Strategy & Marketing

Fundraising – My Take on the Methods

Transaction” based fundraising is a typical of a young ministry. At first, a young church, ministry, or non-profit has no real supporters, so they must rely on selling books, teaching CD’s, or other resources to raise money. That’s actually a good thing, because I’m really big on getting your teaching materials into people’s homes. It’s one thing to reach them in the pulpit or on radio or TV. It’s something else entirely when they’re reading your material at home, or listening to your CD in the car. It’s takes your impact into their life down to a much deeper level.

The bad news is that it’s temporary. Transactional ministries are only as good as their last product. And if you don’t have a constant pipeline of product, you start to find gaps in your fundraising. Plus, there’s very little evidence that indicates people who buy books or tapes, grow into regular supporters on their own. So it’s a good start, but not really sustainable.

Campaigns are good because they do a lot of wonderful things in the world. They build water wells, orphanages, Bible schools, universities and more. Sadly there are way too many fundraising campaigns built around prosperity, financial “blessing,” and dodgy stuff like numerology (I passed 7 stoplights on the way to the studio today, and felt God tell me that when you give a financial gift of $70, you’ll receive your miracle).

But if we can keep doing great works out there, I’m all for campaigns. The problems is that it confuses your branding. If you’re doing water wells one month, building a bible school the next, inner city ministry the next, the audience begins to wonder who you are and what your real calling is. The critical key is “What is the over-arching theme to your life and ministry?” If you can answer that, then it becomes an brand umbrella with your campaigns and good works coming under it and following that theme. But without that theme, you become disjointed to the viewer or supporter, who finds it impossible to decide who you are and what your ministry is really about.

Partnership in my mind is the holy grail of fundraising. Partnership happens when people join you – not for a book or tape, or a single campaign – but because of who you are. They believe in your ministry brand. They understand your calling, see clearly what you’re all about, and want to join up and be a part of what you’re doing in the world. As a result, real “partners” give on a regular monthly basis, and have a much longer term vision for their relationship to your ministry.

But partnership must be developed, nurtured, and you have to be reporting the results of your work to the supporters. Remember that if you don’t photograph or film your work to show your supporters, it doesn’t exist in their minds. I’ll never forget that Oral Roberts and Billy Graham kept detailed index cards of every person that accepted Christ at their crusades. I’ve personally read through hundreds of Oral’s cards and it’s a fascinating experience. They didn’t do it because of ego. It was because they knew the importance of quantifying the results of the mission.

Without results, you can’t go back to the well for more support.

I was particularly interested in the 14% that don’t ask for support. It may sound noble, but the fact is, there are probably people out there who’d like to help you accomplish your work. By not asking them, you’re denying them the opportunity. I really don’t think there’s any nobility in not asking for money. If you’re a church, ministry, or non-profit, you exist because enough people are willing to support your work. But unless you ask, how will they know about what you’re doing?

It doesn’t have to be done in a cheesy way. Just ask.

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  1. Was posted in wrong area…

    There are many areas that Christian broadcast ministries lag behind secular…and cultivation of relationships is one of them.TV casts a wide net by speaking in one way to all who tune in. 

    The smart ministries have triggers within the program to cause response AND treat people differently based on what they responded to.For example, those product people Phil mentioned…you can renew them if

    (1) the product built your brand

    (2) you delivered quickly

    (3) the product was great quality re audio, etc 

    (4) it was as promised 

    (5) you have a back end product  that naturally builds on the first product ready to pitch 

    (6) its pitched well.Do all those…and 50% will buy again. 

     Fail in any one area–and you will be lucky to see 10% buy again.People who give because they buy in are golden–partnership, telethons, even projects.  Those people give more on average and they have a higher long term value.  Invest in them.  Challenge them to give again for what they love. 

    Do that and 60 to 70% will give again.It all comes back to the database …if you can't tell why someone gave in the first place, renewing the donor will be tough.Invest in database…(this from a creative person!!)

  2. Phil, I'm curious what you would think of people like George Muller and Amy Carmichael, who each built very successful ministries and never asked for support – they just prayed and God provided. Personally, this bugs me as far as responsible stewardship is concerned… But I can't argue with George and Amy's example. Any thoughts?

  3. The entire economics of Christian Television is something I find peculiar and often disturbing. I sympathise with the goals of most TV ministries but I'm convinced there is a better way.

  4. I have been brought in by many well meaning ministries over the years that didn't want to ask for money.  I can't think of any of them who are still on TV (if they ever got there).



    The airtime that offers the most eyeballs costs a lot of money.  Production done well also costs.



    If we are Christians and if we understand the great commission and feel TV is the best bang for that buck, we have to give.  Its as simple as that.



    My job is to communicate that to the people who love the ministries I serve.  Its tough.  The mail box and email box is full of other offers, starving children, health care needs (i.e. cancer, AIDS), and so much more.



    Is there a better way?  I am listening!

  5. I don't know if this can be done or not, but what about selling commercial time on your program. Sounds good to me, but I don't know for sure if it would work. I know that some christian networks have a rule about that, but what about the secular networks. Of course I know that you wouldn't want a beer commercial in your program, but can't you select who can air their commericals during your show?  Maybe car commercials, Nike, etc… 

  6. I know this topic has been done before, but it would be cool to see a brave soul venture into the world of for profit Christian tv and radio…maybe there is a reason, no one has done it however..

  7. It would almost seem like the options outlined above (transactions, campaigns and partnerships) are steps on a ladder of sorts. You may begin with a product and not be able to get anyone to seriously partner with you because you are unknown. Then your product moves to a campaign to impact a specific grouping of people, which also helps get you exposure so that you now have the credibility to enable partnerships in order to carry out an even larger work that will benefit humanity and bring glory to God. Still, at the core of everything the message must be genuine and authentic or nothing we do will work for long.

    Allen Paul Weaver III
    author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers

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