Before I get into the tools in the toolbox series, I want to take time to start with something slightly different, but very timely. With Christmas being this week, most of us have received at least a few emails wishing us a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday, and so on. I recently received one that displeased me because I quickly recognized it as a great example of how NOT to use a Christmas letter or email. I know that most Christmas emails have an agenda behind them. If nothing else, they are at least a “please remember me next year when you are ready to do business” reminder. To use them as an unashamed fundraiser is going a bit too far. The rest of this post I wrote very shortly after receiving the “beg letter in Jesus’ name”.
How NOT To Do Fundraising.
Wow!!! I just received an email from a local Christian ministry titled “Merry Christmas… “. It included the following text “As we get closer to Christmas, our attentions are lured towards the glitter and gold of “presents” under the tree however, let us not lose focus of the “present” God gave us… the gift of His Son. Jesus is the reason for the season!”.
Okay, that is all good stuff. Had they stopped there, I may have been impressed. My issue is what happens further down the page. Further down the page it says “Winter is here and we know you are inundated with requests for “year end” gifts and probably get tired of so many of them. [We] are a very small ministry and we don’t have many “supporters”. It truly is only by God’s grace that we stay operational. So, would you consider being a monthly supporter?”
Even further down the page, a large portion of the email is used to advertise men’s and women’s jewelry options, wristbands, a book the ministry wrote, and t-shirts.
The email went on to say “As you can imagine, the needs are greater than our resources. That’s why we depend on God’s provision. If you would like to make a year-end donation, you can donate a tax deductible gift through the “HOW TO GIVE” tab on our website, or by sending a check to:
[Ministry name and address removed]
Make the check out to “[Ministry name removed]”.
In service to our King!”
Okay. If the point was to make me give remember the reason for the season, it was lost in the promotions. Rather than feeling compelled to give, I find myself pondering how an email that starts out wishing me Merry Christmas and reminding me of the reason for the season, can so quickly put way more emphasis on selling. If I had been listening to this as a presentation, rather than receiving it as an email my notes may have looked something like this :
– Jesus is the reason for the season
– they know I am inundated and tired of year end requests
– they are small ministry without many supporters
– stays operational only by God’s grace
- want’s me to be monthly supporter
( Is God’s grace insufficient or just maybe uncomfortable?)
- wants me to buy stuff
( Some call it “Jesus junk” – I need to go back and see if Jesus ever tried to sell anything to support his ministry)
- Their needs are greater than their resources.
( Needs? or just wants? Do they want me to pay for them receive management training?)
- They are depending on God’s provision
( and hoping for mine as well it sounds like)
- Request year-end donation
( they know I’m inundated and tired)
- They serve the King.
( Is this letter supposed to be as representative of the King? Does the King need funding?)
Okay, let me be very clear here. This is NOT an email wishing us Merry Christmas. It is an email from a Christian ministry requesting a piece of my year end donations. Do NOT do this. A much better approach would be to stick with the Merry Christmas and Jesus is the reason… and maybe throw in a festive seasonal photo or two and let it go. If you wanted to even include a short narrative highlighting the years accomplishments and give the email a “Christmas letter” feel, that would be acceptable. Just leave out “the ask”. Leave the ask piece out until after the Christmas holiday.
I know organizations need to make sure they are remembered when people do their year end giving. Do not do it in a Christmas card and also go light on the Christian cliches. I know this was written by a Christian organization to “their people”, many of whom are already their supporters. Just because they are already supporting you doesn’t mean they appreciate this tactic. They may tolerate it, or they may not. I would say separate the two messages.
Remember that people actually like to give and support organizations that they like and feel connected to. Send a separate email after Christmas. That email can be more along the lines of “As we wrap up our year, we again must focus on the financial needs of the ministry. We did not feel it was right to discuss this while celebrating the birth of our savior, but now …”.