by Jill Ragar Esfeld
LENEXA – When the archdiocesan office of stewardship and development offered its second symposium on Jan. 17 at Holy Trinity Parish here, participants were given a crash course on the art of fundraising.
The topic of the lunch presentation was: “Cultivating Major Gifts,” and speaker John Flynn made it clear that “asking for a gift is the easiest thing we do.”
The real effort of fundraising, according to Flynn, is the time spent with major benefactors before the ask “sitting one-on-one with people and having a conversation.”
Flynn, vice president of philanthropy for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), knows what he’s talking about.
Since he joined that organization in 2009, FOCUS has more than tripled the number of missionaries and campuses it serves.
Under his leadership, FOCUS reached a $250 million comprehensive goal for its “Run So As To Win” campaign.
Flynn explained the process of cultivating and soliciting supporters in seven easy steps — and participants were definitely taking notes.
“John was fantastic,” said Bill Maloney, executive director of stewardship and development for the archdiocese. “I thought he gave a great practical overview of the nuts and bolts of major gift cultivation and solicitation.
“But he also gave a great testimony on how to do that in our Catholic environment.”
Indeed, Flynn encouraged participants to see the place philanthropy plays in salvation history.
Alluding to the parable of the rich young man (Mt 19:16–30), Flynn said, “We have a great opportunity as development people to help people of great faith, influence and affluence in terms of bringing them closer to Christ.”
Flynn talked about straddling the fine line between being aggressive and being assertive when soliciting donors.
He gave participants solid guidance with his “golden questions” to ask benefactors while cultivating a major gift.
“He was engaging,” said Terri Lynn, assistant director of stewardship and development. “I think the questions he offered to get started building a relationship with your major gift prospect were definitely the most valuable questions I’ve heard.
“A lot of people just don’t know how to get started in that conversation.”
Flynn also emphasized the importance of following up with donors after their gift is received.
“It’s extremely important to steward the relationship,” he said. “Report back on the impact their gift had, how it made a positive impact on your apostolate.
“The best supporters we have are the current supporters; those are our future supporters.”
The symposium offered participants a wealth of information, but its purpose was greater in scope.
“My goal is to bring all the development professionals from throughout the archdiocese together,” said Maloney. “It’s an opportunity for them to network and to have professional development.”
Maloney voiced appreciation to the Catholic Education Foundation for sponsoring the luncheon for this symposium.
The first two symposiums have been so successful, the office hopes to host three or four each year.
“In the future, we may talk about different ways people can give,” said Maloney. “We may talk about databases at some point.”
Subject content may vary but the object of sharing ideas will always be at the forefront.
“The reason I think that’s important is we’re all trying to do the same thing,” Maloney continued. “But we don’t really compete.
“So there are a lot of good ideas out there that we could be sharing between our different organizations.”