This month one of our readers, Paula Cowan, offered to share some great ideas she has written on raising and keeping support. I was delighted for the offer and have been blessed by the information she shared. I think you’ll find her ideas both affirming and helpful.
While living overseas, finding new supporters and keeping the ones we have can be a major source of stress. When we only have a few supporters, hearing that one of them must discontinue their support can be frightening, even to mighty women of faith like us! Seriously, though, in some cases it has made the difference between continuing to serve overseas and returning home.
Then there are the challenges of keeping up with our correspondence, no matter how many supporters we have. That can take a huge portion of our time, but as Paula points out, it is time invested, not time wasted.
It is good for us to remember that we are not just aiming at meeting our budget each month. Our higher goal is to make connections between supporters and the people we serve.
Paula has practiced and taught this material to many PWs, simply because she wants to help others succeed in connecting with their supporters. She says, “Out of every 100 people who stop supporting a cross-cultural worker, 66% say it is because they think the missionary doesn’t care about them.”
In this newsletter, I’ll touch on her main points and summarize her teaching. Her three articles will be posted on Peter’s Wife so you can download them and learn more from her.
As I read Paula’s articles, her master key is easy to see: treating everyone as personally as possible. With a short donor list, we can more easily cultivate personal relationships with each one. With a very long donor list, it is not possible to know everyone personally. However, we can help each one know they are important to us and our ministry. If someone is willing to be one of our supporters, we should take the time and effort to let them know we appreciate them and their support.
Make sure you thank donors as soon as possible. You may only know who donated or how much they gave when you get a monthly report from your board. That means it could be months before your thank you could reach your donor. Don’t let it be any longer than necessary.
Writing is still the primary means of communication, whether on paper or electronic. Ask your supporters if they prefer paper or email. Paula says, “Because mass-produced newsletters are quite low on the list of effective ways to communicate, try to hand write your supporters as much as possible.” I would add that if handwritten notes are not feasible, at least send a personalized email.
Here are some of her specific directions about the way to write to your supporters:
Use their name. Don’t just address the letter to “Friend.” Help them feel you are speaking directly to them. (For email, be sure to use the “blind copy” (bcc) feature to make each email look as though sent to only one person.)
- Keep it simple. Say, “Thank you for X amount.”
- Keep it specific. Mention how you spent the money to meet a specific need.
- Keep it personal. Give your supporters an introduction to a real person with a real story. Paint a picture for them to remember.
- Keep it short. Too many words and they won’t read it.
Keeping good contact with your supporters is an integral part of your job description. It is not optional. It is not a tacked-on afterthought to be done when you have the time. It is not a distraction. Like Paul, we can always be thankful for the loving people who partner with us for the sake of others.
Paula writes, “We have a special privilege. We can take the hand of a supporter and with our other hand link him or her with a person who also needs Christ. Until they hopefully meet in heaven, you are the person who gets to connect them. Serve and minister to both ends of that human and kingdom linkage.”
Download Paula’s articles: