Like so many other movements, the pro-life movement has to constantly beg for funds to do its work. My colleagues often ask for and appreciate fundraising advice. Based on the significant success that we at Priests for Life have had at fundraising since the mid-90’s, I offer the following bullet points that anyone who seeks to do fundraising in the pro-life arena (or other not-for-profit arenas) should take to heart.
• Invest your personal money — If you want to do successful fundraising, do it for a cause you really believe in, and start by investing your personal money. If you really want to succeed, invest every bit of personal money you can in your chosen cause.
The fact is that it takes money to raise money, and if you know what you want to raise money for, then lead by example. Don’t sit around waiting for the person who is going to jump-start your project or organization. Be that person yourself.
When I took over the helm at Priests for Life in 1993, I had no office, no staff, and was handed a check for $3000, representing the total budget of Priests for Life. Now, we have a $12 million annual budget with a staff of 60. We did not employ any magic along the way. When I sought permission from Cardinal O’Connor to do pro-life work full time, I told him not to worry about having to provide a salary for me. I had some money saved up from my ordination and early years of priestly work, and I spent every bit of it jump-starting the efforts of Priests for Life. To this day, I will routinely spend my personal money on Priests for Life business. If I’m going to ask people to be donors – as I do daily – I should be one myself.
• Ask and you shall receive. – This foundational fundraising principle is Biblical. And it’s simple. If you want something, you have to ask. Don’t wait for your donors to “discover” your need, and certainly don’t presume that they know your needs or can read your mind. Ask, and ask frequently.
While you are thinking every day about your efforts and the money you need to carry out those efforts, your donors are not thinking of you ever day or even every week. They will donate to the extent that they are asked. You are competing for their attention moment by moment. Seize it by presenting yourself, your work and your needs before them continually.
Asking for donations is like putting a bucket in a river. Money is always flowing, whether you ask for it or not. People are going to buy things and donate to causes. Put your bucket in the river often, and you’ll gain a lot of water. Put it in a little, and you’ll gain a little.
Ultimately, fundraising is an integral part of ministry. It’s something many don’t like, but it’s not something we should be ashamed of or run away from.