DMAW Panel Talks Differences Between Secular, Faith-Based Fundraising

WASHINGTON — A panel with representatives from different faith-based organizations met at the Direct Marketing Association of Washington’s annual Bridge Conference July 13 to discuss strategies for reaching donors.

Eighty-eight percent of all giving in the United States is to faith-based organizations, highlighting the need to get the outreach efforts right for this group.

“Faith-based fundraising is fundraising that appeals to a sense of responsibility located in the center of the moral individual,” said Nick Simmonds, vice president for development and public affairs for Hebrew Home of Greater Washington. “It is not so much a religious affiliation as a cultural one.”

The panel agreed that seeking to help donors meet their needs through the gifts they make is essential. The religious aspect will only dictate the organization’s proposition and how it is put before the donors.

“I think the one difference between secular fundraising and a faith-based organization is the assumption one can make within the context of that relationship, such as some sense of obligation felt to fulfill your mission,” Mr. Simmonds said.

A fellow panelist offered a similar sentiment.

“People want to affiliate with something that makes them a part of a communal personhood,” said David Belkin, senior consultant and supervisor with Skystone Ryan, Washington.

Another key difference between faith-based and secular organizations is that donors giving to faith-based groups do not want recognition.

“Our donors do not want to be recognized because to them giving anonymously is the highest form of giving,” said Heidi Thompson-Pena, director of individual giving for Sojourners, Washington.

The panel said that most challenges in faith-based fundraising come from getting high donations and gaining corporate help.

“There is a challenge in how you approach money, because a person who gives the most is valued the same as the person who gives the least,” said Sandra Renner, Principal, Renner Consulting., director of foundation relations for Sojourners and Call to Renewal, Washington.

Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity have corporate sponsorship with The Home Depot Inc. and Whirlpool, yet they stem from a faith-based organization. The panel said that often the name of an organization will turn sponsors off if it contains any religious connotations.

“A lot of people don’t realize that the Salvation Army is a church, and they get tremendous support because that is not what they emphasize,” Ms. Renner said. “So it is the message that you send out that really speaks for your organization.”

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