It’s hard to believe, but we are already on the doorstep of the year-end festivities for 2023. For many Cru teams, the past two months have been a flurry of activity, outreach, and events. As we hit the first lull in the school year, many teams and leaders should begin to get down to brass tacks about their fund development plans for the next year.
As you make these decisions, I wanted to share six potential options for you and your team to consider. Remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to Fund Development. The size and scope of your movement, the number of staff on your team, your ministry priorities, and many other factors influence what “success” will look like for your team in 2024. What is most important for any team isn’t always what their Development strategy looks like, but that they are taking the next step to do better than they did in years past.
There’s no one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to Fund Development
Depending on your team’s present realities, here are a handful of ideas to consider:
1 - PLAN A VISION DINNER
This is the tried-and-true option for many teams, and for good reason! A Vision Dinner is a gathering of believers in your area where you appreciate them, inform them about your ministry, and invite them to partner with you in your mission. Everything you need to plan your event can be found in the Vision Dinners section of TeamGold. For those of you in the Campus Ministry of Cru, did you know that there is a matching fund of up to $10k available for teams hosting their first Vision Dinner in the past 5 years. Find the link on the TL Toolkit for more details about which teams qualify and how to request. Great for teams that…
Are looking to re-engage partners for the first time since COVID
Need significant funding and/or to grow their base of partners
2 - GATHER DATA FROM PAST DONATIONS TO YOUR MINISTRY
One of the current realities of ministry today (and, honestly, outside of ministry as well) is that it has become increasingly rare to find teams with many senior staff. It’s likely that most of your team members weren’t on the team 7 years ago, and it’s almost certain that your Team Leader has changed since then. Something I hear frequently from newer TLs goes like this: “I know that we have people who have given in the past, but I don’t know who they are or how to get connected to them.” Great for teams that…
Need to re-establish a relationship with past mid- and major partners
Don’t have a list of contacts in the area to develop relationships with
If that sounds like you, it might be a good idea to explore your avenues for gathering that information. It might involve contacting your ministry leadership, finance analyst, or gaining access to an MPD software. If you are in the Campus Ministry of Cru, you can request a Campus Giving History Report from the Development Coordinators team.
3 - MEET WITH PAST PARTNERS
As I mentioned at the outset of this guide, the most important part of your Development plan is that you are making progress. For many teams and Team Leaders, it has been far too long since you have had a personal touchpoint with partners. Simultaneously, many teams don’t have the resources to plan a Vision Dinner or other large event. For those team leaders, I like to challenge them with this: What if this year you committed to meet with five people who have given to your team in the past? This isn’t to ask them for a gift so there’s no pressure - all you would do is meet with them, get to know them, and perhaps share some encouraging things at work in your ministry. Great for teams that…
Don’t have enough staff to plan a large event
Have lapsed relationships with many of their largest past partners
4 - PRESENT A FUNDING PROPOSAL
There are many teams out there who have been doing a great job in Fund Development. They have regular Vision Dinners, meet one-on-one with partners, and plan times each year when partners get involved in the ministry. A helpful step for many of these teams and their Team Leaders might be to begin making personal, targeted asks of their partners. Is there a specific ministry activity that you’d love to do if given the funding? Maybe it’s your team’s first Fall Retreat, a student leader retreat, scholarships for new interns, or renting a new office space for your team. Whatever it may be, maybe it’s time to consider putting together a proposal for one of these initiatives and asking three or four of your partners to give a significant gift? Great for teams that…
Have healthy pre-existing Development rhythms
Have funding needs that are more immediate or niche than is appropriate for a Vision Dinner
Has a group of partners who already give significantly and could consider even larger gifts
5 - ESTABLISH A COMMUNICATION STRATEGY
One of the responsibilities that is commonly ignored by teams that are smaller or new to Development is having a solid communication strategy with their partners. Far too often, a team may have a Vision Dinner or an annual mailing to raise money, but those are the only times when the partners hear from them. It’s always dangerous to get into a rhythm where your partners only hear from you when you want money. Think about what that might communicate? Having at least quarterly updates that are sent out to your partners is a great place to start. You might also set a goal to thank each of your partners personally via the mail or in-person once every year (or more often). Great for teams that…
Need to cultivate a more regular relationship with partners
Don’t have the capacity to take the major step of planning an event or meeting with a partner
6 - KEEP YOUR ALUMNI ENGAGED
This strategy is, to be honest, a tough nut to crack for many teams. Many teams invest a lot of time into building an alumni strategy and wind up with minimal results. On the other end of the spectrum, some teams have success with alumni and then, unfortunately, end up depending on their students and recent alumni as their primary source of funding. If you think of a Development strategy as a recipe for cookies, it’s dangerous for teams to view alumni networks as the “flour” - an ingredient that cannot be omitted without destroying the recipe. It’s much better to aim for this ingredient being more like nutmeg or vanilla - adding this ingredient can take your recipe to the next level, but you can have a great product without it. Great for teams that…
Have many solid alumni who have the capacity and inclination to give
Need more regular, monthly givers Note: TeamGold currently has no official training on building an alumni network, but it’s at the top of our list of priorities. If you are in the Cru’s Campus Ministry and would like a Development staff member to help you get started, make sure to fill out the Development Help Request Form
These are just six of the many, many possible next steps for your team’s Development journey. There are so many opportunities for you and your team out there, and some of them might be ones that you and your team try out for the first time. One of the most exciting part of Development is the opportunity for innovation. The key to remember is that the professionals here at TeamGold are here to help focus that innovation and form it into a strategy that will succeed for you, your partners, and our organization. Make sure to let us know if you're thinking of trying something new so that we can help and learn from you!
One of the most exciting part of Development is the opportunity for innovation.
What other strategies have you found helpful for your team? Feel free to leave a comment below! And if you’re thinking of tackling one of these or any other new ventures as a team, make sure to let us know how we can help!