Maximizing Year-End Giving

One ministry's story of success.

By John Carley

Not Many Organizations will turn down the opportunity to start something big: to be a catalyst for change, to champion a cause. Whether you belong to a grassroots nonprofit or a media- savvy megachurch, today’s organizations are dreaming big and using technology to get real results. Who settles for mediocrity when the means to fuel a revolution are at your fingertips?

Fred Jordan Missions (FJM), a nonprofit ministry that provides physical care and spiritual hope to thousands of women, children, and families, has sparked a spiritual revolution of its own on the poverty-stricken streets of LA and around the world. Sixty- five years ago, Fred Jordan shared the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness with a friend awaiting execution on death row, and made a promise to minister to those Jesus called “the least of these” by founding the skid row ministry.

Jordan was a visionary, and soon he began training and sending missionaries and building schools, orphanages, churches, and hospitals around the world. Fred’s wife, Willie, is known as the Mother Teresa of skid row, and has committed her life to living out Jesus’ statement in Matthew 25:35–36: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

The Jordans’ 65-year-long story is truly inspiring, but how does FJM face today’s harsh realities? Traditional mail donations are down by 30 percent, while the number of those coming to the ministry for help has increased dramatically. In this economic climate, ministries desire to offer assistance more than ever. Where does technology and the Web fit into this picture beyond a Face- book page and Twitter account? How can ministries transition their web presence to broaden their support base amid the worst recession since the Great Depression?

Four years ago, FJM partnered with Trinet Internet Solutions Inc., a full-service web firm headquartered in Orange County, to help expand its web presence through a new website. Today its donor base continues to expand as it becomes more technologically relevant. Willie Jordan says, “When we first started working with Trinet, we never dreamed a great website could make such a difference for our ministry.” Just as the organization has moved forward in its various ministries, its leaders want their technology to follow suit.

Approximately 60 percent of FJM’s online donations come during the year end months. Trinet used the prime giving season to implement a few key strategic campaigns that have augmented the mission’s 72 percent year-over-year growth in online donations. As you strategize new ways to reach constituents, broaden donor bases, and transition into new technological trends, consider the following year-end campaign tips.

Be Original

One of the key benefits of having a website is the opportunity to differentiate your organization. Use the space to tell your story creatively. Don’t just ask for money; also explain to visitors why they should join your cause and how they can personally impact lives. You will not only establish credibility but build trust as well.

Share stories of how past holiday donations impacted the lives of beneficiaries. Transparency is not only valued but rewarded by donors. Patrons love to feel connected to a cause, and immersing them in a narrative allows them to give generously and joyfully.

Also consider customized giving options. FJM’s Boxes of Hope campaign projected a donation light box with appealing images of gift options for supporters to choose from. This allowed constituents to give to any cause in any fashion through online, mobile, or integrated marketing campaigns. Think creatively about ways to encourage new and repeat givers to get excited about being involved.

Be Specific

We know you already set donation goals. (If you don’t, then start!) Establish a dollar amount and timeline, and don’t shy away from sharing the specific monthly targets. Supporters respond to a specific donation goal more than to a generic call for funds. Engage them further through a description of what the dollars will accomplish. What appeals more: “Donate Now!” or “Help us Feed 100 Needy Families on Thanksgiving! A $25 Donation Feeds One Family of Four”? Trinet created an online thermometer to measure the progress of FJM’s yearly Thanksgiving outreach. Presenting a clear need and solution enabled the ministry to meet its annual online donation target, a 20 percent increase from the previous year.

Also, timing is still key. Use dates to create a sense of urgency. Deadlines push donors to follow through instantly instead of holding off for a more convenient time. FJM implemented a last-chance banner around New Year’s to ramp up final giving-season momentum. The holidays provide a chance to urge donors to act.

Be realistic

There are many technological advances under way and trends emerging. Pay attention. Take note of what’s working, and ask yourself how you can implement those developments or parts of them into your current strategy. Be honest when you need support. If you choose to hire an outside firm, find people who understand your mission and can relate to your constituents.

Also remember to integrate your online initiatives into your other marketing efforts. Suzanna Choi, FJM’s public relations representative, says, “It’s all about connecting to people both on and offline. You need both to maximize potential, but they have to work together.” Online and offline campaigns should flow together seamlessly, inspiring constituents to adopt your cause as their own. Choose a communication channel mix and make sure your year- end campaigns touch every one of them.

Further, start tracking your specific monthly targets. Evaluate last year’s effectiveness and seek to achieve realistic increases in donations. Don’t put impractical expectations on one giving season.

Be faithful

In the words of Willie Jordan, “Pray, pray, pray!” Technology has given organizations unprecedented potential to minister to those in need. Online and year-end campaigns are now as much a part of ministries as the messages that are shared and should be lifted up likewise.

Beyond the planning, strategizing, and implementing, give God room to work. Don’t lose sight of your mission, of course, but don’t lose sight of who Jesus is. Asking who he is to you today refocuses your eyes and heart on him and fills you with the love that enables you to reach his people. Willie says of their underlying passion, “Our vision to physically and spiritually impact the lives of children and families has allowed Fred Jordan Missions tremendous opportunities to share the love of God and enables our constituents to join hands with us to extend the compassion of Jesus to a hurting world.” Never lose sight of his calling “to seek and save the lost” by keeping Jesus at the center of everything you do. We live in a digital universe where technology permeates every area of our lives. It is a powerful tool that we must use effectively if we are to be salt and light in a world that desperately needs to know him. Covering all of our efforts in prayer allows the Lord to come through in ways that leave no doubt it is his Holy Spirit bringing the results.

John Carley is the president and CEO of Trinet Internet Solutions Inc., an award-winning ministry web firm. Founding Trinet in 1995, John has led the company to build websites, applications, and marketing campaigns for some of America’s best-known ministries. As a featured speaker for many national tradeshows and organizations on emerging web trends and technologies, John is passionate about helping ministries reach more people for Christ through their online presence (


If you’d like to learn more about this topic or Trinet Internet Solutions, Inc.

please contact Melissa Wong at 949.442.8900.