Developing Evangelists

Recently, I wrote about the importance of having the right person ask the right prospect.  Understanding and implementing this concept will greatly enhance your fundraising outcomes with individual prospects.

However, to increase your overall fundraising success, there is a broader concept that must be mastered:  Developing Evangelists.

Evangelists are those key people who regularly encourage others to increase their involvement with your institution.  Effective Evangelists come in many shapes and sizes, but all possess 3 characteristics:

  1. They have a passion for your institution’s mission and/or vision;
  2. They are influential with others; and,
  3. They proactively look for opportunities to build trust between your institution and others.

In our work as advancement leaders, it’s easy to spend large amounts of time, energy, and money on developing the perfect case for support, conducting and analyzing wealth-screening research, and developing strategies to cultivate and solicit our most promising prospects.  And this is all important.

But none of it is as important as developing Evangelists.  Evangelists can spread our institutional messages further and deeper than our advancement office can alone.  Evangelists can influence those we can not.  Evangelists can build trust more efficiently and effectively than the institution ever can.   And we spend precious little time, energy, and focus planning and implementing strategies to develop these Evangelists.  To do so, we must implement a broader understanding of good advancement work.

First, we must identify those people who are passionate about our institution’s mission and/or vision and have significant influence with others (these folks may be different than those who have affluence).  Second, we must engage them collectively – through the creation of a council, group, or board – and provide them with specific tasks to perform.  My firm, GGTS, has developed a robust list of 20 specifics roles and tasks that Evangelists can play.  Finally, we must develop metrics that can appropriately assess the impact that Evangelists have on our institutions.  For instance, number of new donors, amount of increased gifts year over year, number of new leadership-level donors, or event attendance, etc.

In the old days, we used to talk about the distinction between “friend-raising,” and “fundraising.”  But successful advancement teams have come to understand that both phrases are incomplete and inaccurate.  When we reach our Far Edge of Promise, we are not simply “friend-raising,” or “fundraising.”  We are building awareness and enthusiasm for an institution which does good on a large scale, we are providing people with meaningful ways to engage with our work, and we are creating environments that encourage generosity.    In short, we are doing the kind of work that needs more Evangelists.


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