How To Raise Money For Your Missions Trip
By Becky Brodin
I’ve been invited to go to Osaka, Japan, this summer to minister to college students!” exclaimed Chris, a young woman I knew, as she almost bounced my way after church.
“I’m so glad for you!” I responded. “I know how much you wanted to do rhis. How can I help?”
“Well, I know you help missionaries raise support, and I don’t know where to begin. Would you give me some pointers?”
The following Wednesday we met at a local restaurant for breakfast. “Chris,” I began, “there are three aspects to raising support, whether you are fundraising for a short-term opportunity or a career in missions. First, you need to use your heart so that you’re convinced God wants you to do this. Second, you need to use your head to develop a plan for raising the support you need. And third, you need to use your hands and do the work of fund-raising. If you are willing to use your heart, head, and hands, you can get to Japan fully funded. Are you ready?”
“Let’s do it,” Chris said.
To raise her support, Chris�like all missionaries, needed the heart to do it. There are three dimensions of this heart. First, because her decision to participate in the mission would be repeatedly tested during fundraising and the trip, Chris would have to be convinced that God had called her to it. If she weren’t, she would lack the passion required to endure the challenges.
Chris also needed to believe that raising support is biblical. Understanding the scriptural basis for fundraising would provide an anchor and give Chris the courage to push through the awkwardness of asking people for money and the other obstacles she might encounter.
Finally, Chris needed to believe that God would provide for her because He loved her. Otherwise, rejection from a prospective donor, especially someone she was counting on, might trigger a cascade of doubt and derail her intentions.
To help Chris develop the heart for raising money to minister in Japan, I gave her a short Bible study on fundraising to complete, and we planned to go through it together in a week.
But conviction alone does not guarantee full funding. Once Chris’ heart was settled, it was time for her to use her head and do some planning.
Ready For Success
Planning for fundraising includes five steps: evaluate needs, find people to ask, prepare ways to communicate about your trip, map out a workable schedule, and develop a system of organization.
Evaluate needs. First, Chris and I needed to know how much money she would have to raise. She told me her total was $5,500, including roundtrip airfare, living and ministry expenses while on the field, and incidentals.
To get a picture of how many people Chris would have to ask for support, we divided the total amount by $100, the average donation people make to a summer missions project. Based on this average, Chris needed 55 donors.
She looked stunned. “You can do this,” I said. “God is in it.”
Find people. Next, Chris needed a list of friends and acquaintances who might be interested in her missions trip. “You should aim for 75 names,” I told her.
Chris stared at her blank notebook page. She couldn’t come up with one name! I primed the pump by asking her to consider the following categories of people.
* parents and siblings
* grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins Church:
* members of her Sunday school class or small group
* the missions committee
* the congregation at large
People from the past:
* individuals in communities where she had lived or churches she had attended
* the person who led her to the Lord
* high school and college friends she maintained relationships with
* former teachers
* people from campus ministries or volunteer groups she had worked with
In no time, Chris had listed almost 50 names, and she thought she could edge that number to 75 in a few days. I instructed her to compile the names, along with current addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses, in a software program such as Microsoft Word or Excel. That way, she could easily create mailing labels and mail-merge documents.
In addition to approaching individuals, Chris planned to apply for support from her church. She would ask to talk about her trip at a missions committee meeting and would also seek permission from the pastor to give a short presentation to the congregation at a service. Finally, she planned to ask the leader of the singles’ group she was involved in if she could present her need to that group.
Prepare to share. Next, Chris and I walked through the communication pieces she would use to tell potential donors about her trip.
An announcement letter. The most effective way to raise funds for a short-term missions opportunity is through a letter.
In her letter, Chris would briefly explain what led her to participate in the trip, how she would minister there, and details about her financial need and how to give. She might add a P.S. alerting recipients that she planned to call in a week to answer questions and see how God was leading them to respond.
