Fundraising Can Be Fun
Robert H. Schuller
It is the contention of the Institute for Successful Church Leadership that no church has a money problem; they only have idea problems! Big, inspiring, human need-filling ideas are money-makers! Successful goals always produce their own financial support if they’re widely and enthusiastically publicized! Only fear, small faith or timid thinking can cause failure.
So fund-raising really becomes fun!
Now, don’t ever use the lack of money as an excuse for not beginning! Remember – it doesn’t cost a dime to dream! It doesn’t cost a dime to stand in your inspiring pulpit on a Sunday morning and preach a sermon to your people on the subject: “How to Make Your Dreams Come True,” and then honestly lay before them the inspiring dream that God has given to you for the church where you serve!
Now that you have a dream, and assuming that your great goal has passed the success-spotting principles, move ahead with great faith. In all of your money-raising activities, follow these principles:
Remember that you will never get money from people by scolding, generating guilt feelings, or perpetrating other negative insults.
I once heard a minister offer this horrible prayer when the offering was dedicated to the Lord in a church service: “Here, Lord, in spite of all we say and do, is what we really think of You.” It was a dirty dig, a cheap insult. Clever? Yes! Sharp? Indeed! But also stupid! There are many people who were not able to give what they wanted to that morning. You never generate maximum response by a negative approach.
Remember that you can spoil the whole “money tree” if you give the impression that you are having financial problems!
Nobody likes to invest in a shaky business. Plead and beg and you will only reveal your weakness. And a weak institution does not inspire generous contributions.
There were times in the history of our church when we were really fighting for enough money to pay the next week’s bills. Then, before the Sunday offering, instead of laying this weakness before the people and throwing my problem upon the tired shoulders of the persons who came to church to unload their problems, I made a statement to this effect: “You people are wonderful. You come here week after week and give so generously, even though we never appeal and plead for your financial help. You are simply thoughtful and generous folk.”
“There have been times when we were desperate for financial help. We prayed to God. We trusted Him and always He was able to meet our needs through wonderful people like you! I just felt this morning like I wanted to tell you how grateful I am, and how I love you for what you are doing! May God bless you! Thank you again. Now, let us worship God with our tithes and morning offerings.” That approach has always been successful.
Remember that you will spoil the money tree if you go offer small pickings, such as suppers, sales and second offerings.
At the outset, Mrs. Schuller and I, as the only two members of the church, established the policy that we would never attempt to raise money through bazaars and similar affairs. We would rather, once a year, frankly, openly and honestly, lay before our people a beautiful surprise package filled with exciting ideas that they would want to buy! And we’d give them a chance to buy it! They would make their pledges of financial support and we would carry out our church year from this response. And a simple little financial appeal a week or a month or two months before the annual financial appeal would be enough, we knew, to stunt the whole tree!
To achieve maximum response, you must let everyone know that you are counting on them – and on them alone!
Make it clear that you are not going to receive financial support from the denomination in the form of federal charity; you are not going to ask local businessmen to support your project; and you are not going to make appeals from the pulpit on Sunday morning! To do so would only create an image that you are not financially strong, and it would, at the same time, frighten off the non-churched person who is coming to church to seek strength and not to be weakened by listening to someone complain about his financial difficulties.
Again, remind yourself that the only way to generate maximum financial response is to throw out an exciting, inspiring human-need-filling, problem-solving project.
Give your people a tremendous dream and an enormous and inspiring challenge – and they will love to give! Help them to visualize and emotionalize the project!
Never be afraid to ask people to give money for a great cause.
It is important to have a sense of timing here. Obviously, timing will vary from situation to situation.
In our experience at Garden Grove Community Church, we have been reticent about asking for financial support more than once a year. There have been rare exceptions when we interrupted the year for a special financial campaign. When an important opportunity came along, we did not allow it to keep us from giving God a chance to work another miracle through the people.
However, as a matter of policy, we generally restrict ourselves to a once-a- year appeal. Then we give it all we’ve got! We open up with all the power at our disposal.
The point here is: don’t be afraid to ask people to give money for a great cause. People love to spend their money. They can’t wait to spend it on a new car, a new house. new clothes, anything that excites, stimulates or inspires their imagination – or offers help and healing and hope to their family, marriage or private life!
A great project for the church is exactly what people want. They can’t wait to give generously toward it! One illustration here might be helpful to you. The roughest job I ever had was trying to raise $1800 for a dishwasher in the kitchen of our church. It was far easier to raise a million dollars for the Tower of Hope! Or a million dollars for a new ten acres of property! Big, imaginative, problem-solving projects really turn people on!
