Alright, we all know that this is not a good time to be raising money for anything. And… yet… people are still giving to the things that matter to them.
I’m not a fundraiser, per say. Except in the fact that I am a pastor, and ministers are often worrying about the budget, the income, and the expenses. As a pastor of a small church, I quickly realized that whether we were in the red or the black at the end of the year determined whether I was employed or not by the beginning of next year. So, I learned how to raise money. Now, I’m a Campus Minister, so I realize the ins and outs of raising funds through an institutional setting. I’m also involved with a lot of non-profits, so I see how they work, and I watch how some raise money effectively, and others flounder.
Here are the bits and pieces of wisdom that I have learned throughout the years, whether people are raising money for non-profits or churches, there are certain things that work, and certain things that do not work. As I’m writing this, I realize that a lot of words in here (like “success” and “investment”) are going to make church leaders cringe. So be it. If you are cringing, you are free to complain in the comment section.
First, and most importantly, people like to donate to organizations and ministries that are successful. They may call it “charity” but they still want to see a good return on their investments. Which means that we cannot raise fund by telling people how poor we are, or how badly we are doing, or by how much we need the money. No one wants to throw their money down a toilet that is in mid-flush. If you want to raise sympathy, you can communicate how terrible things are; but if you want to raise money, you can communicate your success.
Along with that, we can remember that money always follows vision, and not the other way around. So often, we think, if only I had some money, then I would do…. And yet, very few people, foundations, or organizations are willing to give to an unproven start-up. If you want to start something, you cannot wait until you have a big pot of money before you start planning on how you are going to spend it. The pot of money will never come, until you step out, with a vision, and a plan.
In a context of success, we communicate our needs. Better yet, explain the needs of the community that you are reaching. I learned this at my last church, when we were trying to figure out how to raise money, one of our members said, “Just tell us what you need.” And so we did, in clear and concise terms, we made up a list of everything that needed to be replaced, mended, and repaired. Within a year or two, the church had come up with the money to fix them all.
If your salary needs to be raised, there is a way to communicate this as well. An HR person told me an easy calculation. To hold on to an employee, organizations need to pay at least 10% above the medium salary for a position in the area. It is often pretty easy to get those numbers. Just chart the salaries, see where you fit, and show the personnel committee the chart. Often this is an insightful exercise to do, especially for women. We need to be aware of how our salaries compare with our colleagues. Ignoring our inequities will not get us on the path of justice.
Find ways to communicate. I often work with people who get frustrated with the fact that the larger denominational body does not give them any time during meetings for them to raise money. We often think that standing in front of our churches for a minute is the only (or the most effective) way to raise awareness about what we are doing. But, in reality, most people tune out those three minutes of canned speeches, and we can find more effective ways to tell people what we are up to.
In this day and age, there are a thousand ways to communicate all the good things that we are doing. Literally, a thousand. Websites, Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Email, Vimeo, YouTube, Magazines, Internet Radio, Webinars, MP3 downloads. Just experiment with one, every three months, and keep evaluating what is most effective.
And… when it comes to gaining an audience, we might need to get out of our little niches, to let the world know what we’re up to. For instance, if you’re a campus minister, trying to raise awareness and money among local pastors in order to raise support for the good work that you’re doing at the college, then it probably won’t do much good to hang out with other campus ministers, complaining about how the other pastors don’t give you any respect.
Instead, hang out with some local pastors. Get involved with ministry opportunities that have nothing to do with higher education. Slowly but surely, churches will begin to notice your leadership skills. They will want to support you.
What else have you noticed? What works? What doesn’t?