Chris would also need to provide a way for her friends to donate. This is usually done by including a response card that contains spaces for donors’ names, mailing addresses, and email addresses, along with a stamped return envelope.
A flexible presentation. Although Chris would communicate with many potential donors by mail, she would also need a verbal presentation to use when she talked to individuals or groups. The presentation should include information about the mission, explain what she would be doing and what she hoped to accomplish, and give an overview of her financial need and how to contribute.
Chris’ missions organization had provided fundraising materials to give to potential donors. These included brochures that explained the ministry and outlined the financial aspect, and response cards that contained information about how to give. We looked over these materials and discussed ways she could personalize them to use with her presentation.
(If the missions organization you’re working with doesn’t supply fundraising materials, they’re relatively easy to create. You may also want to put together a presentation using PowerPoint or similar software.)
After we’d outlined her presentation, I asked Chris to pretend I was a prospective donor and practice on me. Her first attempt was a little rough, but she got a few ideas on how to strengthen her communication.
Like many first-time support raisers, Chris needed to display more enthusiasm, tell one good story that would help her donors visualize the ministry and catch her excitement for it, be to-the-point, and ask for support directly and confidently. I had her run through the presentation again, and she did much better.
After polishing her delivery, Chris and I discussed ways she could adapt her presentation to various audiences. Groups are a great place to give information, so her presentations in that setting would be more formal. When speaking to busy people, it would be best to clarify how much time her listeners could give, get right to the point, and try to leave early. A church’s missions committee would likely need a detailed budget and missions strategy. And for unexpected opportunities, she would want to have ready a short version of the presentation.
Map out a schedule. Fundraising takes time, to make phone calls, write letters, talk to people and groups, and relate to the missions organization. It’s important to plan when each task needs to be completed and then revisit the plan weekly to keep on track and update goals.
With a little more than six weeks co raise support and get ready for her trip, Chris listed everything she needed to do, and then she marked on her calendar when to complete each task�in pencil, because things were bound to change.
Chris and I also discussed how to manage recurring activities such as handling donations and sending thank-you notes. I encouraged her to send checks to the missions headquarters every Friday. I also passed on a helpful saying, “Thank before you bank,” meaning that she would do well to write thank-you notes to donors before she sent the checks to the missions organization.
Keep organized. Finally, Chris needed a method for tracking her activities and the results. I recommended a notebook with multiple sections. In one section she could record the gifts that came in. In another section she could list people to call and check them off as she went. A third section might contain a list of individuals in the groups she talked to.
I knew Chris had a good plan. But I also knew the results were ultimately up to God. Proverbs 16 says,
To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue. . . . Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
– vv. 1, 3
Before Chris and I left the restaurant, we prayed over each part of her plan and committed the entire project to God. Now all Chris had to do was use her hands to put the plan into action.
Getting Down To Business
Fundraising is hard, and emotional, work. Though I sensed that Chris would do well, three barriers could potentially derail her good intentions: She might not give fund-raising the time required, she might run out of people to talk to, or she might let fear, including fear of being rejected or offending her friends, replace her faith.
Having people to pray for and encourage her would help Chris overcome these challenges. She’d also benefit from asking one or two people to walk through the process with her and offer accountability and counsel. I volunteered co support Chris in these ways, and she agreed to report on her activities weekly via telephone.
Chris worked hard and thoughtfully. She did the Bible study and built her mailing list. I helped her edit her announcement letter, which she mailed promptly. She called 25 people who did not initially respond to her letters. She talked co her church’s missions committee. She was given five minutes of pulpit time during a service at her church and presented her trip to her singles’ group.
Her work paid off. Chris raised more than she needed and used the excess to help another team member who still needed support.
I was pleased and impressed with Chris’ willingness to learn and take initiative. She had a wonderful experience in Japan, and I am convinced that if God called her to long-term missions, she’d be successful at raising support for that as well.
This article “How To Raise Money For Your Missions Trip” written by Becky Brodin is excerpted from Discipleship Journal the November/December 2007 edition.