Every year you, must offer some new challenge in the form of a new program, a new project, a new building, a new addition to the staff or a new missionary project.
Every year you must add something new! If you fail to do this, you are saying to the people: “We have stopped. We are moving backward. We can’t move ahead. We have run out of great ideas?”
You are making this growth-retarding decision based on your negative assumption that God has no other possible sources of financial aid to meet your increased budget! If you cannot add something new, you are not growing. If you are not growing, you are not living on the edge of exciting faith! And you are not giving God a chance to perform His miracles!
Now, you must get organized to communicate this exciting challenge to the people in the most effective way.
In our church, we have always had an annual “every member” canvass. On four special occasions in the first 15-year history of the church, we employed professional fund-raisers to organize and communicate financial challenge to the people. Without exception, these proved to be exciting experiences. Some people did object but we refused to surrender leadership to the hands of objection-minded people! Rather, they – for the most part – were caught up with new life, new enthusiasm, new excitement as the projects moved along.
In later years, the techniques of “organizing to communicate effectively and inspiringly” shifted from annual “every member” visitations to an annual church dinner. We did this in the fall, generally in November. The congregation was invited to be the guest of the church for dinner. We selected the finest restaurants in the finest hotels in the entire area. Beautiful decorations, inspiring entertainment, made it an exciting fun night. There was music, there was laughter, there was great inspiration. It became a tradition as “the great night out for everyone.”
At this dinner, the people were given an inspiring, challenging look at what surprises the budget for the new year held for Jesus Christ. In portraying our message, we used graphic slides projected in multi-media on a huge screen. The entire program of the church, from janitor to missionary, was emotionalized and dramatized through color graphics.
The congregation was then informed that the budget could be raised no matter how impossible the task looked.
The program then called for a quiet moment of dedication as everyone was invited to sign a pledge card, fill in the amount, drop it in the offering plate as it passed.
And so, in one fun-filled, inspiration-packed, forward-looking, mountain-moving night, the church took another giant step upward! This was done every year!
Our 15th year – 1970 – marked our first departure from the traditional dinner. We simply did not have room for the anticipated crowd. However, we carried out the same program, in effect, renting the Convention Center in nearby Anaheim, and we had 6800 in attendance. A producer and director were secured to write a fast moving, one hour music-and-humor-filled show. The show led up to my slot where, for twenty minutes, I unfolded with word pictures the tremendous challenge of the new year, with its greatly enlarged budget, and led the attendees to the signing of their pledges.
The point is, something that entails such a concentrated effort must be done annually!
Always, on the Sunday before pledging emphasize tithing. Emphasize it throughout the season.
By that, I do not mean two or three “messages on money.” On the Sunday before the annual dinner, I preach my “once-a-year message.” on tithing. I warn the people before I begin by saying: “Isn’t it wonderful to come to this church week after week, Sunday after Sunday, and never hear a word about money? There is only one Sunday a year when I talk about it. Of course it takes money to run a church. But we don’t raise it through special appeals, extra offerings, pitiful or scolding announcements every week!
“Once a year, I share an exciting promise that God has given to us in His holy Scriptures! It’s the most fantastic key to financial security I know of! Let me tell you about it.” And I launch into my annual tithing talk. At the same time of year, members of the congregation are also receiving tracts on tithing through the mail.
Weekly offering envelopes are mailed to all of those who pledge. A low-up letter is mailed to all who do not pledge at the annual “night out,” and not a word is ever mentioned about financial needs again until the next year!”
And so, for fifty-two weeks people can attend the church without being badgered for tickets to this supper or donations to that cause!
Our financial success seems to prove the assumptions of the Institute for Successful Church Leadership that people will give all you need if you focus on real solutions to real needs and present the story in a positive, inspiring and enthusiastic way! Remember, Jesus said: “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall he opened unto you” (Luke 11:9).
Never let money problems stop you. They may delay you but don’t let them defeat you. Remember – nobody has a money “problem.” It’s always a symptom, not a problem. The real problem is lack of dynamic, need- filling ideas, a lack of courage and nerve or a lack of faith!
Don’t ever again use the lack of money as an excuse – unless your God is terribly poor. Mine isn’t! We found that out as we raised several million additional dollars the first twenty years for capital financing. When we needed to raise money for land and buildings, for more land and more buildings I found out the biggest problem every time was not God’s power but my feeble faith!
“This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”
Article “Fund Raising Can Be Fun” excerpted from “Your Church Has Real Possibilities”. By Robert H. Schuller.