By David Dummitt
Whether you’re raising funds for a personal mission trip, planting a new church, or any number of other ministry endeavors, money is necessary to drive God-given dreams forward. In my experience, God has “come through” most dynamically through finances. I have found myself in a position many times where a vision was sure to fail, and yet God has always come through in huge ways.
When it comes to fund-raising, we must pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on us. Pray hard. Work hard.
Here are a few practical fund-raising tips I’ve learned:
Prioritize Relationships Over Resources
When we have God-sized dreams and we’re ready to do the leg work to raise the funds necessary to move forward, we must start by aligning our priorities with God’s. No God-sized dream is from God if it doesn’t involve loving people, including the people we invite to partner with us on mission. Money is important, but people are critical. When we focus on building relationships, the finances will come.
When we cultivate relationships with the people behind the giving, we tie their heartstrings even tighter to the mission. We allow people to be changed and impacted by the work being done simply by letting them know that they matter, not just their wallets; they are a part of the journey, and not just pawns for our own personal achievement.
Tackle the Fear of Fund-raising
Raising money for kingdom initiatives is as biblical as Peter or Paul, but asking for money still makes most of us feel uneasy. In an attempt to save parents from constant fund-raisers, many elementary schools through high schools have started offering parents a “buyout” option at the beginning of the year: parents can donate a set amount, perhaps $30, and be excluded from having to peddle cookies, pizza kits, and overpriced wrapping paper to neighbors and coworkers.
We don’t like to feel as if we have unmet needs. But the truth is, we aren’t meant to go alone. When we ask people to be generous toward God-given dreams and goals, we aren’t asking for favors; we’re inviting them to get in the game. It feels good to be asked to get off the bench, doesn’t it? We’re giving them an opportunity to get into the Jesus mission with us. We can be confident in asking people for financial contributions because they aren’t helping us, they’re joining us.
Have a Compelling Vision
Vision is a foundational element of fund-raising; we need clarity about that vision so we can explain it to others. Here are a few questions to answer to help develop a strong vision:
- What problem are you trying to solve? In church planting, we usually share about the number of unreached people or lack of churches in a certain region.
- Why are you personally passionate about solving the problem and what is your plan?
- What is your budget? Know exactly how much money you need and the deadline for gathering it. You may consider having several levels of budgets: a bare minimum goal (“If we don’t raise X amount, this will not happen”), a healthy goal, and a God-sized goal (the amount that would allow you to take the vision to the next level).
- What level of support will receive a yes from everyone? Ask people to say yes to at least one of the following: praying for your mission, funding your mission, or volunteering with your mission.
Buy In and Gain Some Early Wins
When we are on a mission, we also need to personally buy in. We need to be the first people to give to the goal. When we were fund-raising to plant 2|42 Community Church, which I serve as lead pastor, we asked our entire staff to give 30 percent of their salaries to the plant. Believe in your vision enough to be personally invested. You cannot lead others to give unless you first pave the way.
Once we have skin in the game, we can start asking for gifts from people who are the most likely to give; that will lead to some early wins. Rising above the “zero” commitment level early on builds your confidence to invite others to give, and it also demonstrates that others are backing the goal. People are generally more inclined to contribute when they know others have already given.
Segment Your Contacts
Nonprofit fund-raising experts use a fancy phrase: “donor segmentation.” This simply means making a list of every person we want to ask to donate, and dividing them into groups, or “segments,” based on common factors. Some people in our respective spheres of influence are high-capacity givers, churches, or business leaders looking to give to worthy missions. Others are able to give a few dollars here and there. Still more would serve on a fund-raising team to ask even more people to contribute, which multiplies influence and opportunity.
People are not “one size fits all.” We need to tailor our “asks” to fit whom we are asking. Segmentation enables us to communicate with people in ways that are meaningful to them as individuals, while also building rapport, credibility, and trust.
Say Thank-You Quickly; Say Thank-You Often
Appreciation goes a long way in developing healthy relationships. When my wife, Rachel, and I married, we wrote thank-you cards for every gift we received, whether brand-new pots and pans or a cross-stitched coaster set. (OK, it was mostly Rachel; she has much better handwriting.)
When people who partner with us know that we notice and appreciate their partnership to drive the mission forward, relationships are strengthened. We can say thank-you many different ways, be it a personal telephone call, a public shout-out on social media or from the stage, or a good, old-fashioned card in the mail. Whatever way you choose to do it, say thank-you.
Fund-raising doesn’t have to be awkward or a burden. In fact, fund-raising can strengthen relationships and the church as we work together to achieve a God-sized vision.
David Dummitt is the lead pastor and planter of 2|42 Community Church, one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the country. He is also on the lead team of NewThing, a catalyst for reproducing churches worldwide.