So, how do you create a missions support raising Strategy that works?
“To fail to plan means to plan to fail,” goes the old saying. One friend of mine counters that “everyone has a plan—the problem is, many people use the “No-Plan Plan.” They plan to have NO plan – and that in itself is a kind of a plan.
Yes, the ramp-up to go into missions service, whether full-time, part-time, back-and-forth or just staying home, or just raising money to support a partner- all of these require a lot of work. So developing a strategy for this kind of work must be a priority.
“But,” you say, “So are other things, theological training, language school, cultural preparation, family issues, and program development — those are a priority too.”
Maybe so, but as a wise person once taught me, “If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.” And, if the fundraising doesn’t work, then nothing works. It is that simple. But if you succeed in this endeavor, you will have serious momentum and enjoy the sense that God IS involved in this project.
Hudson Taylor’s quote is the best of all: “God’s work, done in God’s way, never lacks God’s support.”
Missions Support Raising Strategy
STEP ONE: Breathe deeply
Breathe deeply and let your body, mind, soul, and spirit embrace these fundamental truths: GOD will be the source of your supply. “Trust God and tell the people” is sage advice. This is your first Key to success.
If you flip that around and tell God (whining to him in prayer), and then you blindly trust the people (without totally informing them), this will not go well. Yes, I have read George Mueller’s story too – but while he only prayed and did no fundraising, he did have others who put the word out, plus he had a very large and visible building in the middle of town and dozens of orphans who were seen around town coming and going to school, etc.
Mueller trusted God, yes. But the people were informed – and in those stories where they miraculously dropped off food the minute he needed it — they didn’t have to stop and call for directions. The people were informed.. and they responded.
Next Key: you are not in sales! You are a detective, following clues and leads to see who God has already called and motivated to support you. Your job is to show them the opportunity and see if they are the person you seek, and if not, “they are off the suspect list.” Someone else is the right person in this ‘who-done-it” mystery.
This critical thought will revolutionize everything you do in fundraising: you are not in sales – you don’t have to arm-twist, beg, or manipulate people- keep searching to find the ones that God has already called. And they will let you know…. After you let them in on the plan.
Third Key: Realize that you are ministering to your mailing list. I love that expression- it changed everything for me when I was doing this. You already know what you need from them: prayer support and financial help. But what do THEY need from YOU? (You must know the answer to this!) They need to know that they are an indispensable part of what God is doing here – through this endeavor- so they need to know the who/what/when/where/ and how much…
You start with “why” (there’s a good leadership book by this title: “Start with Why”) because that’s how you cast the vision. And people will give MUCH more to a vision than they will to a need. Oh yes- they might hand a $20 bill to a guy on the corner with the cardboards sign, but they will give $ 200/month to a missionary IF they themselves can hear, understand and articulate the vision— how will this mission extend the Kingdom of God somewhere on earth? And what is God doing with the funds sent?
Fourth Key: Money flows through relationships, and people give to people they know because they know them—but they do more when they know “the mission.” So right here in step one, you must be able to articulate the cause fluently — and know that when you do enlist a donor, you are making them a better disciple – a better steward – a stronger follower of Jesus –and once you grasp these “keys” the whole thing becomes easier – it’s just a normal part of ministry.
STEP TWO – Research, Find, and Connect
Research, Find, and Connect into some system of missions administration – so that your people (when you begin to talk to them) will know not only why they will give, but they will know WHERE to give—and how to give — to whom to make the check payable, what goes on the memo line. Can we give online, and how? What are your PayPal, Zelle, routing, and account numbers? All of that must be at hand. “Make it easy on the donor” was another nugget I learned from the veterans.
Once, I was approached for a giving opportunity (a church plant), and when I asked, “Well, what exactly is the vision here, and by the way, where would I send a check?”
His answer: “Oh, you can just go to our website and read about our vision and all that other stuff.” WRONG! Don’t ask me to do the research! The tone of his answer indicated he felt he was doing me a favor by letting me give, and I could do all the homework myself. Wrong Again! Sadly, I declined that opportunity- predicting (accurately) that this thing would never get off the ground and fly (and it didn’t).
Servants of Christ International is just one such mission administrative agency. You may have this solved already- but… know the history of your agency and its doctrines and be able to “give an answer” to those who ask, “Who are those guys, and why are you with them?” Donors who give to agencies worry if their funds will be used as they intend. You must know that and must provide them with that assurance.
