‘Habemus Papam’: how religious fundraisers get it right!

By Patrice Simonnet
On April 11, 2013 At 2:00 pm

Category : communication, Latest posts, opinion

Responses : One Comment

A post fully inspired by one of the major events of the last weeks. Just because this could influence you as a fundraiser: the newly elected Pope Francis is everywhere in the news. Why is that? His election was a major surprise but already “Pope Francis books proliferate”. News are all about the first non-European Pope and his great Charisma (defined by Wikipedia as a “theological term for the extraordinary graces given to individual Christians for the good of others”). Can we think this interest come from the idea he could bring a lot of change? That he is different? How is it interesting for your organization to comunicate the change that can happen due to a better work or a new leader?

Being a religious matter, I will not share with you any belief of mine, but just give you some interesting facts. Just facts. But my purpose is clear: I’d like to suggest that there is so much to learn from religious fundraisers! In a way, they are showing the path from centuries, aren’t they? Let’s recognize that they are “among the best in inspiring donors to give generously and loyally”.

Here are some thoughts about how you could get inspired in your work by the recent change in leadership in the Roman Catholic Church:

HopeRealize the best way to reach your audience
: “you really worked, didn’t you?” was one of the most spotted sentences from Pope Francis on March 16th, few days after his election. But he also told the representatives of the communications media: “The role of the mass media has expanded immensely in these years, so much so that they are an essential means of informing the world (…)”. First the opening of a Twitter account by his predecessor, now a new approach to communication!? This is the proof of how an organization, even the most consertative, recognizes it is time to adapt to its audience!

Even the Vatican Radio  speaks openly about it: recently “ the head of Vatican’s Council for Social Communications (…) travelled to Santiago del Chile for a conference that brings together some 400 communications specialists from across the continent”. Archbishop Celli said: “Pope Francis, he’s using images (…) not only touching the intellectual aspect, but touching the heart and the imagination”. Not a bad example of adaptation for one of the oldest institutions in the world. Especially if it comes from its leader, its father figure. So, let’s realize that, sometimes, it could take only one person to bring the changes that your organization needs! Right? But…could the opposite also be true? Keep reading.

Pope Francis riding the subway in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Pope Francis riding the subway in Buenos Aires, Argentina

In time of crisis, send a clear message of change: what if, an organization living difficult moments realized it simply needs to show the change by chosing a new leader? The truth is that the result is the same! So it doesn’t matter which came first, the chicken or the egg… but the true question is (sometimes) how to influence the governance of our organization  for us fundraisers. My point is that it is harder to drive the change than to just watch and criticize. It can take years. So, begin right now and identify a possible area of crisis for the future and act!

Now some example of magnificent Italian religious fundraising:

Lobby the government: “Eight per thousand, or otto per mille, is an Italian law under which Italian taxpayers can choose to whom devolve a compulsory 8 ‰ from their annual income tax return between an organized religion recognised by Italy”. Not only Roman Church benefits from it but it has been established in 1984 by an agreement between the Italian government and the Holy See. Funds raised only in 2011 were 1,1 BILLION euro! Not bad hey? Remember, these are facts, only facts! In 2005, a similar mechanism was introduced for non profit organizations, the 5 per thousand. Right, try to replicate the best fundraising mecanism even if they seems not reachable by your organization. Lobby is the key.

The Gothic cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete

The “Duomo” took nearly six centuries to complete and thousand of small offerings.

Launch wide capital campaigns: last November, Gargoyles in the largest cathedral in the world, the Duomo of Milan, are being put up for “adoption” to raise funds for needed renovations to the building. Donors who contribute €100,000 will have their name engraved under one of the grotesque figures perched on the cathedral’s rooftop. Who says that oldest technics…are too old to be use again and again?

Not only major donors: Still about the Duomo, a book from Martina Saltamacchia from University of Nebraska reveals that the construction, which took over 6 centuries, came from donatiosn made of “thousands of small offerings from poor people – an egg, a piece of cheese, a little coin. Buried in the long lists of donations are moving stories about the donors’ charity: the prostitute Marta who, converted, abandoned the brothel; Marco, the rich merchant who bequeathed everything and then lived as a poor man until his death; the commander Alessio, only to name a few”. A few by many is very often THE solution!

There are many other examples. And many other thoughts. But let change happens first…

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Patrice Simonnet (8 blogs on 101fundraising)

Patrice is a French fundraiser lost and happy in Italy since 11 years... There, everyday, he discovers what cross-cultural means! After experiences as DM officer for Unicef and Head of Fundraising for ActionAid Italy, he is currently Head of Fundraising of a foundation taking care of Italian cultural and environmental heritage (FAI-Fondo Ambiente Italiano). There he manages a team of 30 dedicated and passionate staff. In a past life, he lived in Africa and South America, graduated both in "international business studies" and "development studies".

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  1. Are you out searching for new ways to fundraise every day or month? There’s a way that pay’s your supporters to shop (mostly) where they already shop (Walmart, Sears, K-Mart, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Barnes & Noble, Walgreen’s, plus many other known brands). I’m not allowed to mention the way here, but, not only do your supporters get cashback when they shop, you make 1/2 of 1% of what they spend; and the average family spends over $1100. just at the stores I mentioned above. You give them a cashback card membership; and “forever”, when they shop at the stores through this system, they get cashback; and your nonprofit also gets 1/2 of 1 %. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but, you give out 100 cashback cards to your supporters; and if they use them (and again most average over $1100. per month they spend), you also get cash. $1100 X 100 = $110,000. per month. Take 1/2 of 1% of that and you get $500. per month from their purchases, as long as they live and use the system. Give out 600 cashback cards and if all use them, that’s $3000. per month ($36,000. per year) to your charity (individuals can also get this same deal). Note…. Anyone taking the cashback card and giving them out can get from the ones you give to and the ones they give to (Only 2 levels maximim). This program is in 43 countries at the moment; and new to the U.S. It was checked out the the Government, of each country, before they began giving out the cards; and it’s NOT a pyramid. The card has been in the U.S. only about 16 months; and there are already 53,000 users. Two months ago, there were only 28,000 cardholders (I got mine then). All the people around me are now making $$$$$$$ per month. A female friend of mine has been in just over a year and has as of last Thursday, earned over $22,000. since January 1st. of this year.

    Consider the fact, that once the people get the cards and realize the benefits, they will do virtually all of their shopping through the system; and they will encourage the people they give cards to, to also shop through the system. BTW… There are 10 ways total you can profit in the system; and this goes on as long as you live. You can sell your card, will it, or just keep and use it. If you will it, whomever you will it to will immediately begin making money from this system. There will only be so many cashback cards issued in the U.S., then they will cut it off to new members. Even the last members still get cashback by using their cards; and there’s no dues, fees, “ever”; for shopping through this system.

    A number of major nonprofits are now using the cashback card system; and have cut their fundraising expenses way down. One nonprofit is even a YMCA. Consider the options Work hard coming up with new fundraisers, then having to put them on at a cost, or helping people save money, shopping at most or all of the same stores they shop at now, while making money yourself.. You’ll be glad you choose the cashback route, that’s easy and continues on and on.

     — Reply