The Catholic Fundraiser

Turning Donors into Mission Actualizers Through Cohesive Messaging

Posted by Madalene Buelow and Jennifer Pick on 4/3/19 11:40 AM

Advancing the Mission Through the Art of Good Messaging-1

Advancing mission through the art of good messaging. If this concept has your fundraising-right-side and message-crafting-left-side brain seizing up, keep breathing…and reading. Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration’s (FSPA) mission advancement and communications departments are appealing to donors to help further ministry by sharing compelling stories — those of the global community in need and our sisters’ call to serve it — through a voice that’s consistent and clear. Furthermore, FSPA donors are responding with the goodness of philanthropic action and doing what is theirs to do to make ministry happen.    

Here is part of FSPA’s story of how we have advanced the mission through the art of good messaging.

Strategic Planning

A project board and a calendar are our friends. Roughing out a time sequence for our semi-annual magazine, newsletters, annual appeals, and special events have been crucial. In the past 10 years, plotting our communication and advancement strategies together has made all the difference in how our donors connect and respond. Each department has its own responsibilities regarding the implementation, staffing, and execution of the plan, but dismantling the silo has made a tremendous difference. Our departments work well together as a team.

At FSPA, the biggest push for communications in the mission advancement world is the last quarter of the year, October through December. We come together with added team partners from leadership and the mission advancement committee to brainstorm a unified theme that will run through all of our publications and social media messages.

It’s here that responsibilities are commissioned and team players take off. In most cases, the communications department is responsible for editorial content and the design for our #GivingTuesday campaign in addition to all publication phases of our magazine Perspectives and our monthly mission advancement e-newsletter, Perspectives Update.

Mission advancement creates the annual appeal package with communication support for design, printing, and distribution. For the magazine, mission advancement also provides ministry grant background for story development as well as accountability statistics for reporting purposes.

Reaching Donors Where They Are

It’s been important to keep up with changes in media vehicles and the formats preferred by our donors. About every six years the communications office, with input from the mission advancement office, performs a communications audit. We poll our congregation, affiliates, friends, donors and founded institutions to ask how they like to hear from us, when they want to hear from us and what they want to hear. If we want our donors to be actualizers and buy into our important ministries, we need to reach them where they are.

Collectivizing our stories and pitching them through different media channels has also been a game changer. We retell ministry-appealing stories published in internal FSPA communication vehicles in Perspectives Update. Vocation videos are embedded in our social media channels, always linking to our website for more in-depth coverage. FSPA’s membership and affiliation departments share these connections through their own communication vehicles. We try to cover all our bases and work smarter, not harder.

Consistent Messaging

By letting the theme do the talking and keeping the visual elements of the plan’s components consistent and readily identifiable through branding, our stories are hitting home with donors. A recent advancement theme evolved from FSPA’s mission assembly – A Revolution of Goodness. Here, we invited our donors to join us as revolutionaries by customizing their own action plan, inviting them to “be the good” for those we serve.

Goodness was the literal thread that bound together the publication pieces of the plan. The title of each ministry grant story in the magazine’s fall issue, such as “Doing the good: Unity and Diversity at the Glenn Workshop,” spelled out the difference ministry grant support can make. Our December e-newsletter series, with stories like “Sister Juanita gives the goodness of many ministries,” continued to tell the tale.

The #GivingTuesday campaign, donations from which directly supported initiatives for mental wellness advocacy, called donors to be “#BETHERE for mental wellness.” Such goodness was consistently shared in social media messages throughout the development quarter. All told, our stories of being the good led to fundraising success.

Hard Work Pays Off

While consistent campaign themes can practically write themselves, we’ve found that a solid branding platform ensures everything developed by communications – all publications, e-newsletters, social media messages, and website content – easily and readily identify our stories as those of FSPA ministry. Logo, fonts, colors and writing guidelines work as well as themes do. We use those developed for our branding platform to articulate every message we send including those in our goodness-themed development campaign.

While creating our brand involved an initial commitment of time and teamwork, it’s paid off in a big way. No matter what vehicle we used to send our messages of goodness, visual design was almost a no brainer. We pulled from the palate of fonts, colors and FSPA-centric language and wove in the theme. Done!

The moral of FSPA’s story is this — outline a solid plan, craft a consistent message, and deliver it in a readily-identifiable package. Donor response to our stories is truly making our ministries matter.

If you are interested in learning more about topics like advancing your organization's mission through good messaging, join us at a workshop near you where we will explore this and other topics in greater depth. 

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Madalene Buelow and Jennifer Pick

Written by Madalene Buelow and Jennifer Pick

Madalene Buelow is Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration director of mission advancement in La Crosse, Wisconsin, serving the congregation as such since 2006. To further FSPA mission advancement, Madalene has established the monthly giving program “Franciscan Friends” as well as the planned giving program “Circle of Perpetual Friends.” Together with FSPA’s department of communications, she has led four very successful #GivingTuesday campaigns. Her work has also included collaborating with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and Affiliate Homelessness Committee for the fundraising event ParTee for a Cause, which raised more than $48,000 in 2018. A professional journalist and communicator for several nonprofit organizations since 1994, Jennifer Pick currently serves the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration’s department of communications. Through writing and editing, Jen crafts FSPA’s ministerial stories for print and web publications, manages the blogs Show me a sign and Messy Jesus Business and shares the goodness of the congregation through social media. For the past two years, Jen has led communication team collaboration with FSPA Office of Mission Advancement’s end-of-year efforts, including the #GivingTuesday campaign.