Maybe it was just me, but my first impressions of fundraising were simply that it’s a nuisance, an inconvenient way to get the money I need to do what God’s called me to do. Notice the me’s in there? That’s a bunk way of viewing fundraising, but it’s how many guys think about it.
Here’s the thing, if you’re just looking at fundraising to get you over the hump into a full-time ministry calling, you’re probably thinking about ministry all wrong. If you’re a pastor, you will always be fundraising. You will always be providing a vision of God’s localized call for your people and asking them to contribute to make that God-lead vision happen. And that means money.
Fundraising is always about Leadership.
Thus, fundraising is always about leadership. It’s always about a certain type of leadership that clearly articulates vision and the value of that vision in such a way that people want to be involved. There’s no coercion. No guilting. No manipulation. Clear vision. Clear value. Clear appeals. We’ll get to how to do appeals later, but the leadership part is essential.
This view of leadership looks at the ministry aims that need financial investment and looks at the individual donor’s personal need for growth in Christ-likeness.
Leadership in fundraising wants to marry the ministry vision and personal donor’s personal needs and desires. That doesn’t mean morphing the vision to fit their needs (more on this another time), but having a view of people that sees that they give to ministries that say something about them, or actualize something that they want – either in the mission they’re supporting or in the act of giving.
Think about it like this. At the end of Paul’s letter of encouragement, after his famous statements about contentment, he turns to fundraising. The church at Philippi had recently sent him a financial gift, and he in turn says: This was very kind of you, but it’s “not that I seek the gift, but i seek the fruit that increases to your credit” (Phil. 4:17). His leadership aim in their lives was their sanctification – their growth in Christ-likeness. That’s the “increase to your credit”. He wanted them to specifically grow in generosity, to be more like Christ’s generosity who counted our needs as more significant than his own (Phil. 2:3). And they did. They grew in generosity, but not in etherial, unspoken praise report type ways. They grew in this specific act – they wanted to grow, and thus gave sacrificially to support Paul’s ministry.
That’s the point in leadership for fundraising. People are being invited to support a ministry that they value and want to contribute to realizing. Their personal interests are why they support your ministry vision.
This is the main principle: Money follows ministry.
That simple. You care for people, care about their needs, care about their personal growth and recognize their personal growth in their giving, and you’ll be a good leader. You’ll lead in a way that fundraising happens to be the context of your partnership with people in the grace of God.
As a fundraiser, you need to have a crystal clear vision of what you’re asking people to contribute to realize. Some things are easier to actualize than others. For example, “Hi, I think God’s called me to go to Africa and help build infrastructures to provide a better life for orphans” is easier to bring people into than “Hi, I’m going to school to become a better pastor”. The former has an immediate value. Orphans? Um, yep, they need my cash. Here’s my bank-number. Oh, so you need to become a better pastor? Take out a loan you slacker, there’s orphans in need!
In fundraising it’s easy to visit the Pity Party For Me, By Me party. Somebody said no to supporting me, therefore I’m horrible and probably shouldn’t exist. Well, maybe, but somebody’s No maybe just be the prompting you need to clarify what you’re asking them to give. You may also be asking them too soon (more on that at a different point), but often I see sloppy fundraising presentations that depend on “Hey, like me” rather than a clear “This is what God’s doing, wanna partner up?”
A God-given vision, not my wildest dreams
You see, you’re inviting people to realize a God-given vision. You’re not asking them to support you and make your wildest dreams come true. You’re the agent, the emissary of the ministry vision, asking them to partner in mutually making it happen. Thus, your leadership is about building a team, a team of donors that make X ministry vision happen. People aren’t cash bags just waiting for you to figure out the code to get them to open up. They’re people, and you’re inviting them into a ministry goal.
At the end of the day, successful fundraising in a church environment will seek to build faith, not simply money. If we aim at faith and love unapologetically, with clear, accessible onramps for people to support what we’re doing, if they choose not to support us, but have been built up in the faith, we have been successful. And that personal relationship is essential to the long-term goals of fundraising (more on that in another post). While we are seeking to build people and their faith, fundraising is about money, which means we aren’t giving people the “Prayer Support” option for what we’re doing. That’s great, but not the aim. It’s a tension – I know you’re feeling it right about now. Not about money? But we don’t want prayer? No, that’s not what I’m saying. Your on-ramps for people expressing faith may or may not include financial donations, but your leadership in the relationship will guide their faith towards expressions that build the fundraising campaign. For example, subscription to your newsletter (which you must do, or you’ll die) is an onramp. This principle is called the Five Yes’s, and I’ll write about this more another time.
But the principle here is this: Successful fundraising builds people up in the faith with a clear vision for your ministry goals and accessible onramps for how they can participate tailored specifically for their needs. This is the type of leadership that fundraising requires.
This is hard work. This isn’t easy. It takes time, reading, thinking, crying, praying, crying and pain to clarify your ministry vision. And just to make this really clear, you need to get it under 100 words. If you can do that, you’ve got a clear ministry vision that will garner attention and interest. Often guys who are ministry-types like to talk, and get lost in the words. I’m on several newsletters that have too many words, not enough clarity and pictures (more on newsletters in a later post).
Thus, fundraising isn’t about hand-ringing and awkward conversations trying to make your budget. All leadership is a bit awkward at first. Suck it up. Be a man. Get out there and lead.