The Fix: For What Might Be Broken in Your Fundraising

By John Patton

Surveys can tell you what you already know. You’ve felt it slip down your back, constrict your chest, look away in mortification, slide beneath your fake smile. The #1 obstacle to entering full-time ministry?

Fear of fundraising.

Um. But–a lot of people have raised money for short-term trips. Why wouldn’t they stick their necks out there for long-term global work?

The Bake Sale Approach

To answer that, let’s look at some traditional ways people raise funds for short term stuff:

  • For adults, they almost always pay for the costs from their own savings because they don’t want to ask for money. They feel awkward asking someone to fund their trip if they have the means to do so themselves–like they were wearing a sandwich board at the intersection.
  • College students ask for their family to pay or send a form letter to the same list their mom used for high school graduation announcements. Thank you for the shower caddy. Can you send a little something extra?
  • Teenagers are encouraged to do bake sales, car washes, service projects to church members for donations, or send out form letters to a parent’s friends. I know you love my folks. I hope to capitalize on that kindness.

None of these ways have a biblical perspective. It’s all about raising the money and not about mobilizing other Christ-followers or creating a ministry team of partnerships.

Inadvertently, we’ve shoveled raising funds for ministry into the same category as fundraisers for kids’ clubs and high school graduation gifts. Many parents will give to their friends’ kids because they expect the favor to be returned for their own kids, or maybe it’s just the polite thing to do.

What happens after the money is raised? Often, it’s a transactional relationship with little or no follow-up. There’s little to no reporting back of how the person’s life was impacted, or the results of what they saw on the trip. Maybe there’s a video played at church or a testimony given one Sunday morning from the youth group leader, but that’s about all she wrote.

The Point

So it’s no wonder we’ve got so many negative attitudes and faulty perspectives. Our approach to funding global work has got to model a more biblical, relational, and respectful partnership-building. The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4 that giving to ministry isn’t about raising the needed finances.

It’s about mobilizing God’s people to participate in God’s work and receive the benefits of partnering with God.

Giving to global work isn't about finances. It's about mobilizing God’s people to participate in God’s work and receive the benefits of partnering with God. Click To Tweet

I remember being fascinated by a campus ministry whose new staff got to 50% of their monthly, long-term support in 30 days. What gives? (See what I did there?) For the previous few years before graduation, these new staff built and developed an ongoing relationship and trust with the people who gave towards their short-term missions and summer projects. When it came time to raise support for full-time ministry, these new staff already had a pool of ministry partners they had been cultivating for one to four years.

Here, some simple steps to re-engineer your approach to short-term fundraising that will have long-term rewards.

Let’s GET Biblical

  • Have a perspective from the Bible on fundraising. Check out “The God Ask” principle which shows the global worker is asking God for provision, then inviting others to ask God if this opportunity is something He’d like them to do.
  • Learn to share the impact of your work. (Editor’s note: Check out Home Again: Telling Your Story.)
  • Find and complete a Bible study on fundraising, God’s provision, and the gift of giving. (Editor’s note: This site has 5 top recommendations.)
  • Even if you can pay the cost on your own, consider raising support for at least half of the cost. The goal? Maximize the opportunity by amassing a team, not going solo. Just think of the radical spiritual conversations you can have when you share with coworkers and amigos.

Go, TEam!

  • Make a list of 10-20 people who care about you or your family. After thoughtful consideration and prayer, ask for specific financial ranges from each person. You may need to make another list–but start here. Work in concentric circles.
  • Be up front about why you’re setting up an appointment with someone: “I want to talk to you about our plans to go to __, and see if you might be interested in getting involved/pitching in financially, because I think it’s an incredible opportunity.” Plan to share your story of why you feel this opportunity’s worthy of their cash and investment. Share your heart! This can be intimidating–but it’s also very honoring to the person being asked.
  • What not to do: Just send a letter. Follow up every letter with a phone call to explain the opportunity, share your excitement, and ask them to give. If you’re within physical distance, meet face-to-face. (It’s the least you can do for a person who could be paying your salary–and your grocery bill–for the next several years.) Feel free to bring pics or share a short video that can help convey your vision. Consider traveling to other locations where you have clusters of other individuals you could meet with.

Be Respectful

  • Acknowledge every gift (yes, every one) with an immediate thank you note. You might also acknowledge appointments with a thank-you note. (Bonus: It’s a great way to help them keep your cause in mind.)
  • Once you’ve arrived, send notes, emails, text messages, and newsletter updates (with lots of pics) of the impact of your project.
  • When you’re on home assignment, call your partners. Meet face to face with a few of your largest givers to share the impact of their investment.

Fundraising is considerably less scary when it treats people as people, and less like ATMs. Help change the paradigm by creating true a partnership, not simply you-as-cashier. Tens of millions of donors who give to these projects can begin to experience the gift of seeing their money as an eternal investment–and not simply the equivalent of buying a bag of brownies.

A version of this post originally appeared on supportraisingsolutions.org. Gratefully reprinted and edited with permission. 

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