Stop Asking for Money

fundraising-thermometer

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.

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters, Qalam Institute, Muslim Strategic Initiative, and Debt Free Muslims. He is a regular khateeb and has served in different administrative capacities in various national and local Islamic organizations. He works full time in the corporate field, is a PMP, and certified Leadership Trainer through the John Maxwell Team. You can follow him on on Twitter @ibnabeeomar, and check out his latest project - The Fiqh of Social Media.

Omar UsmanStop Asking for Money

6 Comments on “Stop Asking for Money”

  1. Amna Razzaq Saeed

    Couldn’t agree more.  What the Boards or the old people in-charge don’t realize is that we not just know what’s happening in other masajid in the city but know what masajid in other states are doing, how churches are tackling similar problems and what the experts in this field are blogging about. There are sometimes projects that most of the people don’t even understand the need for, but rather than taking time to explain it, have an open debate, hear ideas and engage people — the common notion is we’ll pay a motivational speaker he will  use ayat and ahadith and Muslims HAVE to open their wallets. With bad economy and escalating devastation overseas, something’s gotta change !!

  2. Hassen

    Excellent post, masha’Allah. Fundraising appeal can’t just be based on an idea of what an organization would like to carry out. They have to show that they are actually pursuing that with whatever resources currently available.

  3. Salahuddin Shamsi

    Islam is the only religion in which there is no clergy, no temporal or spiritual institute like all other religions.
    Narrated in Muslim book 34, you would tread the same path as was trodden by those before you inch by inch and step by step, so much so as they had entered the hole of dhab, you will enter too, he messenger of Allah meant Jews and Christians.
    looking at the above hadith, aren’t we following these two ( Jews and Christian ), building temple or church like huge multimillion dollar massajids and hiring professional imams with big pay and hardly any service to Allah.
    Allahu aalam, as I understand, just like begging and trading are haram in masjid, fundraising is too.
    Allah is ghani, we are faquire, in masjid how dare we turn our back to Allah swt and start asking for help from human beings using his ayaat-e-Quran. May Alla’h guide me if I am wrong, this a form of shirk.
    For aqamat-e-salah, we need small but simple Masajid in every residential area in the city, not multimillion dollar Masjid ,where only few show up to pray, rest is used for power struggle.
    Focus should be, to make Islamic schools, where education and character building should be done according to Islamic teachings, these institutes should produce best of the best Muslim professionals.
    tragdy is, muslims religious and political leadership is in incompetent hands. Oh Allah help us Aameen.

  4. Syed Hossain

    Many of our youth are struggling to choose their carrier. This is one of the Fantastic carrier our youth should think about it. It is not unknown that a professional fund raiser makes more than $200,000 in a single Ramadan. Most of them work for a contract like 10% money should go to Shaik pocket. I think every Subahnallah, Alhamdu Lillah triggered them inside to make money. It is completely a Halal Business with no sincerity or love of your own Deen.

  5. Sultan Murat

    Esselamu Aleykum. Their Brother and Sister. How to do it? Fundraising. We have a new rent mascid. We need buying big building.

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