Fundraising wasn’t a problem when my wife and I prepared for the mission field in 2005. We were sent out by three generous churches, family and friends rallied around us, and, along the way, I met a professional baseball player who chased me down the aisle to hand me a $50,000 check. People were amazed that this young couple with two boys younger than 2 years old (one just born) was moving to Africa.
I would confidently—on further reflection, pridefully—tell people God was going to fund our work because we were being obedient to his calling. I also learned during seminary a thing or two about raising money. To supplement my income as a youth pastor, I sold cell phones out of my computer bag (back when flip phones were the latest technology!). Fundraising and sales, of course, employ many of the same skills.
In 2008, I became the president of a small Bible institute with eight employees and 50 students. For the first time in my life, I was responsible for caring for more than my own family.
When the financial crisis hit and the housing market broke, I received the first of many painful calls. Our church needed to cut funding to our family by $1,000 a month and to the institute by $2,000 a month. In one call I went from confident to panicked.
Throughout that year I received several similar calls and emails. I took it personally—which didn’t help. The lies the Enemy told me during that time was that our donors were ignorant, disobedient, and selfish. Looking back, God was using that time to change my heart about fundraising and donor relationships.
Today you might be worried about how you are going to keep your missionary support or fund your non-profit during this crisis. Here are five steps you can work through to help you navigate this season of financial uncertainty.
During seasons of financial prosperity, it’s easy to relax and forget where our funding comes from. When we prayed as a staff in Uganda, we would continually remind one another that God owns all the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10) and that God gives us our daily bread (Matt. 6:11).
This might be a season where funds are much lower than normal, but it’s also a great season to learn to trust the Lord for what you need today.
Another consequence of prolonged seasons of financial prosperity is that we relax our budgets. Is there an activity or perk that can be cut for a season? Before asking donors and partners to sacrifice, consider whether or not your organization can sacrifice something. Have you added programs that aren’t aligned with your mission that could be cut in this season? Is this an opportunity to refine and redirect your mission back to your original calling?
Next to my desk I have a small statement that I read each day: “It’s not about what I want from the donor, but about what I want for the donor.” As a fundraiser for a Christian ministry, my responsibility is to shepherd our friends with the spiritual gift of generosity. Just as a pastor shepherds a young leader with the gift of teaching by encouraging them, my job is to care for our partners with the gift of generosity.
This might be a season where funds are much lower than normal, but it’s also a great season to learn to trust God for what you need today.
Take some time to pray with your donors, and encourage them and listen to their concerns during this season.
In this season of “social distancing,” some of us have more free time since we’re confined to our homes. Call your donors and thank them. Set up a video conference to give an update. Give them something useful or encouraging during this season. Respect their physical space, understanding that many will not want you to physically visit due to the medical risks. But seize the gift of technology to connect with your donors.
God’s work is not hindered by Wall Street. We’re still called to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the nations—even in times of social distancing. This means if you’re a fundraiser or missionary, you still need to ask for and faithfully raise the funds for those projects God directed you to start before this crisis began.
He’s Bigger Than Financial Crises
From 2008 to 2010, our Bible institute moved from a small rented house to a 20-acre campus with classrooms, offices, and dormitories for 200 students. The staff eventually grew from eight to 72. By 2015, we opened a medical clinic for the community and launched a million-dollar capital campaign to expand our capacity to 500 students.
Had we believed that 2008’s financial crisis spelled the end of God’s work, we would’ve missed out on seeing hundreds of pastors trained and churches planted.
Friend, if raising funds is your calling, then do it with the faith that the bountiful God funds your ministry.