Almost all people serving in global missions are directly involved in raising their support. Most of them wish they didn’t have to do this, but the truth is, missionary fundraising is nothing but another form of disciple-making! And that IS our commission…go and make disciples. Once you grasp that, it changes your whole experience. And here are five missionary fundraising principles that will help you to grasp that concept:
#1. Raising Money For Mission Trips is Ministry
The first principle to make mission trip fundraising more effective is understanding that “stewardship” of financial resources is a component of spiritual growth. Mature disciples manage their money well- which means they earn, save, spend, and GIVE also!
Anytime a missionary enlists a new financial partner to engage in “missions giving” (online donations or even donation jars at their church) you are helping that person become a better disciple. For sure, God is not going to punish a believer for giving to missions- no! God is more likely to reward them (in one way or another) both in this life and beyond.
So, read the above paragraph again and again until this soaks in—enlisting financial partners means making better disciples — you not only minister to people in the mission field, you also minister to people who are your financial partners.
#2. Fundraising for a Mission Trip Is Detective Work
Second principle: do not see yourself in “sales” because you are not selling anything. No. See yourself as a detective – you follow clues, you chase down leads, you make contact, you interview people, and ask questions – including, ‘Would you like to join in this mission as a financial partner?”.
Seeing yourself this way – as a detective – is vital. When someone turns you down, it won’t feel like rejection — instead, you note, “this is not the person I am seeking.” They are off the “suspect” list.
The presupposition here is that if God has called YOU to do this work, then He has called OTHERS to support this work. Hudson Taylor, the legendary missionary to China, put it this way: “God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s support.”
Your job is to work through the maze of people with whom you have connections and figure out whom God has already called. The called people need you as much as you need them. OH, once you have this mindset, you are halfway home!
#3. Tell the Story of Your Mission
The third principle is to “begin with why.” Make sure that you take time to cast the vision of “Why this mission needs to be accomplished.” You “cast” this vision, like casting a net over the water – not seeing who will catch it – you throw it out and see whom God puts in the net. After “why” you can share “who, what, where, when, and how.” But until they hear and understand why this is important, they haven’t caught the vision.
The “how” is important and you do need to show them clearly: (a) to whom to make the check payable, and (b) where to mail it. Don’t just say, “mail a check to this address” but say, “mail a check payable to (your ministry) to (your address). The point here is to “make it easy on the donor.” Tell them WHY and then tell them HOW.
Most Americans have no idea how to send funds overseas or even how mission fundraising and processing systems work. That is why Servants of Christ International provides a “hassle-free” way to have the mission support services done for you (the administrative processing, recording, acknowledging, and reporting of funds). Let us know your mission trip fundraising idea by reaching out to us here.
#4. Outline the Mission Trip Fundraising Goal
The fourth principle here is to understand what monthly donors need to hear back from you. Ask yourself two critical questions:
1) What do you need from your donors?
Answer: Oh that’s easy – we need monthly donors sending funds, giving faithfully.
2) What do your donors need from you?
Answer: not so easy a question, is it?
Wrong answers would include:
- Gifts we bring back from the field.
- Words of affection and gratitude.
- Personal visits when we are home.
- Naming things after the donors.
All of those are GREAT things, but not what they “need.”
The correct answer is, “they need to know what God is doing with the funds they send.”
When I was a Senior Pastor of a large church, I read more than 30 missionary letters a month, all from people I knew and people associated with our church. Too many of these letters began with the same opening line:
“Oh goodness, it’s already the month of (whatever), and we’ve been so busy, we have not written our support team in four months.” <words to this effect>
To me, that always sounded like they were feeling this:
“We hate having to write these things, so we put it off as long as we could.”
I would not recall if they didn’t remind me that they hadn’t written in four months.
Then, what often followed in the content of the letter, was “family news,” not unlike a Christmas letter but dealing more with what has been going on in the home of late. The catch is: while this message is great for grandma, the target audience for these letters is the MISSIONS SUPPORT TEAM, the monthly donors – not grandma!
I’m delighted that you recently vacationed at the local beach, and it’s cool that your daughter won the prize for (whatever). But that’s not the purpose of the letter!
And more often than not, the last paragraph or two would be the report:
“We did conduct a special campaign last month,, and 20 people came to Christ.”
Now we are talking! However, putting this at the bottom is what journalists call “Burying the Lede.” The most effective newsletters use this in the headline – to communicate, “Hey, look what God did through this missionary partnership in which you are vitally involved.”
The other content that needs careful editing (lest it drags down the spirit of the letter) is prayer requests. Sure, include one or two specific ones – (the Apostle Paul did this in a few places in his 13 letters – maybe four times TOTAL.) But spare us a long list of people you know out there who are ill (we have those here); political obstacles (ditto); conflicts that should likely be left unsaid, or disappointments that you need to bear
Finally, don’t say, “pray for our financial support to be increased.” Look carefully at that request – you are asking them to “pray,” but what you need to ask them to do is to GIVE. You might say, “oh, we wanted to be subtle and indirect and not be assertive.”
Nonsense! You are communicating from a distance, in a limited media (words on paper), and the thing is already impersonal enough- the reader knows this is going to dozens of people. Personal fundraising needs to be “personal.” So communicate your request:
“Would you consider joining our monthly support team with $ 40/month?”
That is a specific and personal request – nothing assertive, just crystal clear.
Remember, you are not ‘shaking them up” but “raising them” to be better disciples.
#5. Effectively Communicate with Monthly Donors
If you can send one version of your letter to monthly donors and another to “not yet donors” but people on our “prayer list,” you could appeal to the non-donors: “Would you consider a one-time gift to be a part of our team?”
The second step (and you’ll hate this, but it’s not that bad) is to call them. You only need to ask one question: “Hey, did you get my letter?” They will sort themselves out. It is the “triage” question – of course,, they got the letter, but they will respond one of five ways (and three of them are “yes” answers).
#1 Yes, and we are planning to give. They really were, but now you have a verbal commitment, and you can instantly express genuine gratitude. “Oh, that is wonderful, and we are so grateful – praise the Lord for putting this on your heart.”
#2 Yes, we got the letter, but we have questions. No worries here- answer their questions and they are IN. And hear me: if they were not interested in giving, they would have…. No questions. I get calls from the “Save the Whales” people- and I never have a question. I don’t do whales. Whales are big boys, they can fend for themselves – no questions from me.
#3 Yes, we got it, but we are tapped out in giving right now. “Okay, you reply, I understand – and I appreciate you reading our letter and considering this.”
Then, be quiet and listen.. see if they say, “But keep us informed” or “keep us on your list.” Over the years, I learned that people who said this DID finally get on board – perhaps they had a few months left on some capital campaign (but Americans won’t tell you that.) Just keep them informed, and next year, ask them again.
#4 They say they have tapped out and are careful NOT to say, “keep us informed” or give you any clue like that. Likely you can remove these from your suspect list.
#5 Yes, we got it, but this is not something we would be able to support. That’s the big NO, and they need to go off your suspect list. I once had a man say, “but we are Catholic, and we give through Catholic Charities.” I didn’t know this! I replied, ‘Well, of course, you give that way, as you should.” (and… they are off the suspect list.)
If you don’t follow up your letters with a call, you miss out on all this feedback.
Your goal is to learn “who’s IN” and “who’s OUT.” This will significantly simplify your future efforts — and that’s a key to making your fundraising more effective.
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