Do you feel called to some kind of ministry? Do you want to go on a mission trip? Do you think that the Lord wants you to spend several years as a missionary? If that’s the case, then you’re probably going to need to be doing some kind of ministry fundraising.
Personal ministry fundraising is slightly different from other kinds of fundraising, because the money will be primarily going to support you and the mission you feel like you’re called to accomplish. It requires a special approach and has some unique challenges.
First of all, you are probably not a non-profit, so if you want donations to your mission to be tax-deductible, you will need sponsor to act as a fiscal agent. A fiscal agent is an existing church or non-profit that will receive and steward donations on your behalf. This approach has two benefits. The first is that having a sponsoring agency gives you a level of credibility that you would not have on your own. This can make it easier to solicit funding. The second is that you have an additional level of financial accountability which will help you to be a good steward of the funds that you receive.
The second challenge is that you’re going to be the number one fundraiser. When you felt the call to ministry, you probably didn’t realize that the first hurdle you’d have to jump would be raising money to support the mission. Don’t worry, though. Lots of people do this kind of fundraising, so it’s anything but impossible.
Building a support team and raising money partners
The best book that I’ve found on personal ministry fundraising is called “People Raising” by William P. Dillon. It contains a blueprint with concrete steps forward toward funding success. If you are willing to do the work that raising money requires, this approach is very likely to be effective.
The plan laid out in “People Raising” focuses on creating long-term supporters for your mission by doing a series of personal asks. Once you have the blessing of your pastor, you’ll start by creating a list of the people who you know in your church. Then you’ll begin to set up meetings with the people on your list.
During your meetings with individuals and couples who might be future mission partners, you’ll explain to them the call you feel on your life. You’ll share the vision of ministry, and the importance of what you’ll be doing. Then you’ll ask them if they would be able to consider being a monthly supporter to your mission. And then you wait for them to respond.
Once they have signed on as a mission partner, it is super important for you to keep up the relationship. You need to be regularly writing, e-mailing, or calling the people who have signed on to send you out into the mission field. They are the people who are making your work possible, and will continue to give only as long as they feel connected to you and the impact that you’re having.
One key to this approach is being disciplined about setting appointments and asking people. One of the main reasons that people are unsuccessful using this approach is that fear or embarrassment gets in the way actually going out and talking to people who might be able to give. Remember, if you’re going on mission, especially for the sake of evangelism, you’re asking strangers to give their whole lives to Jesus. Asking for $50 a month from someone you know is simple by comparison, and is frankly good practice.
Raising people, not money
The perspective the book provides is perhaps the most valuable lesson. You don’t use people to raise money, you use money to raise people. When a person decides to support you in your mission, in a very real way they are going on mission with you. Your asking them to donate gives them an opportunity to make an impact somewhere else even if they are not in a position to go themselves. This is exciting for THEM. Fulfilling for them. You are giving them something valuable when you invite them to participate in your mission.
And this approach doesn’t just work for missionary ventures in some distant jungle. It can also work right here at home. You can use the Personal Ministry Fundraising model to fund a ministry in the inner city, a soup kitchen, or a food pantry. The key is having a vision of what you’re trying to accomplish and a plan that will enable you to carry it out. Then start telling people about it, and away you go.