At some point in your ministry, you likely will have to raise money. While there is certainly theological basis for fundraising to further the sharing of the Gospel with all people, perhaps you wonder what you can do to better your fundraising efforts besides praying more. Although I would encourage you to engross yourself in prayer, there is more to fundraising than solely praying and hoping.
Successful fundraising has considerably less to do with great ideas and infinitely more to do with solid fundraising philosophy and its application (read Mark Cook’s article, “Philosophy of Fundraising” for more thoughts). While every fundraiser and group of people has their limiting factors, there are specific actions to fundraise smarter and more effectively.
Connect the “What” with the “Why”
What’s this for?” It’s the first question you need to be able to answer when trying to raise money. Everyone will ask it because we all want to know where our money is going. This is an easy question to answer.
Why should I care about this?” This is the most challenging and critical question for you to be able answer and what you really want people to know. You need a great answer to this question. This question gives you the opportunity to paint the vision about the long-term and lifelong benefit your cause has on people beyond the limits of the hearer’s current understanding. It’s possible this person has the same passion and has been waiting for a teammate to help champion this cause.
You will never know or access this potential if you don’t connect the “what” with the “why” and establish respectful trust that will lead to the development of partnerships with greater success in the future.
How Often You Ask Matters
Have the goal of asking for money only once or twice per year. People will appreciate the assurance they aren’t going to be asked for money endlessly throughout the year. This creates a sense of urgency for people to give now. One-time donations are easier to commit to than ongoing donations. This also helps you avoid coming across as a beggar. You want people to give towards the “why,” not out of pity.
Asking for money constantly is nearly as exhausting as being constantly asked for money. Consider your time, energy and resources, as well. You have a purpose to pursue in your ministry. Be faithful to your calling, not a slave to financially supporting your programs.
Set Financial Goals
Get your finances straight ahead of time. Know what your bottom line number is for what you are currently doing. Then develop a plan for how you would use additional money raised. The second number should be your publicly stated goal.By setting financial goals…
- You determine the level of support and giving you are hoping to garner from your supporters. This helps people understand the gravity of your cause’s “why”.
- You legitimize your cause. It suggests you are professional, organized and have a plan for the money you raise.
- It allows you to determine if your fundraiser was actually financially successful and helps you plan for future fundraising events.
Stop Selling Stuff
When you fundraise by selling products, you will rarely recoup even half of the money you gross because the product overhead is too great. And you’ve excluded the people who don’t want the product you’re selling. On top of that, consider the time, energy, and real estate you’re committing towards making less than a 50% profit in most cases.
People who are willing to support your cause/organization do so because they believe in your “why,” not because you’re providing great products. Why give half of your potential earnings to a company that cares nothing for your “why”?
Worst of all, you communicate that your cause alone isn’t worthy of donation in its own right. You never want to become that organization that sells products to the point that potential and past supporters begin to avoid you because they don’t want more stuff.
Attract the Right Audience
Fundraising events seem to attract two major groups of people: 1) those who want to give and 2) those who want a great deal. Focus on the former.
In my church, we have an annual dinner that is our sole fundraising effort for youth missions. My first year, we served over 400 people a BBQ meal and netted $5,500. The following year we changed the theme and menu, making the event more upscale, and promoted it accordingly. We served 300 people and netted $9,700 ($10,000 was our goal). Why the difference? Less overhead and food costs? It had an impact, but was less than $500. The difference was the 100 people who didn’t come, who barely donate enough money to cover the cost of their meal.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to get a great deal, but you don’t want the great deal to be at the expense of your group’s fundraising efforts.
The easiest way to raise money is to seek sponsorships. I’ve found that it has virtually zero overhead and yields the highest revenue to time ratio of all fundraising activities. Most businesses are looking for the personal and meaningful connections you can offer and want to be associated with upstanding organizations in their community like your group.
Here are six guidelines for sponsorships:
- Establish the terms, what you get, what they get.
- Have different levels of sponsorship available ($200, $500, $1,000, etc). Don’t limit your prospective supporters.
- Develop a list of contacts for potential sponsors. Start with businesses that have a personal connection to you or your church. Then look to businesses in your local area. Finally, avoid chains and national corporations that do not allow local employees to make financial decisions and have convoluted and exhaustive processes with stringent parameters.
- Contact them personally with a phone call initially rather than visiting the business. When you meet with a business owner, dress appropriately (business casual). Their perception of you is critical.
- Have a summarizing letter printed on letterhead that includes the terms along with your FEID number. They now have a single piece of paper with all the essential information for their accounting. Send invoices upon their agreement to sponsor.
- Thank you letters are required and must be in the mail within five business days following the conclusion of your event. This will legitimize your organization and be a step towards a future partnership.
Fundraising isn’t why God called you into youth ministry, but it is an essential part of pursuing the vision that God has given you for ministry in your context. Regardless of the fundraising program you choose for your group, every fundraising effort can be enhanced to be more effective at meeting your financial needs. Raising money is challenging and tedious at times, but be diligent and don’t give up.
Use the platform you’re given to share with people with the greater vision of your youth ministry that extends beyond the happenings and needs of the current year. In the end, this is all about our God and Father transforming the lives and souls of the people we are humbly called to show Jesus. Focus on the “why” and let it be exuded in your fundraising.
Published March 2012