For the majority of church planters that I work with, fundraising is the one thing that raises the most questions (and the most anxiety). While I’m an advocate for bi-vocational ministry (Read our series, The Lost Art of Tentmaking here), fundraising is still almost always a necessary part of church planting. Like it or not, it’s part of the calling.
I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with several organizations over the past decade and a half who needed to raise funds for various projects. For me, it is something I enjoy being involved in, but I have found that it is one of the main things that church planters don’t understand or want to do. I would argue this is primarily due to ignorance and lack of inexperience.
Therefore, I decided that this first post is going to provide 3 No-No’s for fundraising. These are the things that you need to avoid at all cost. Please note: I am writing this from a Christian perspective in view of those trying to raise money for church plants.
- Don’t Be Desperate. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you are raising money for a church plant, don’t come off as desperate. You may in turn get some pity donations, but you won’t cultivate long-term ministry partnerships with those who are giving. Also, if you are fundraising from a position of desperation, then you are far more likely to sell-out your vision for the sake of a contribution. In the long-run, it’s just not worth it. People like to support ‘winners’. If you are desperate, then it gives the donor the feeling that this thing might not work, and that ultimately their contribution is likely going to be wasted. There’s a chance that if you have a relationship with the donor, that they will support YOU, but you are not cultivating a donor for the organization / mission by being desperate. More importantly, if you are coming across as desperate, then you run a very serious risk of being guilty of idolatry. After all, is not God our ultimate provider? If God has called you to this work, isn’t He faithful to fund it?
- Don’t Use People. Love People. It sickens me every time I hear someone refer to people as ATMs with legs. People are created by God, for God. They matter to Him, therefore, they should matter to us. When we degrade someone down to an individual with a money sign over their head, we are cheapening who they are and selfishly posturing ourselves to use them for what they can do. A leader of a church or organization should lovingly help people be free to give in order to enjoy God more, not to merely fulfill the mission at hand. Jesus talked about money as much as he talked about Hell. Money isn’t a new issue, it has always been an issue for people. It can serve as a blessing, or quickly become a curse (see 1 Timothy 6:10). By inviting people to partner with us in ministry with their finances, we need to really strive to help them to see the eternal impact their sacrifice is making. If you are looking to people either as a functional financial savior or to use them for what they can do, you need to repent. You might be able to get money from them, but at the end of the day, you will have to give an answer to God.
- Don’t Embellish Your Successes. I wish I didn’t even have to write this, but I have heard so many ministries over the years embellish their numbers, ‘successes’, and accomplishments in order to stimulate their giving base to give. Part of this problem is that people have a bad theology of who does the saving. God saves people through Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9) according to His good will and pleasure. So, if you are an evangelistic ministry or church, don’t try to force people in to the baptismal waters in order to stimulate the affections of your donor base. Just be honest. Ask for prayer. I understand that people have been conditioned to an extent by other ministries to gauge success by numbers, but at the end of the day, true success is faithfulness to God and His calling for you and your ministry. If you are having to embellish, stretch, or manipulate the impact of your ministry to appease your donors, then you are serving money, and not God.
There are several other ‘No-No’s’ that I’ll share along the way, but these are the 3 that I have found most common among fellow church planters. Don’t blow up your church plant before it starts by making these critical fundraising errors.
What are some of your ‘No-No’s’ that you would advise people about fundraising? Leave a comment below.