Can Donors Trust You?

Your ministry in a poor country desires sponsors from western countries - but can donors trust you?

You may think, "What does that mean? We need the money to do good Christian work, what's wrong with that? Those rich Christians should help us. It's Biblical."

I am not saying that there is anything wrong with your ministry. It may be quite noble, and even anointed by the Lord. But do you understand how donors in North America think? Do you know what motivates them to give generously? Or what conditions most of them expect from you?

In North America, and probably a number of other countries, a non-profit or charity has to be registered, and the government departments in charge of non-profit organizations check to make sure they keep good records, and do not spend gifts of money from their donors differently than what their rules say. This reassures those who want to give to a trustworthy ministry, that their money will be used properly, and that the leaders will not take or "help themselves" to money that is intended for the ministry or church. That means the ministries must be responsible and trustworthy about how they handle and use the money received from donors.

If your ministry is in another country, the donor doesn't have that assurance that you measure up to government standards in North America. Of course, there are some donors who will trust their own assessment and judgment as to whether you can be trusted with their gifts of money, but that number is not as great as those who give only to registered charities in their own country.

How can you improve your reputation for the sake of those who might give to your ministry - IF they can be convinced they can trust you?

You may already have found and latched onto some Christians in the western world, and you send them emails almost every day, and you attach lots of photos of your people and your ministry, to show your great need. But they don't send money. After a while they don't answer your emails any more either. (Some might even send angry emails telling you to stop). Your hopes are dashed and you complain to your friends about the hard-heartedness of those rich Christians over there.

Remember: you are a stranger to them, and though a few may feel they are getting to know you as you flood them with information, most of them heed the caution of their friends and authorities who tell them NOT to send money to strangers. How can they be sure you are tellng the truth? Like many scammers, you may be building up a story as a front, to get wealth for yourself. In fact, scammers often pretend to be a needy ministry in the hopes of connecting with a tender-hearted, but naive giver. That makes it harder for all the honest and worthy ministries; so I'm asking, can donors trust you? How can you prove you are trustworthy?

Become Fiscally Responsible

You need to learn how to become fiscally responsible and to be able to show that you are trustworthy. (Assuming that you are; for you could be a ministry leader or representative who is NOT).

How to Show Donors You Can be Trusted

Here are a few of my own suggestions;

* Slow down on attaching so many photos - especially if you don't change their numbered names to explanatory names. After a while they just frustrate us and make us angry. Particularly when your loaded-down emails plug our email address so our friends can't get through to us.

* Instead, learn to set up a blog or a website, and load them there. Then just send a link to where your photos can be seen. There are places on the internet where you can open a free account on a photo site, to load your photos at no charge, and then you can send a link to your album there too.

* Start keeping good accounting records of the money gifts you have received, and how you spent them. Then make a short one page report every few months, or at least once a year, condensing all that information, showing simply how much money you received, and how you spent it. Explain your projects and what you hope to accomplish with them. Then offer the report to those who want to know how you spend your money. Two or three times a year is likely enough. Monthly is too often. Be honest. We can usually tell if your report is mostly fiction.

* Set up rules and guidelines for everyone in your organization, including bookkeepers, secretary, and treasurer, to make sure they understand the importance of keeping clear records and that when funds come for your ministry they are only used for the minstry and not personal needs. (Unless you had a special appeal to help out some staff with their personal living expenses. But that should have been made clear in your appeal).

* When you do receive a gift from a donor, be sure to send them a thank you note - and a receipt if you can - so they have proof that they gave to a non-profit ministry. If your mission or ministry is not registered in their country it may not help them to get a credit when they send in their income tax return to their own government, but it will be a record of their giving, and may make them comfortable about sending money to you on a regular basis.

