by Lorraine Mazza

Lorraine Mazza is managing director of development with Joni & Friends International Disability Center. She’ll participate in an educational session on giving that ECCU is presenting at the Christian Leadership Alliance 2013 National Conference in Anaheim, California.


“Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.” (Philippians 2:4–5)

I have been asked so often about the guiding principles for working with major donors and how our ministry has been blessed with success in this area. I always respond in the same way: “Keep it personal.” Let me explain.

As Christians, we live in and are influenced by the secular world. Our high-tech, high-speed lives have often been created at the expense of true personal relationships. Much of what was once considered social graces has been replaced by expediency, creating the oxymoron “virtual personal relationship.” In the business world, companies must turn a profit. If it saves money, it’s “good.” Consequently, mechanical voices have replaced that all important first human touch with customers. Acknowledgements by email have replaced personal thank-you notes. Too many times the end (profit) justifies the means at the expense of personal contact.

For the Christian nonprofit, this rapidly widening cultural shift creates opportunity. We live in a world where a simple and consistent policy of building a personal relationship has become a distinct competitive advantage. As Christian fundraisers, we have committed our lives to a Savior that requires a personal relationship with Him and requires that we reach out in a personal way to others. The art of the personal relationship shouldn’t be left out of the development department. We should be the champions of personal relationships.

Fundraising, especially among major donors, cannot succeed unless it is fully integrated into the ministry culture from the top down and accepted as ministry itself, providing a service to the donor.

All fundraising is ultimately about personal relationships and about ministry to our donors and donor prospects. We cannot minister and bless these people unless we have developed some kind of personal relationship with them. To “keep it personal,” we must know our donors. Why did they give to our ministry? What is it about our ministry that drew them to us? The only way to answer these questions is to personally ask them. That means seeing people in person, calling them on the phone (without asking for money), or acknowledging them with a handwritten note. It means we ask for their prayer requests and pray for them. When we do this, we bless our supporters and all those our ministries serve.

Our desire is to honor God in everything we do. The secular world often seeks to be served by asking, “What are you going to do for me?” But the Bible tells us to put others first and ask, “How may I serve you?”

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