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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