The church I attend, like thousands of churches around the country, supports a number of small local nonprofit organizations, financially or in kind. Every so often, one of those nonprofits send a representative to give a brief report to the congregation, thanking for its support and describing the great things the organization does. After this brief report, often referred to “a minute for mission”, the speaker sits back down in the pew, and the service continues. After the service, those who wish to socialize go to the basement for refreshments and conversation.
Yesterday, we had one of those speakers report on recent successes. Being the fundraiser I am, I wanted to speak to the person who spoke to the congregation to learn more about its mission and methods and see if there was anything I might be able to do to help them. I looked around the sanctuary at the end of the service, and the speaker was nowhere to be found. I hoped I would see her in the basement to ask more questions, but when I got down there with my 95 year-old father in tow, she wasn’t there either. There were a couple other people I ran into after the service were disappointed that the speaker didn’t stay too.
The sad thing I have to say about this incident, is that it is far more common than not, to have an organization’s representative leave immediately after their speech, rather than to stay for the entire service or meeting and talk after, let alone come down to coffee hour and meet people who want to meet them.
I just don’t understand how or why you would want to miss the opportunity to learn who in the congregation supports your organization. I don’t understand why you would give up the chance to make stronger ties with more potential supporters who already support you through their congregation. I don’t understand why you don’t close your remarks by saying that you will be happy to meet after service and answer any questions the members might have. The door has been opened for you. Why aren’t you walking through it?
I believe that when a group, whether religious or civic, invites you to share the thanks and the news of your organization, it is important to stick around and be available for those who might have questions. You should do your best to answer those questions, encourage more support for your mission, and of course, thank them personally for what they have already done. That would be the more donor-centered approach which will likely get you recurring support from the church (or other funding organizations) and more individual support from its members. A lack of accessibility can cost you in the long run, so when you have the opportunity to speak to a group of supporters, please stick around.