by Pastor Tim Sitterley
You’ve probably had occasions when you answered a knock on your front door to find standing there a couple of well-dressed people holding religious literature in their hands. Through experiences like those you’ve probably learned that cold-call evangelism doesn’t work too well. Perhaps you’ve had similar bad experiences with cold-call fundraisers. But don’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater”—there are biblically sound, effective ways to raise funds to support your church or ministry. Let me share what I have learned about a key aspect of fundraising: networking.
Over the years I’ve had several business owners offer financial support for a variety of ministry endeavors. With rare exceptions, I’ve not directly asked for contributions. What I’ve done is establish personal relationships that then include sharing various aspects of ministry and out-reach that I’m involved in. Yes, it does take time to establish a connection with your printer, or an attorney in the community, or even the owner of the auto repair shop you frequent. Perhaps it means joining the Chamber of Commerce (and actually attending!), or becoming a member of the local Kiwanis or Rotary club. Doing these things will pay off in ways that go far beyond raising funds.
An occasional cup of coffee here; sitting together at a chamber of commerce Business After Hours event there—before long you’ve developed a network of acquaintances who become your friends. Just as you become interested in what is happening in their lives, they become interested in what is important to you. A network based on true friendship is formed.
On one occasion, I shared with the owner of a printing company some of the financial challenges my worship team was facing due to antiquated equipment. That led him to ask this question: “What would it take to upgrade?” I responded that we were trying to scrape together seven grand. His response was, “I need a tax deduction or two. Why don’t you let me cover that for you?” On another occasion, showing excitement and sharing stories from our local GCI youth camp led to a thousand-dollar check showing up in the mail, unsolicited.
My favorite examples are the times when, rather than directly asking for support, I have asked people if they know of other business owners who might be willing to help with goods or services for some event we are hosting. More often than not, I come away with not only viable references, I also usually hear, “Let me help out as well.”
Establishing a network of relationships merely for the purpose of raising money is a bit like the predatory evangelism practiced by some churches. But when the friendships are real, the results often go far beyond the occasional check. As an example, the above mentioned owner of the printing company (who had not attended church in over 40 years) is now a member of my congregation. That’s far better than a check, any day!