Or, if you are going to “do your own thing” and build your own non-profit 501c3 tax-exempt entity, that should be done FIRST and long before you ask anyone for help.
I have actually been approached for financial support by people who had to admit, “we haven’t actually got around to doing all that paperwork yet.” Say what???
STEP THREE: Ponder your Prospects
Ponder your Prospects. Yes, money flows through relationships – so think of your potential donors (a target audience, if you will) as a series of concentric circles -like rings on a target. That inside group is mandatory- your best friends, your fellow church members, your church, people who mentored you, or people you led to Christ – the tightest circle of people you have – START THERE.
If (sadly and inexplicably) your best friends decline to help, or if your own church turns you down…. This is a huge “red light” on the instrument panel – like the ‘check engine” light – it doesn’t go away. Maybe stop, back up, and re-check everything. Something is wrong with your approach, vision-casting, or relationships. The inner circle of friends and home church ARE the bell-weather and momentum builders.
For building a more extensive list, I like to think of it this way: were you getting married this month, make a list of every single person you know on earth- and ask the question, “would I invite this person to come to our wedding?” You can keep them on the list, but if you would not invite them to come, they are likely on the mailing list as “leave them off of appeals.” Also, (just my opinion) I would leave OFF any blood relatives- people who might have to give you a kidney. If they want to give, they’ll inquire…
Plus, as a born-again believer, I look at the master mailing list we have, and I ask: is this person a Christian, defined as “a person in whom Christ lives.” I don’t care about denominations, no. We are living in a post-denominational age, for sure- most people don’t know or care much about why their church has a particular name or connection. But, you want to talk to people who understand the Great Commission, and there’s no time to waste talking to people who name the name, but.. if they were put on trial for being a Christian, there would not be enough evidence to convict them!
STEP FOUR: Get the details
Okay, you have a vision, an agency, and a long list of names, addresses, and emails. If you are unaware of this, “fastpeoplesearch.com” is a free site that will give you addresses and phones for people – and if you click on “view free details” for many, you can get emails. Phone numbers change a lot, but emails tend to be kept forever these days. And, if you pay a little money, many other good sites will help you find people. OR, go to Facebook, find them (friend them too) and message them asking for their phone and/or email.
Speaking of Facebook, it’s an excellent tool for this- for UPDATING your friends. It is NOT a good tool to make a “shotgun” ask – you will never reach your fundraising goal doing shotgun asks. No, all the tasks need to be made one-to-one. But I have found that people who “like” one of my posts showing an update of a mission project tend to be good prospects when I follow up with a personal support letter about our next project!
STEP FIVE: “The GOD Ask”
Now comes the heavy lifting- communicating with all these people. For this, you really need to buy a copy of Steve Shadrack’s book “The GOD Ask.” This is the best work on this topic since “Raising People- Raising Support” is a classic but may be out of date now.
The cost of “The GOD Ask” will yield many times over a fine return- it is the best!
Personally, when fundraising, I like to do a letter (or email), but a letter is the best – it is on paper, it tends to sit on the desk (or be tossed into the bills drawer), whereas emails tend to be read and then “next” … the reader moves on. Some people leave stuff in the inbox, and others delete or archive it – in an instant.
Either way, the KEY to this step is to follow up with a simple phone call around seven to 10 days later. “Did you get my letter about (whatever)?” That’s the “triage” question- after that, they will sort themselves out, and you will be able to answer questions and determine if this is a “right now” prospect, a “next year,” or a “never.”
STEP SIX: Personal meetings
I believe, whenever possible, ask for a personal meeting- fly or drive across the country if you must- that is money well spent. Stay in their homes if they will let you—I have stayed in countless “prophet rooms” (guest rooms for preachers) and enjoyed amazing fellowship with believers – who invariably became supporters.
STEP SEVEN: Customer relationship management
You must have a system for “CRM” customer relationship management. You must write down (or log on a computer) every contact with every potential supporter – because there is no way you will be able to remember who said what. Your agency may give you all kinds of details of how to do this – but some common themes to know: some people respond to the first appeal. Others need two or three. Some need seven!!! Yes – and you must learn to discern who is saying “maybe later” and who is saying “this does not interest us.”
One more time: this whole business of mission fundraising is not sales – it’s detective work.
And never be disappointed by the size of a gift or commitment. Every one of them is significant. “Major donors” usually start out as minor donors- they test the water to see how you will respond.
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