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Most of our Missionary support raising blogs have focused on how to do it effectively, but this time, let’s shift gears and explore mistakes and ‘faults’ that can decrease effectiveness. Just like in bowling, if your foot slides across the foul line, your “strike” won’t count.  So take care to avoid these footfalls in fundraising…

1. Fuzzy Vision. 

You are presenting an opportunity for people to partner with you on a mission or a project, and your first step is to “cast the vision” like a fisherman casting a net.  The donor must “catch” or “see” what it is you are trying to accomplish- what difference to the kingdom of God your endeavor will make.  They need to catch some of your vision and your optimism for this effort. But as Vance Havner famously said, “you can’t be optimistic with a misty optic.” Make sure your vision has clarity and credibility.

2. Lack of Detail.

Whenever I am presenting a project to a donor (like a church construction project), I expect that they may have some questions. Having the answers to their questions is key.  They will ask you things like, Where is this place? What kind of people live here? How many people will this chapel hold? What is the pastor’s background and training?  Sometimes I struggle to obtain all the answers from the international partner, but without them, I would be going in blind to see the donor. Having the answers makes it easy for them to say “yes” to your appeal, whether monthly support or an annual gift.

Secondly, it must be specific to the donor, “how much” we are asking, and “how and where to send the funds.”  Make it easy on the donor, I was taught – don’t make the donor research or remember how to give. Spell it out, on paper, in an email, etc.

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3. No End Goal.

When there’s no target in fundraising, no “budget” or “campaign goal,” the donor will shy away.  If you are asked, “how much do you need?” you must have a specific answer. If you say (on infer), “we need all you can give…”  The donor will hear a different message:  Whatever you give will not be enough. Thus the donor now feels, “whatever I give will be insignificant to the need here.”  Forget it.  Donors need a target, and they need to know “how much has already been given towards this goal.” 

4. Need-Based Appeal.

Instead of a vision, you base all your appeals on need, like this:

“Without the help of new donors, we will have to shut down this mission field.”   (I would say, then shut it down. Sounds like God is not in this thing at the moment.)  Better approach: with the help of new donors, we can reach twice as many people (or whatever) – that’s an appeal based on “vision.” 

5. Failure to Report Results.

When I ask missionaries, “what do you need from your donors?” they are quick to answer: “Prayer and financial support.”  But when I ask, “What do your financial partners need from you?” usually, they are dumbstruck, having never thought about it. The answers are not “thank you notes” (although those are great) nor “gifts” or “things named for them.” The real answer is, “they need to know what God did with the funds they sent.”  Don’t make these mistakes.

They need to know, “what you did with their investment that produced some kind of result.  If you sent funds for a missionary (or partner) to buy something, send a photo of that something – maybe send a copy of the receipt too.  Or tell the story of the pastors’ conference they funded (oh, photos here would be easy). If the funds were for ministry expenses, what happened last month? Tell the good, the bad, and the ugly. Tell the truth. But TELL IT… do not assume that they don’t care; they really do want to know.

Final Thoughts

And finally, you already know that funds flow through a relationship.  Keep in mind your commission is to “make disciples,” and the people you hope to disciple are not just out there in the field, but they are also the group of your support team and donors.

Yes, “minister to your mailing list” was a great wake-up call for me. Send them not only “news’ in your newsletter, but give them some spiritual food, a brief anecdote that illustrates biblical teaching. Share something you learned this month.  Email them and ask for their “news,”  what’s going on in their lives, their work, their family.  They took time to work and earn money that was given to your ministry.  So your ministry should take time to “close that loop” on a regular basis and give back to them your love, care, and concern.


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