need to consider that first impressions are everything.  What is it that your organization is doing?  Do you have a clear identity?  In marketing it is called “branding”.  What images come to the mind of the public when they hear your name?  Sometimes that image is shaped by other similar organizations. If you have a Christian school and someone sees your sign they no doubt will connect you to the image they have of other Christian schools. Develop your image. What image does the leader make, key personnel and employees in general?  What image is communicated by your printed material?  What is the appearance of your office and building?  If you operate a Christian radio station the overall quality of the programming is essential.  You need to develop confidence in your organization to the point where someone will make a donation.  It is evident that the image and relationship are developed before the donation is received.

10. What is the image of your ministry?  Integrity is important.  However, if people embrace your vision for ministry they probably will not question the integrity of your organization unless there is a reason to question it.  It would be a good thing to answer questions before they are asked concerning the organizational structure.  Who is on the Board of Directors and how are they chosen are things that should be made public?  The Board of Directors should be a diverse group of people and should not be heavily weighted by members of the same family or even the same church.  What checks and balances exist within the organization in the handling of donations?  Does the organization voluntarily submit to an annual external audit?  Caution should be exercised in choosing vendors that supply goods and services to the organization.  For example if a Board member is the organization’s insurance agent there should be evidence that there was some competitive bidding. Individuals will rarely ask such questions.  However, someone making a sizable donation could request such information.   Churches many times ask questions such as these before giving regularly from their mission budget.  Foundations always ask for documentation before making a gift.  Have an atmosphere of openness.


Don is observing forty years in broadcasting in 2009.  Great Plains Christian Radio consists of seven full power stations and thirty-six translators. The flagship station, KJIL, has been named Station of the Year most recently by NRB and in the past they have received that honor from GMA, NAB (Marconi), Focus on The Family and the Kansas Association of Broadcasters.  Don Hughes and his wife Polly have been married for thirty-one years and they have six children. 

Don Hughes can be reached at






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