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One Question to Rule Them All

By Michael Mitchell. Originally published on LinkedIn. Used by permission.

Whether you’ve ever actually asked it out loud or not, one of the most common questions in traditional fundraising is, “What do we want FROM people?”

The answer is usually “Money.” We might add TIME or TALENT to the mix, but TREASURE is the answer more often than not.

What if I told you that was the wrong question?

What if I told you fundraising has absolutely nothing to do with what we want FROM people?

What if I told you the most important fundraising question of all was, in fact, “What do we want FOR people?”

What do we want FOR the people who support our causes?

When we start fundraising by asking what we want FROM people, we immediately make the entire relationship transactional. People become ATMs, and we’re just here to make withdrawals. When you fundraise that way, every relationship has a shelf life. Every relationship is a ticking time bomb.

If all you ever think about is what you want FROM people, you’ll never get to a place of transformational giving, and fundraising will always be an uphill battle.

But what happens if you start asking the question, “What do I want FOR people?”

Think about it for a minute.

Do you experience fundraising as a joyful calling, or does it feel more like that thing we do so others can do the real ministry? What if there was a new paradigm–one where raising funds becomes actual ministry that helps givers know, love, and serve God more fully?

Experience fundraising as mission and life-giving ministry for you and those who support our work!

Join Michael Mitchell and others at the Mission Agency Development Event, March 2, in Washington D.C.

What do you want FOR the people who support your mission?

Seriously asking this question has the power to transform the way you approach fundraising.

For me, the answer to the question, “What do I want FOR people?” is GROWTH.

I want givers to grow. I want them to grow in their knowledge of the cause, the way they serve the cause, and the way they share it with others. And I want them to grow in their ownership of, and connection to, the cause.

As soon as I start to go here, someone always says, “That’s great, but I have an annual budget goal I’m trying to meet.”

And my response is always… “You didn’t let me finish.”

In no less measure than any of the other ways I want people to grow, I also want them to grow in their generosity and giving.

I want them to grow in that area because I believe giving and generosity are good for people.

It’s good for those who give. It’s good for the people we serve. And it’s good for the causes we serve.

If you start every interaction with givers by asking, “What do I want FOR this person or group of people?” it changes the entire dynamic of your relationship with them. 

People aren’t dumb. They can always tell when you just want something FROM them. Their guard goes up, and the relationship is fraught with landmines from the beginning.

But people can also tell when you approach them from a place that says, “I only want what’s best FOR you.”

Imagine the difference it would make if every time you met with a new giver, you told them what you want FOR them.

What if your first conversation with a new giver always went something like this?

Thank you so much for your support! One thing that makes us different is that we start every interaction with givers not by asking what we want FROM them but by asking the question, ‘What do we want FOR the people who support our cause?’ And we’ve thought long and hard about our answer to that question. Do you mind if I tell you what we want FOR you as a giver to this cause? We want you to grow. We want you to grow in the way you understand the work we do and the people we serve together. We want you to grow in the way you serve. We want you to grow in your ownership of this cause. We want you to grow in generosity and giving. And we want you to grow in the way you share all of this with others. Because we want those things for you, from time to time, we’ll offer you an invitation to take a step or two of growth in one of those areas. Sometimes it’ll be a specific opportunity to serve. Sometimes it’ll be an opportunity to give. Sometimes it’ll be an opportunity to learn. And sometimes it’ll be an opportunity to share with others. And we’ll do all of those things because we ultimately believe they’re good for you and good for the people we serve together.

Can you imagine the power of starting every new giver relationship with that introduction?

If you approach fundraising by asking what you want FOR people, you will always thrive.

What do you want FOR the people who support your cause?


Michael Mitchell is Director of Development and Discipleship at Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO). He is a featured speaker at the upcoming Mission Agency Development Event, March 2, in Washington D.C.

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