Some random hints and tips about fundraising

I've been very thankful to God for the success of the fundraising success in preparation for Uni Fellowship this year. In the process I've learned stacks of stuff and I thought I'd share some odds and ends:

  1. Don't see it as an interference in your ministry. As if if you could just get it out of the way you could get on with the real ministry. You won't do a very good job if you try to just get it out of the way. But more importantly, fundraising is pretty closely related to the rest of your ministry. In some ways standard pastors miss out by not needing to fundraise (in fact the best pastors do 'fundraise' in the way they manage their church budget). Fundraising involves setting vision, building a team of supporters, prayerful dependence on God. The skills involved in fundraising are very similar to the skills involved in evangelism.
  2. Work the phones. There's a place for nice brochures and visiting churches and face to face meetings. But the bread and butter of fundraising is phonecalls. Learn to love it. Buy a really nice phone if that'll help you do it. I've actually found that fundraising has helped me embrace phonecalls. I never really liked them in ministry before. I understood their importance in fundraising and somehow feel more energised to use them in the rest of my minsitry. Real estate sales trainers advise sales staff to spend 45 minutes every day on the phone. Fundraisers and evangelists should do similar, I think.
  3. Learn as much as you can from wherever you can. Don't just attend the obligatory training seminar. Much less rely on your own intuition. Read the books (two I've been suggested are Friend Raising and People Raising), ask others, talk to business people.
  4. Ask big. I heard a story about a guy who asked a potential supporter for backing. The potential patron asked 'How much would you like?' 'Five thousand dollars,' the missio replied. And patron said yes. Later, as the missio was walking out the door, the patron said 'By the way, I would've given you ten, if you'd asked'. Ouch! The lesson is dare to ask big. The worst that can happen is that people will say no. Aim for fewer big donors, rather than millions of $500pa or $1 000pa donors. Those donors are very precious too, but seek big donations as well.
  5. Get good at writing grant applications. I suggest you find the most pedantic and detailed organisation and apply to them. They will force you to write a great application. Then you can re use that for less demanding trusts and impress with your thoughtfulness.
  6. Keep in touch in really good ways. I'm not super persuaded about relying merely on prayer letters and 6 monthly newsletters. If you are going to do them, do them really well. But more important is giving them gestalt: give them some of the fliers and badges and things you are actually using in your ministry. And also, give them relationship. The bigger the sponsor (if they are an individual), the more invested they are in what you are doing. Seek their advice in other ways.
  7. Have a diverse strategy. In addition to seeking regular supporters, here are some other things you can do:
  • Ask some supportive churches to do a once-off mission offering each year.
  • Get one patron to match dollar for dollar donations. Then invite people to give once-off donations.
  • Do a fundraising dinner or party or concert.
  • Sell muffins.
  • Apply to local businesses with Christians owners for grants.
  • Think of appropriate ways to seek donations in-kind (food, office equipment, etc).