From Greg: Our calling to be fundraisers

Dear pastors and ministry leaders:

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

I have significant experience as a church pastor and the director of a non-profit ministry. In those roles, I’ve talked with many people about money and I’ve raised a lot of funds. Yet, perhaps like you, I’ve not thought of myself as a fundraiser.

As a principal leader in your church or ministry, you know your organization well, and that knowledge positions you to be a chief spokesperson in raising funds to help supply the financial needs of your organization. The goal of most of the articles in this issue of Equipper is to acquaint you with fundraising and to offer tips and tools to assist your fundraising efforts going forward.

When it comes to fundraising, there is a problem: most of us don’t like to talk about money! But are we aware that money is Jesus’ second most talked-about topic in the Gospels? (The first is the Kingdom of God.) I’m sure you’re aware that the Bible calls the love of money “a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10), but do you know it also calls money “the answer for everything” (Ecclesiastes 10:19)?

Like most of you reading this, I learned quickly that it takes money to do ministry. Knowing I was called to do ministry, I gradually learned to become comfortable talking about money. I encourage you to do the same. Here are two important things I’ve learned that I think will help you:

Understand the importance of “WHY”

Every congregation and ministry needs a clear understanding of the “why” of their calling. Every leader then needs to cast and recast a clear and compelling vision that addresses that “why.” The greater the clarity of that vision, the easier it will be to know where and how to expend ministry resources (treasure, time and talent). Clarity also enables leaders to effectively share the vision with others, as noted by Simon Sinek in this helpful TED talk:

As director of Metro Atlanta Youth for Christ, I inherited a three-headed program. We were attempting to engage teens on school campuses via after-school clubs. We worked with teen moms to help keep them in school and to strengthen their self-worth. And we sponsored a program for deaf students. Though all three programs had merit, trying to articulate with clarity what we were about was difficult. Our message was convoluted; watered-down. The director who replaced me five years ago recently shared that they have narrowed the organization’s focus and now are working exclusively with the after-school clubs (focused on middle-shoolers). Getting that focus has been liberating for the ministry and has brought clarity to their vision-casting. And that has led to more effective fundraising.

Knowing why we do what we do in ministry makes it much easier for us to ask others to participate through giving in the form of finances, donations of goods and services, and the giving of their own blood, sweat and tears.

Understand the power of networking

Who in your congregation knows the owner of a pizza restaurant who would gladly supply free pizzas for the occasional youth meeting? (When I ministered in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Tony was our guy.) Who knows the owner of a company who would gladly finance the purchase of sound equipment to be used in your congregation’s outreach? (Read the article in this issue from Tim Sitterley.) Who is connected with the local fire department? (Our congregation in Grove City, Ohio will be working with the fire department giving away smoke detectors and batteries—Pastor Jeff Broadnax knows the Fire Chief.) Also read the article in this issue from Sam Butler concerning how his congregation raised money for a food pantry. These are just a few of the ways GCI churches are involved in building relational networks within their focus communities in ways that lead to outreach and fundraising opportunities.

A marvelous example of focused vision and networking skill is Brandon Antwine, a GenMin camp director, and featured speaker at this year’s Converge West conference. In the video below, Brandon explains his ministry as a teacher who runs multiple after-school clubs for kids in the economically-challenged community where he grew up.

I have a question for you: If Jesus looked to you as one of his disciples, and said, “Go get a colt,” or “Go secure an upper room where we can share the Passover meal,” would you be able to make it happen? As a pastor or ministry leader in the 21st century, fundraising is a skill that is very much necessary in order to be active in the ministry that Jesus is doing. Fundraising involves securing the resources that are necessary to do what God has called you to do in your community. Surveying the congregation to know who your members know (their existing networks) is a good place to start. Couple that with crafting a clear vision, and you are well on your way to reaching out and giving others opportunity to participate with you in what God is doing in and through your church or ministry.

Would you like to learn more about fundraising? A good place to begin is to read The Spirituality of Fundraising in which author Henri Nouwen points out that fundraising is more about asking someone to participate than asking them to contribute. If you’d like to receive training in fundraising practices (that are effective and biblically sound), GCI Regional Pastor Randy Bloom leads cohorts (small groups) of leaders that meet online to learn together how to raise funds. If you’d like to be part of one of these cohorts, please email Randy at Randy.Bloom@gci.org.

May God bless your ministry through your fundraising efforts,

Greg Williams

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