Creative Fundraising: Assets Over Needs

Raising money. Challenging, but doable. According to social policy expert Dr. John McKnight, “you don’t know what you need until you know what you have.”

Needs are easy to spot partly because we always find what we are looking for. Our questions shape the answers we find.

Flip your fund-raising script from a need-based to an asset-based approach. Instead of asking what we lack, we might map the assets of a church or ministry. There are institutions, and natural resources, as well as gifts, talents, and enthusiasms of the people in any organization.

If we start with assets over needs, we see a very different picture of a community, and we work alongside those in communities to capitalize on these assets to work for change.

I want to suggest that an asset map of our faith communities might also serve as a fresh approach in our fundraising. Of course fundraisers already recognize their donors, board, and staff as assets, but the assets of faith-based fundraising are not simply the potential and size of one’s financial gift. What other gifts, talents, enthusiasms are a part of our organizations that might lead to growth in our communities:

Are there peer organizations that we can rely on for best practices?

Do the people in our networks feel comfortable speaking about money and giving?

Are those inside and outside our organizations passionate for developing a shared mission?

There are an abundance of tools to help one map the assets in their organizations or communities and I would encourage you to take stock of assets over needs in your organization. In many ways, an asset-based approach seems to fit perfectly with a biblical concept of stewardship.

How might those entrusted with raising resources for faith-based organizations begin to map the assets of their communities?

First, put your organization at the center. Write down the assets that come to mind. In our first attempts, material assets most often come to mind: budgets, buildings, endowments.... But if we take a second look, how many of these assets are non-material? Along with financial capital, what other assets do our organizations have in terms of human capital (knowledge, skills, resources, commitment, and values)? What about social capital (community networks, partnerships, traditions)?

Asset-mapping allows us to uncover what is already there, but ?often overlooked in our organizations. For many of our?communities, some of our richest resources are stories.?Maybe it is the story of your organization’s founding. Maybe?they are stories of organizational transition and transformation. Or maybe they are stories of transformed individuals or communities. Our vision and mission are also assets that keep us fixed on our goals and enable us to avoid wandering off course.

If you have taken the time to put you and your organization at the center and map the assets that you can see, then you might next enlist others to help and ask what they see in you. Asking both those that know you well and those who have less connection give you a valuable look at your organization with fresh eyes. What do they notice that you were unable to see?

As your organization considers its assets, you are bound to see that many of them may be connected to you, but they are not ones that you control. Consider how you are connected. Are you in the same family - literally blood relatives, or of the same theological tradition, or a part of the same institutional umbrella? Maybe you share geography – you are in the same community even if you address different issues. Maybe you share a similar mission – you are in different geographical locations, but are both working toward ending childhood hunger, homelessness, or sex trafficking.

In addition to the assets under our control such as staff, budgets, and buildings, we have an abundance of resources with which we are in relationship. In your mapping, you might consider what level of engagement you have with these other assets.

•   How are you connected?

•   Why?

•   How might we engage these assets in a deeper and mutually beneficial partnership around our shared purpose? ?In places where we may have assumed we only had deficiencies, maybe we had simply not considered those under-developed assets and relationships around us. Perhaps a sense of competition could lead to cooperation. Moving from asset-mapping to action steps is never simple, but taking stock of the assets in our organizations is the first step.

Lake Institute on Faith and Giving. Used by permission.

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