An Unlikely Fundraiser
If you had asked me ten years ago if I would be working for a small nonprofit raising money to help families, I would have laughed and replied, “Never in a million years!” For 23 years, I had been a stay-at-home mom—passionate about raising and teaching my seven children to be part of the next generation of Christian leaders.
However, when my remarkable, visionary, husband passed away in 2009 after a 15-year battle with Multiple Sclerosis, I knew that soon, I would need to work to financially provide for my family. A year-and-a-half later, God provided an opportunity for me to do what I never imagined I would.
I was eager to serve but also more than a bit uncertain, realizing that I knew very little about fundraising.
Starting out as the new Director of Development for the Home School Foundation, now Home School Legal Defense Association’s Compassion Program—which provides educational grants to struggling homeschool families—I was eager to serve but also more than a bit uncertain, realizing that I knew very little about fundraising. Thankfully, a supportive boss allowed me to pursue several avenues of learning to help me on my development journey.
Now, eight years later, our organization is seeing a consistent 9 to 10% annual growth in donation revenue—decently above average statistically for small nonprofits. I attribute this in great part to an awesome team of co-workers and also to some wonderful partner organizations and excellent, educational resources which have propelled me forward as a fundraiser.
What are some of the most important things I’ve learned on this journey?
1. Fundraising = genuinely caring for people—and not just those you are serving through your ministry. Investing your time in building relationships with your donors has a guaranteed return on investment. Regardless of whether or not they have great financial resources, every one of your donors is just like you and me—a human being with concerns, needs, and sometimes real hardship.
Like us, our donors want healthy relationships with their children. They care about making a meaningful difference in the world. And they benefit from encouragement in their faith. We, as fundraisers have a tremendous opportunity to extend the love of Christ through our donor meetings, notes, calls, and prayers with and for them. It’s not the only work we do, but it is the most important.
2. Keeping up with the curve is a must—to be a successful fundraiser, not only is it essential to grow in understanding the work of development, it’s also vital to stay tuned-in to fundraising trends and advances being made in technology. These are the tools you use day-in-and-day-out to raise money.
When I first started at HSLDA in 2012, mobile-friendly donate pages were an anomaly and only 10% of traffic to fundraising web pages came from mobile devices. The landscape dramatically changed, however, in just a few, short years. In a 2016 report issued by Dunham+Company, donors using a mobile device to give to a charity via their website jumped by 80% between 2013 and 2016. And in 2017 alone, Nonprofits Source reported that mobile giving donations increased 205%.
Mobile-friendly donate pages are not a luxury; they are a necessity. If you want to succeed in growing your mission financially, keeping pace with fundraising trends and technology is critical.
3. Take advantage of the best resources—there are some wonderful organizations dedicated to helping you grow as a fundraiser. Many of them offer free—or very inexpensive—training, workshops and webinars.
NextAfter, one of the 500 fastest growing private companies in the U.S., was started by Tim Kachuriak, whose innovative organization model uses sophisticated data analysis—behavioral economics and applied research testing, revealing what inspires people to give in order to exponentially grow nonprofit revenue.
Their generous vision to help nonprofits “reach more people, acquire more donors, and generate more dollars” inspired them to open-source all of their work. Through their Digital Fundraising Research Library and resource page, a fundraiser can access literally thousands of experiments and dozens of free resources.
Christian Leadership Alliance
Equally generous is Christian Leadership Alliance’s (CLA) vision to encourage and equip Christian leaders and ministries to do more for God’s kingdom. As a growing fundraiser, CLA’s annual Outcomes Conference has provided me, year after year, with immediate take-away from knowledgeable, experienced resource development workshop presenters. I’ve even been blessed to experience a continued working friendship with some of these godly mentors.
And the Credentialed Christian Nonprofit Leader (CCNL) Program may just be CLA’s secret sauce—providing valuable, relevant, personal instruction, helping not only fundraisers but anyone in Christian ministry grow in their nonprofit leadership skills and expertise.
Along with graduating from this CCNL program last year, the steps taken along my development journey have provided far more than just education and training—I no longer see myself as the most unlikely fundraiser. Rather, I’m eagerly embracing all the good God has in store for me as I seek to serve him in this ministry capacity.
Tracy Klicka serves as director of development for the Home School Legal Defense Association, HSLDA, a nonprofit association that, since 1983, has been legally advocating for homeschool families—defending and advancing educational freedoms and equipping parents to teach their children at home—and providing donor-funded educational grants to qualified homeschooling widows, single parents, and low-income families.