Should You Hire A Fund-Raiser?

By John J. Brown

What are we to make of professional fund-raising organizations? Do the services those firms provide merit the payment of their fees?

Because I’m in the business of assisting churches with their borrowing needs, I’ve observed from the sidelines what takes place in the great game of fund-raising. Initially, I took a “show me” attitude toward the claims of fund-raisers. Now, after a dozen years of watching them at work, I’m convinced of their effectiveness.

Reality: In a typical organization, 80 percent of the people do 20 percent of the work, and 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. Unfortunately, it’s no different in churches, where we generally find 20 percent of the people giving 80 percent of the financial support.

Opportunity: A major goal of fundraising campaigns is to involve a significant portion of the other 80 percent. Worth considering: In many fund-raising campaigns, approximately half of that 80 percent (40 percent of the church) will become involved. When added to the already-active 20 percent, that means 60 percent of the people are now shouldering the financial load.

A successful fundraising campaign triples the number of givers. Nevertheless, misconceptions remain regarding the worthiness of professionally conducted fund-raising campaigns.

We Hear Questions

Consider the following objections and questions church members raise:

The fund-raiser’s fee is a lot of money for a church like ours. Couldn’t we use that money a lot of other places?

Of course you could, but if you use that money in other places instead of investing it where it will yield more giving, it’s kind of like eating your seed corn. Besides, the fee is likely just a small
fraction of your building costs.

Consider. My experience shows that most churches will raise from ten to fifteen times the fee they pay the fund-raiser. That represents a phenomenal return on investment.

How do we know a company can deliver what it promises?

First, how long has it been in business? It’s difficult to business long without offering something of value to a significant number of people. Time and the free-market system will usually eliminate the unprofessional, the incompetent, and the unscrupulous in fairly short order.

Better. Ask for letters of reference. If a company can’t provide them, beware. If it does provide letters, read them carefully. Were the other churches satisfied? Did they get their money’s worth? Do they recommend the fund-raiser? Remember. Those churches probably began with the same concerns you have.

Can’t we raise just as much money if we do It on our own?

I can answer only from my experience as an unbiased observer over the last eleven years. I have observed a number of churches and even denominations attempt, in the name of good stewardship, to duplicate the results of full-time professionals.

The results: In every case, the results amounted to somewhere between one–third and one-tenth what might have been raised, based on my knowledge of results obtained by churches of similar size who engaged professional consultants.

But our pastor is a fairly adequate fund-raiser. Why should we pay good money to a total stranger for something we can do ourselves?

True, some pastors are good fund-raisers. It would be unfair, however, to expect even those who have had a degree of success in that area to match the results of those whom God has called into that discipline as a profession.

Not only are professional fund-raisers extremely successful in producing the results you want, but most excel at accomplishing those results in an inoffensive, comfortable manner.

Consider, Is It good stewardship of the pastor’s time to use him or her as a fund-raiser just to save a consulting fee? Many churches have the wisdom and foresight to hire a professional consultant rather than misdirect the pastor’s energy, attention, and time from his or her calling.

Some people might misunderstand and get their feelings hurt if we campaign for finances.

Yes, some people might. But then some (perhaps the same persons) might misunderstand any step forward. The real question should be: Is it worth sacrificing our forward progress to pacify those who want to maintain the status quo?