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When Tony Dentman first came on staff with Campus Outreach, he had to figure out how to raise his own ministry budget.

“We had to come up with a ‘name-storm list,’” he said. “You come up with as many names as possible of potential supporters. Ideally, your list includes the doctors, lawyers, or accountants in your family or church.”

Dutifully, Dentman wrote down some names. But he didn’t know any doctors, lawyers, or businessmen. He’d grown up in a St. Louis neighborhood with a median household income of $25,000. He came up with fewer than 20 names, all of them living paycheck to paycheck.

“Even the guy who looked at my short list chuckled,” Dentman remembers. “He was like, ‘Dude, there’s no way.’”

That could’ve been the end of Dentman’s missions career. But he ended up raising his support faster than anyone else in the room. Not quite 12 years later, he’s a Campus Outreach area director in Chicago.

“It was through the work of God,” he said. But it was also through referrals, the love of the church he attended during college, and a bit of strategy.

In the years since the name-storm, Dentman wrote a master’s thesis on fundraising and coached hundreds of other disadvantaged young people who have been called to work in ministry. He got so good at it that last year he turned it into an organization called Funding Tribe.

TGC asked Dentman about the financial challenges faced by minority missionaries, what makes his coaching effective, and whether we should get rid of fundraising altogether.


I know there is a wealth gap between white and black Americans. But many black communities are middle-class. Why is it so hard for young African Americans to raise financial support?

Even among the middle class, African Americans tend to be on the less wealthy end. And if a black family or church achieves a higher economic level, they’re often dealing with the issues of their whole community. A middle-class black church is giving money to care for the poor they know—the widows, the single moms, the veterans who can’t find a job. They have more of those people knocking on their door than a suburban white church has.

If you’re in a middle-class white family, you’re probably at the same economic level as your siblings or cousins. If you’re in an African American—or Hispanic—family, you’re more likely to be supporting extended family members.

But when I coach people, I tell them their starting base doesn’t really matter. If the Lord called you to the mission field, he will provide. Having only a few names on your support list is no excuse not to be obedient to your calling.

If the Lord called you to the mission field, he will provide. Having only a few names on your support list is no excuse not to be obedient to your calling.

Why is it important to support minorities doing mission work?

I don’t give my time and resources to this work just because I’m a minority. I believe that in order to fulfill the Great Commission and to take the gospel to the world, minorities and people with different skin colors will play crucial roles to advance God’s kingdom.

I’ve seen it happen—I can go places and have conversations that others can’t. I am eager for the whole world to hear the gospel, and that will take missionaries of all kinds. That’s why I do what I do.

You’ve been coaching people on fundraising for years. Why did you decide to start Funding Tribe now?

I started Funding Tribe in the summer of 2018, but it really took off in 2020. I was trapped in my house in Chicago, and I turned on my Facebook feed to see a black man getting shot for running in a neighborhood, a black woman shot lying in a bed, and a black man choked to death on the street. I went for a walk in the park, overwhelmed, and telling God I didn’t understand.

I felt that the greatest contribution I could make to all these issues was to be faithful to what God has called me to do. I know he’s called me to be faithful to the Great Commission, and he’s gifted and equipped me to reach college kids for Christ.

If I can help somebody who was about to give up on ministry because of fundraising struggles, that only increases the fulfillment of my calling.

How does Funding Tribe work?

My goal is to partner with organizations who are willing to hire minorities. I recognize that there’s a burden that comes from hiring someone who struggles to get funding. I want to help them—both the organizations and the minority missionaries—be successful in pursuing the Great Commission.

I focus on minorities and women—who also have a harder time—but I’ll coach anyone who is serious about their calling. Our promise is that we’ll see someone fully funded in four months—that’s usually pledges for about $50,000 a year—or I’ll refund the coaching fee. I haven’t had to give any money back yet.

Along with the coaching, we’re also beginning to offer discounted or free housing. Most of a young person’s expenses are his student loans and his housing, especially if he lives in a high-cost city like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Houston. Cities like these are diverse; to reach them, we have to have diverse missionaries.

By 2022, my goal is to provide two condos on the University of Illinois-Chicago campus, one for males and one for females. We’d like to expand that to other cities. If we can drastically reduce or eliminate the housing cost, that means a minority only has to raise $25,000 instead of $50,000. If I can get eight people into my two condos, we can save close to half a million dollars over the course of four years.

Saving that money means missionaries can focus more on the field and less on fundraising. It also means the money which would’ve gone into rent can go into other kingdom-advancing goals.

What makes you effective with minority missionaries where others have struggled to succeed?

We use a seven-step process—it isn’t anything new. I read the same books on fundraising everyone else does. We make lists of people to call, and then we call them. We rely a lot on referrals, so we’re networking a lot with other people’s families, friends, churches, and communities. When I started, 90 percent of my support came through referrals. I didn’t even know my supporters at the beginning. Even now, my Campus Outreach donor base is 95 percent white people.

That’s different for Funding Tribe. My goal is to challenge every person who goes through Funding Tribe to turn around and give back. I’d love it to be funded by minorities for minorities.

The main reason I’m effective is that I can say things not everyone can say. I can tell someone, “Hey, I’ve been where you’re at.”

We talk a lot about Joseph in Egypt—he was starting in a pit, in slavery, in prison. If he could be faithful and work hard while waiting for God to provide, so can we. We’re also serious about accountability. There are no excuses. If you’re serious about the things of the Lord, then let’s get it done. For this reason, I make my groups homogeneous: the black guys are together, the women are together, the white guys are together. When you’re the only disadvantaged person in a group, it’s easy to blame that when you don’t get the results you want. But if you’re in a group with people like you, you can’t say someone else is more privileged than you.

We check in with them all the time, asking what they did that day. You always know the next step you’re supposed to do, and the day you’re supposed to do it. We track everything.

We’re rigorous about this because we’re serious about getting them to the finish line. We want them to not only be fully funded, but to train others to get fully funded. Our only goal is to get people on the mission field so more people can hear about Jesus.

Do you wish we could get rid of the fundraising model altogether and be able to pay our missionaries without messing around with this?

Nope.

The first time I asked for support was in the summer of 2006 for a Campus Outreach summer project. It was $1,200 and it seemed impossible to me. I sent a letter to my grandma, who is my biggest fan. She had it sitting on her dining room table when some people came from a church in the suburbs to help with things around the house.

One guy read it and said, “I’d love to support your grandson.” I’d never met the guy, but he paid for 90 percent of that trip. To this day, he’s one of my closest friends and mentors.

I have Ebenezers all throughout my life now. God cares about the mission field, and about me, more than I could ever imagine. He has people who could write a check and fully fund me for the rest of my life if he wanted to.

God cares about the mission field, and about me, more than I could ever imagine.

The beauty of raising support is that it’s a sanctifying experience. God uses it to prune you, to stretch you, to make you more like him.

Raising support also forces you to believe your own message. If you aren’t convinced about what you are doing, nobody’s going to buy it. And even if you are all in, you’ll still be rejected 80 percent of the time. But that is the best training for the mission field, where you have to be convinced of your message, and you’ll be rejected most of the time.

The amount of time you spend during fundraising in prayer and begging God and walking by faith—by the time you hit the mission field, you’re ready to go.

And if we got rid of fundraising, all these churches and Christians wouldn’t get the blessing of investing in kingdom work in a personal, sacrificial way. It’s good to ask a bunch of people to pray for and give to missionaries, so that way we’ll have a bunch of people who get to share in the joy of the fruit of gospel proclamation. God could’ve provided for mission work another way, but he chose to have us depend on each other.

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