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The Four Ds of Discouragement in Ministry Fundraising

by Scott Morton


September 11, 2017

In ministry fundraising, as in life, you will face discouragement—guaranteed!

Especially when you receive a “no” when you expected a “yes” from your last fundraising appointment!

Although it’s impossible to avoid feeling disheartened, it’s possible to overcome these feelings by identifying the four Ds of discouragement in ministry fundraising. Here’s what to do when the blues color your view.

1. Disappointment

Over three decades of fundraising, I’ve discovered that discouragement is impossible without a previous disappointment. Perhaps you began your fundraising journey with gusto, only to be met with a lukewarm response. Or you worked hard to carefully craft a fundraising appeal to a hand-selected group of potential donors, and they declined your invitation.

Even a small misunderstanding can precipitate your disappointment. I recall one incident several years ago with my top notch assistant Donna. After saying goodbye to her before leaving the office Friday, Donna was frowning. I stewed about it all weekend—disappointed and discouraged. Monday finally arrived, and I asked Donna, “Why are you angry with me?” Not surprisingly, she wasn’t angry and wondered why I worried. A disappointment needn’t be big to launch the discouragement cycle.

2. Doubt

If disappointment is not identified, it leads to self-doubt, the lack of confidence in oneself and one's abilities.

Imagine giving a fundraising appeal to a group of potential donors. You invested hours to develop an impassioned presentation. You selected the right venue and asked people with the capacity to give to join you. They thanked you politely for your time but didn’t say yes to fund your mission. Beyond disappointed, you start to doubt your effectiveness.

“Maybe I should have shared more stories. Maybe I should have dressed differently. Maybe I didn’t invite the right people.”

These self-doubts are normal, but they send you further down the path to discouragement.

3. Disillusionment

Disillusionment now takes over your mind—you lose objectivity.

Rather than regrouping after a fundraising appeal that didn’t yield the results you expected, the third D – disillusionment – derails your ministry fundraising by letting doubt grow into erroneous, debilitating conclusions.

In the example of the fundraising appeal gone array, we now conclude: “I’m terrible at fundraising! I shouldn’t have tried at all! Why did I think I could do this?”

When our emotions kick in, objectivity goes out. We are disillusioned with our fundraising and want to escape—like David who said in Psalm 55: 5-6, “Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” (NIV)

We too want to escape our discouraging reality so we are more tempted by sensual escapades, over-sleep, over-eating, longing for a vacation—all because we are disillusioned.

4. Discouragement                                         

When the doubt and disillusionment experienced in reaction to disappointment are allowed to smolder, we descend into full-fledged discouragement.

You’ll recognize discouragement in many forms. In the example of the fundraising appeal, discouragement tricks you into thinking you’re not only a poor fundraiser but also a bad Christian worker, a bad husband or wife and a bad person. “Why was I even born!” we wonder.

If you reach this pit, not even the reassurance of friends or loved ones can convince you otherwise.

Bring Disappointment to the Lord

Although discouragement is part of life, you are not a victim. Combat it by identifying the specific disappointment that began it all. Yes, this takes humility to recognize the trigger and admit that a situation didn’t turn out as expected. But until we do, nothing can be done to break the cycle.

Scott Morton Quote, 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)When fundraisers are at this point, I encourage them to bring their disappointment to the Lord and read 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (NIV). Tell the Lord specifically about your disappointment—He can handle it!

I find reading Scripture and praying provides the biggest help, but what you do next also is critical: Get back on the phone whether you feel like it or not. If not, you run the risk of languishing in discouragement.

To put it another way: Do what you’re supposed to do because it’s the right thing – not because you feel like it.

But how do you find strength to do the right thing? Look no further than Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

I define grace as “supernatural enablement to help you do what you must do whether you feel like it or not.” When I trust the Lord to provide grace, somehow—marvelously—I find the ability to “get back on the phone.”

So where are you at today in the 4 D’s? If you are disillusioned or discouraged and life seems overwhelming, review the past few days and identify the disappointment that started it all. You can come out of this—ask God for supernatural enablement!

I share more about the four Ds of discouragement in this video, which is ideal for individual fundraising. I also invite ministry leaders to learn more about fundraising and how to help their missionaries fundraise by reading, “Blindspots: Leading Your Team & Ministry to Full Funding”.

About the Author:

Scott MortonScott Morton serves as international funding coach for The Navigators. After graduating from Iowa State University and starting his journalism career, he moved from part-time ministry with college students to full-time ministry with The Navigators. That’s when the fundraising adventure began. After serving on campuses in the United States, with short team ministry stints in Asia and Europe, he joined The Navigators U.S. Development Department in 1985. In 1997, he led the U.S. Navigator fundraising strategy as vice president of development and took the international funding coach role in 2010. Scott has written five books, including his latest, “Blindspots: Leading Your Team & Ministry to Full Funding,” for Christian leaders to learn about fundraising. Every leader could profit from this book, whether you supervise one, five or 25 people.

Category: Missionary Minded