by Jonathan Krause
I learnt my first big fundraising lesson in the dusty warehouse of a noisy printing factory in an industrial suburb south of Melbourne.
It was 1986. I had hair down to my waist. And I had the stupidest job in the world – writing poems for greeting cards. It seems I was the only person in the southern hemisphere with this job, which led New Idea to do a feature about it, and Gold Logie winner Ernie Sigley to invite me on to breakfast TV so he could crack jokes at my expense.
Each week I would be assigned 50 greeting cards to write poems for. Thinking I already knew everything, I set out to change the world of greeting cards forever by vowing never to write a rhyming poem. No love/glove/dove for me … which is when my boss beckoned me to follow her into the warehouse.
She pointed to a pallet of boxes of greeting cards – returned greeting cards from shops that couldn’t sell them. She said: ‘Jonathan, it’s not about you or what you want to write. It’s about what people want to buy.’
Fundraising is all about what you want to do for others.
So, my fundraising job at Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS) is straightforward. I simply introduce you to people who need your help, support them to tell you what you can do to help and then leave you to decide what action you will take.
Of course, I try to present people’s story as clearly as I can. And I look for exciting ways you can act, such as Gifts of Grace, the GRACE Project, Walk My Way.
Of course, I respect you enough to be frank with you. Show you the urgency. Explain the challenges. Tell you what it costs.
Then, ask unashamedly for your help.
That’s Fundraising 101 – but really it’s one-to-one.
My dad sometimes grumbles that he gets too many letters from charities. Other people ask not to receive letters, so they can save money for the charity and help lower ‘overheads’. I understand those feelings, especially when you help people (and animals) through multiple charities.
However, in fundraising, we know that unless you talk to people at least every couple of months, they can forget about you, donations drop off, fewer people are helped, and ‘overheads’ actually go up.
So, my job in fundraising is to balance the ‘smell-of-an-oily-rag’ approach – over a five-year average ALWS ‘overheads’ are less than 15 per cent – with doing what my 30 years of experience have shown me to be the most effective, efficient way to raise money to help people.
I’ve been blessed to be able to teach fundraising around the world – the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand and even to 500 hospital administrators in the middle of China!
What I’ve found in all those places is that people always give from their heart. Someone’s need touches them, and they are moved to help.
You cannot educate people into giving by teaching lots of facts or statistics to persuade them. It doesn’t work, because the ‘head’ is not strong enough to overturn a decision made in the heart.
The only time fundraising should be about educating, is when we try to show you the most effective way for you to help others.
There’s another ‘Boss’ who has taught me about fundraising – Jesus.
Ever since I was on the Student Representative Council organising ‘Rice Days’ at Luther College in 1976, I’ve been driven by the words of Matthew 25:34–40. This is the story of the sheep and the goats, where Jesus talks about his people feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, visiting the sick … and pointing out that when you and I do this for someone overlooked, ignored or forgotten, we are doing it for him.
What’s interesting is what Jesus teaches directly before that, in Matthew 25:14–30. Here, he tells the story of the Master giving his servants ‘talents’ – or in modern translations money – different amounts according to the servants’ different abilities.
Each day I must ask myself which servant I am. It’s a question we as the Lutheran Church need to ask each day too.
As a fundraiser, I (and ALWS) try to be the bold, hard-working servant of verses 14–30 – inspiring you with ideas, being efficient with your donations, helping you have as big an impact as you can with the gifts God has given you … to bless others as we follow Jesus as the sheep of verses 34–40, feeding the hungry, giving water to those are thirsty, caring for the homeless and sick.
For me, fundraising is a critical part of this ministry.
I thank God I have been given the opportunity to serve this way and been blessed to see the transformation in people’s lives as we work – and raise funds – together to bring love to life. What a joy!
Jonathan Krause is ALWS Community Action Manager.