Most nonprofits are going the extra mile to make sure benefactors keep on giving. But the low-key Christian Aid Ministries has not changed anything about outreach to its Amish, Mennonite, and other Anabaptist supporters. Its methods are already incredibly successful.
In Christianity Today's January 2009 survey of giving by committed Christians, Christian Aid finished far and away as having the highest average giving amount from individual donors. In 1981, David Troyer founded the Berlin, Ohio, charity that helps victims of war, economic hardship, and natural disasters.
In just more than a quarter century, Christian Aid has become a $187 million organization. Troyer says the nonprofit's primary method of communicating with donors is a direct-mail monthly newsletter explaining opportunities to help. A response coupon and envelope are included, and 99 percent of the support comes the traditional way—through the U.S. Postal Service. Troyer, who is general director of the organization, says the average annual contribution per donor in 2008 amounted to $1,255.
"Our supporters aren't generated from TV ads," Troyer says. "We make them aware of the needs through the newsletter. Then it's between them and the Lord." Christian Aid has averaged a 9.5 percent growth rate annually for the past 20 years.
"We don't feel comfortable pressuring donors," Troyer says. "We won't be saying, 'We're really hurting. Could you please dish out some extra?'"
Many Christian Aid contributors are employed in construction and furniture making, two hard-hit industries during the current recession. Even though pledges are currently 5 percent ahead of last year, Troyer is preparing for up to a 15 percent drop in revenue in 2009.
But he sees one significant bright spot in the weakened economy: More people are available to give their time as volunteers in addition to their financial support. "We use a lot of volunteers, rebuilding hurricanedamaged homes on the Gulf Coast, for example," Troyer says. "It's easier to get volunteers in the midst of a crisis because there are fewer job opportunities."
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This article was posted with "The Not-for-Profit Surge" as part of Christianity Today's May cover package.
CT has more coverage of the economic crisis and money & business. Other articles on charities and giving include:
Scrooge Lives! | Why we're not putting more in the offering plate. And what we can do about it. (December 5, 2008)
Some Boats Stay Afloat | An economic downturn isn't always bad news for giving. (December 5, 2008)
Church Giving Outlook: You've Got Some Time | Research shows that members' contributions stay steady through first years of recession. (October 16, 2008)
Philanthro-Pinch | Economic downturn sparks worries over giving. (July 11, 2008)
Overturning the Money Tables | Rusty Leonard is a financial manager who wants to change how you give and invest. (July 11, 2008)
Charity: Businesses Find Money in Charity | Are for-profit Web sites skimming the collection plate? (February 19, 2001)
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