Phil Cooke lays out the problem most non-profits face,
…The problem is, they’re asking for money, not sharing a vision. Look at your media presentations, videos, live events, print materials, and in-person contacts. What do they say? What story are they telling? It’s not enough just to show the great work you’re doing and then ask for money. Perhaps more important, it’s also not just about information. You can bury people in numbers, statistics, and graphs, and still not inspire them to open their wallets.
The secret is sharing a vision that people want to support. Connecting with potential supporters means making them feel part of the vision, and clearly showing them what role they can play. “What’s in it for me?” may sound selfish, but the truth is, that’s exactly what they’re thinking. They need to see themselves in the picture…
Seemingly every community follows the same model: build it, and they will come. Every masjid you step foot in has pictures, blueprints, and models showing their future construction, expansion, or school projects. If those are all knocked out, you’ll see plans for satellite locations. The construction. Never. Stops.
And because the construction never stops, the fundraising never stops either. There’s the annual fundraising dinner. Sometimes the annual dinner is actually held twice in one year to kick start construction. Then there’s the big Ramadan fundraiser, usually at some point in the last 10 nights. That, of course, is in addition to the ‘minor’ fundraising going on every night of Ramadan. Also, don’t forget about Jumu’ah. Everyone attending Friday prayer is someone that should be donating. And if that’s not enough, throw in some more fundraising during the week at Maghrib or Isha time just for good measure.
Yes, this is quite cynical. Yes, the fundraising gets tiring – but that’s not because the money is not important, it’s because of a lack of connection with where the money is going.
“We need to build a masjid to attract the youth.”
Really? Why is it that masjid administration usually remembers the youth at construction time only? Is it just an emotional play to get people to give more, or is it a sincere desire for youth involvement? If it’s the latter, then there must be a track record indicating this. Has the masjid met any tangible benchmarks to actually indicate youth involvement (see this and then this)?
“We need to fundraise for a new multi-purpose hall so we can hold programs.”
This is actually one of the more positive developments in our communities. Masajid are recognizing the need for the local masjid to function as a community center, and part of this is having a place to host seminars and other programs. The problem occurs when a masjid has no vision or track record of having such programs.
What would be your reaction if a board member stood up and began fundraising for ‘educational programs’ even though he himself has never attended a single class at the masjid before?
The way to do it is by being a masjid that has already been busting it and hustling to do things for the community. Have a program where you run out of space. Let people be crammed in to the point that there’s not even space to sit on the floor. Then remind the community about your multipurpose hall fundraising – so that these programs can be better accommodated in the future.
I faced this firsthand. I tried to seek funds for a project I was helping with and got shot down – big time. Then after some work, we were able to hold an event. At the end, we simply said, “If you enjoyed the program please pitch in to help cover the costs” – came out ahead financially.
I know of one inner city masjid that fundraises regularly, and people give for the simple reason that they know what they’re about. Anyone who knows this masjid knows that they provide real community service to the area around them (Muslim and non-Muslim). They’re active in da’wah and social services. So when they come asking for support, people don’t hesitate because they know where it’s going.
You have to figure out the true purpose of your masjid, and develop a plan to execute. Don’t tell a community you’re concerned about their spiritual development, and then refuse to hire an imam because you need to save the money for a fancy chandelier in the new building project. Don’t fundraise for a construction project and dreamcast all the social work you want to do when you’ve never initiated such a program in your tenure at the masjid.
Show people – through action – the work that is being done. Then invite them to take part in it, with you. That’s the leadership that we need. Oh, and it helps in raising funds too.