Lessons in Catholic Fundraising

I’ve been thinking about fundraising for Catholic Radio and wanted to share some thoughts about this subject. In particular, the three big lessons I learned (among many smaller lessons) which guide me to this day and that inform the advice I give to anyone looking to fundraise for any worthy Catholic cause.

When I first began fundraising for catholic radio, I have to admit, I was afraid to ask people for money. I’m sure many people would easily relate with how I felt. We are brought up to be self reliant and never to presume upon another’s goodness or generosity. It’s deeply ingrained in us. However, ministries need money in order to fulfill their mission. If it is a media ministry, they need a lot of it. At that time I was like most people. I hated asking for money – even when it was for a cause I believed in.

When I left commercial radio, where I was working as an advertising representative, I had one condition with my new Catholic Radio employer – that I not have to ask for money, ever. My employer agreed. Well… God had other plans.

About a year after my arrival with the Ministry, our main station’s transmitter broke down – permanently. It was a complete loss. A new transmitter would cost about 40 thousand dollars. We were off the air for about a week while our engineers worked to get us back on the air. It took them a week to McGyver a way for us to broadcast – very weakly. Our signal barely covered a few mile radius.

Once we were back on the air, I began broadcasting an on-air appeal that explained our problem and how much we needed to fix it. To my surprise, within two weeks we had everything we needed to purchase a new transmitter.

LESSON #1: God provides what you need when you need it. So, trust in His providence.

As soon as we went off the air and while we were still trying to assess the extent of the problem, concerned listeners began calling us to ask about the problem. I told them what had happened and that we were working on the problem, but I didn’t ask for any money from any donors. One donor couple, whom I will always remember fondly, were moved to donate $40 thousand dollars. And dozens of other donors also contributed. Within no time we had all that we needed for a new transmitter and the parts and labor to have it installed. All it took was asking for help.

A few years later, I was managing a Catholic Radio group where they had already been raising money on-air through twice yearly appeals. This was a new experience for me and I dove in – even though I still had trouble asking for money. But while I was there I began praying about my reluctance to directly ask people for money. Was my fear reasonable? Or, was there something I hadn’t considered? As I thought about this and read more about what the Church has to say about charitable giving, a thought occurred to me. Catholic Radio is a vital mission endeavor, I reasoned. It is the modern equivalent of the mission field. Also, the Church and Sacred Scripture charge every believer with spreading the Good News, yet how many of us actually do anything like that? But if believers help with the efforts of a Catholic Radio ministry isn’t that doing something to spread the Gospel? I thought so then, and do so now.

Lesson #2: In asking someone for financial support of your Catholic Radio ministry you are giving them an opportunity to fulfill their responsibility to spread the Gospel.

With that thought my fear of asking for money disappeared.

As I worked on the fundraising for the station I managed, I kept hoping that some rich donors would give large sums to the ministry; that way we could devote more time to ministry and have a more secure future. But, that never materialized and I wondered why not? As I pondered that question, I looked critically at just where our donations were coming from. What I noticed gave me another lesson.

Lesson #3: God works most often through small donors – lots and lots of them.

It seems to me that God preferred that as many believers as possible be involved in the support and work of the ministry – thus gaining merit for themselves. He can move large donors to support Catholic Radio, which He did while I was there (another story), but for the most part it was for me than and will be for you that small donors making big sacrifices are the bulk of the support received.

The thing I hope you will take away from this is that no matter how dark or desperate things look, if you need something God will provide it. Secondly, that asking for money for Catholic Radio is like a form of giving people an opportunity to fulfill their Christian duty to evangelize (if in a small way). And finally, that God delights in working through His entire family – mostly with small donors in large numbers.

I pray that these lessons help you as you work in the mission field of Catholic Radio. May God bless you and your efforts.

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