Lessons learned about fundraising

by Pastor Sam Butler

Sam and Denise Butler
Sam and Denise Butler

Fundraising—it was the last thing I wanted to do! Asking people for money was, for me, like pulling teeth—painful and unpleasant.

That was how I felt until 12 years ago when the congregation I pastored in Michigan started a food pantry. We moved our meeting location with the intent of engaging a particular community. About six months after the move, we started the pantry in partnership with a large food bank in the area. They provided perishable items, and once a month we provided non-perishable personal care items.

We started slowly, serving only 25 families. We wanted to be able to
sustain what we had started. But demand was high, and it became apparent that we needed to grow. So we began looking outside the congregation for financial support—we had to involve ourselves in fundraising if we wanted to be successful. But by that time, something had changed drastically in our thinking. Fundraising no longer felt like pulling teeth. We had something we were passionate about—something that fit well our congregational giftedness; something that was making a real difference in the lives of needy families. We had a story to tell and
we felt empowered to invite others into that story, sharing the journey with us. So what had once felt painful and unpleasant, was now a joy-filled expression of our passion and purpose.

As we made contacts and told our story to many people outside our congregation, funds came in. As a result, we were able to increase the number of families served from 25 to 125. As the result of our networking, we received grants from institutions and gifts of cash from families, friends and former members. From area businesses we received both cash and products with which we re-stocked our pantry. Through our fundraising efforts, we were enabled to operate the ministry with about 90% of its cost funded by outside sources.

Lessons learned

Here are some of the lessons we learned along the way as we engaged our community in practical, caring ways:

  • Once we saw the value in what we were doing, participation and giving among our members increased. There was a heightened sense of purpose that changed how we viewed every aspect of the ministry. As a result, fundraising became something we did as a natural part of our ministry.
  • We found out quickly that people will give generously when they can clearly see value in what is being done, especially when people are helped.
  • When we struggled with manpower needs as we grew, we asked for help from our pantry recipients and they stepped up to help. When we engage in serving and caring for God’s children we have a greater sense of purpose and when we invite others in the community to join in, they experience the joy of that purpose as well.
  • Fundraising is all about an opportunity and privilege to participate in what Jesus is doing though our church, in the community. It should never be viewed as a mere chore.

These are some of the valuable lessons learned by some skeptics (of which I was chief). We are skeptics no more.

One thought on “Lessons learned about fundraising”

  1. Excellent, Sam! You have a great experience to share and I’m glad people are hearing it.

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