How to Ask Donors for Gifts

Blunt, blatent begging will not be nearly as effective, as a well-written appeal that explains your spiritual goals to do the Lord's work, and then your practical steps to meet those goals. Show what you have already done with what resources you have in hand, and what kind of results you are getting. Show how you could accomplish more if you had some financial help. Show that we can be partners with you in God's work. Prepare your appeal very carefully, with a longer version with full explanations available in a report or on a website, and a shorter version in an email, but then include a link to see the full report on the project if that person wants to know more.

If your English is very poor for explaining these things ask someone who does understand you and the English language well, to help you polish the appeal so that it can be easily understood. But don't let that person tell lies about your work.

Check out the ways that people CAN send you money and be sure to include them in the longer report, but also include a link in your email. It has happened that I have finally got some money to give, and feel led of the Lord to send someone a gift. But then I have to hunt for hours for the best methods for sending it. Can they receive via MoneyGram, or Western Union? Do they have a PayPal account? Note, that a bank transfer between countries is very expensive from our end, and is discouraged by our financial institutions. (It is best for businesses that have a branch office in your country). Find out several ways that would work and give the necessary information to reach you that way. You could put this in a few lines under your signature in your emails.

How to Treat Donors

To build a relationship with people so donors can trust you takes time. Do not treat them like a cash machine. Try to find out more about them, and write or speak to them as equals. Show an interest in their own spiritual welfare and activities. If you offer to pray for them, be sure you really do pray for them.

Address them respectfully, but not like you are a beggar groveling in the dirt. Answer their questions when they ask. Don't over-sell or describe your project or needs as more desperate than they really are - even generous donors get angry when they discover you have lied to them. Provide a receipt or at least a document of thanks for any gifts they send.

And finally, respect that God may be doing many wonderful things in and through that potential donor's life. They may not have room yet in their giving for you. But they could be praying about it. When they have more income, or when someone else they are supporting no longer needs their gifts, they will turn to you next. But that could take time.

One of my biggest frustrations as a donor is that someone may write respectful emails until suddenly they get impatient and then they start sending demanding emails, as if they have counted on me, and now I MUST come through with some gift for them. Or, when I have sent a one time gift, they begin to write as if now I owe them more and more gifts. What do you think happens in my spirit?

Yes, my natural spirit says inside me, "Oh no! You don't control me like that!" If I try to be godly and seek the Lord's will, that feeling will hinder me from hearing His command to send you a gift. I assure you, I do pray about my giving and try to discern the Lord's prompting, but there are more people asking for donations than I have money to share, so I would rather give to those who have shown themselves trustworthy and who have good manners in their requests.

Above all, you must trust God to meet your needs. If a correspondent from a ministry in another country starts to think of me as the ONLY source through which God will supply, I really begin to wonder about that person's right relationship with God. Their trust is in humans, not in the Lord. He has many ways of meeting your needs beside me. I have had to learn to trust the Lord to meet my own needs - not particular humans who have helped me in the past, so I think you should do that too.

Psalm 118:8-9 says, "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes." David testified in Psalm 20:7, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." (Other verses to look up; Psalm 40:4; 18:2; 25:2; 55:22; 31:19; 37:39-40; Proverbs 28:25; 29:25; 2 Samuel 22:2-3).

My Period of Learning to Trust God

My period of learning to trust God came when I gave up my work and life and ministry in one part of Canada, to return to my parents' home, to look after them in their old age. I knew I would have a place to sleep and share in their food, but they could not afford to pay me, so I would have to trust God to meet all my other needs. Those lessons lasted for 23 and a half years. I vowed not to beg anyone for money, except to tell the Lord of my needs, then wait to see how He would provide. He did! I'm alive and well, and able to say that I proved God faithful in many financial crises large and small. I know whereof I speak when I say you can trust God to meet your needs; He will use people to meet those needs, but let God prompt them.

Cry out to God when you need help; but at the same time, make friends all over the world, and be enthusiastic about sharing what God is doing through your ministry, giving Him the glory. Your friends far and wide will begin to give because they want to be part of what God is doing in your lives and work.



Ruth Marlene Friesen Your Hostess

Lessons in Giving