When the Budget Is Not Enough
Speakers, amplifiers, cords, microphones, lighting rig, computers, and a digital soundboard. As the Assistant Pastor in charge of worship, I was convinced my congregation needed these things (among other techs) to enhance the worship experience and reach more people. The only problem…we were a congregation of seventy-five people, and there was no margin in our finances to make the purchases. In order to buy all the items on my list, we needed $50,000. That was almost half the budget!
Since almost 60% of all congregations in the United States have an average attendance of less than ninety-nine[i], I know I am not the only one who has struggled with the dilemma of needing more money in order to make purchases necessary for growth. Needing more money for more ministry is not limited to only small congregations. Even large congregations struggle to have enough resources to reach more people. The more extensive the ministry, the more money it takes to resource that ministry. Inevitably, all leaders will have to solicit more money in order to further the vision God has given them.
Money is not the answer to a problem. It is one tool that is used to help find a solution.
Fundraising is a necessary part of church and non-profit leadership, I discovered a few principles for effective fundraising. My goal is to help you raise the money you need while being good stewards of the ministry God has given you.
Fundraising is a Spiritual Exercise, Not an Operational Necessity
Always start fundraising with prayer. We are stewards of God’s resources. The first thing we need to do is gain guidance from the Holy Spirit.
Prayer challenges us to stay connected to the vision that God gave us. Fundraising that relates to the vision is much more effective than fundraising for the sake of raising money.[ii] People give to projects and ministries that change lives and change the world. Vision expresses why the money you are asking for can make a difference in this world.
Prayer also helps us to determine why we need or want the money. Before you ask for the money, there needs to be a clear reason why the money is important to your vision. What are you going to do with the money? How is the money going to make a difference in your vision? Can you accomplish the same thing without asking for money?
Money is not the answer to a problem. It is one tool that is used to help find a solution. Seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit will give you the perfect “pitch” for fundraising.
Show me a video of a single dad struggling to put his daughter through college, or tell me a story of a family who lost all their material possessions due to a hurricane, and you’ve got my attention. Convince me that the money you are raising is going to make a difference in their lives, and then you’ve got my bank account.
People do not want to give to the theoretical. They want to give to something practical. They need to know that the money they are giving is going to directly change someone’s life. The former president of World Vision calls this type of giving “Radical Hospitality.”[iii] Giving that changes lives makes the donor feel as though they played a major part in that change.
The best stories are the ones that relate directly to the people whom you are appealing. Your goal in fundraising is to connect people’s hearts to their bank account.[iv] When making the pitch, understand the potential donors’ values. Keep them informed of the impact their giving is making. As a leader, create an organizational culture where donors serve as strategic partners in accomplishing the vision.[v]
Be Personally Invested
Do not ask for money, if you are not willing to invest personally. People need to know that you have skin in the game. They want to see that the vision is so important that you are willing make your own sacrifices for the vision.
I know that as a pastor or ministry leader this is really hard to do. Most of us already have small salaries. Some of us have multiple jobs in order to have a “full-time” pastoral position. It can seem overwhelming to ask you to invest your own money when you feel as though you are already sacrificing. Help your donors see your sacrifice. Be transparent with your finances. Show them how much you tithe. Help them to notice how your family is already investing personally through their time and resource commitments.
Ask for the Money
Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge that was sweeping the internet last year? That was one of the best fundraising campaigns in recent history.[vi] The number one reason I believe it was so effective is because everyone who participated asked someone else for money. Yes, the campaign went viral, was a grassroots effort, and was fun, but each person who challenged someone else said something like, “Take the challenge or donate $100. I took the challenge and still gave $25.” The money was asked for, and the people gave.
If you don’t ask for the money, you will not get any.
It doesn’t matter how good your pitch is or how well you connect with your potential donor on an emotional level. You may have the greatest God-given vision ever. If you don’t ask for the money, you will not get any. Make sure you give your potential donor a specific dollar amount. Don’t be ashamed of asking for money. If you believe in your vision, then you are convicted that everyone else should buy into it, also.
Say, “Thank you!”
The final, and in my opinion, most important thing you need to do in fundraising is to thank the donor and God. Everyone wants to be appreciated. A simple thank you note goes a long way in the heart of a donor. It reinforces the idea that they are partners with you in ministry. It also lays the groundwork for follow-up and asking for another donation at another time.
When giving out thanks, don’t forget about God. If we go back to the top of this article, this whole thing started with Him. You are engaged in ministry because God chose to use you to share His plan of reconciliation with the world.[vii] When He provides the resources you need to carry out the vision He gave you, give Him thanks. It will keep you humble enough to realize you can’t do any of this without Him.
[i] The Hartford Institute for Religion
[ii] Curry, Rodin, and Carlson (2009) discovered that a fundraising strategy connected to a vision raises 50% more revenue.
[iii] Seiple (2010) describes Radical Hospitality as giving that speaks to the “way of the Cross” and challenges Christians to follow Jesus’ example in giving. He goes one to say, “Rarely is there a major gift offered without a strong belief in the abilities of the leadership to maximize the impact of the gift.”
[iv] Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:21 give us the reason for this.
[v] Yi, D. (2010). Determinants of Fundraising Efficiency of Nonprofit Organizations.
[vi] According to Landen (2014), the ALS raised over $100 million which is a 3,500% increase in donations when compared with the same period last year.
[vii] 2 Corinthians 5:18-20