[This is an interactive post. Whether you supports missionaries or are the missionary, we can learn from each other. Please use the message space below.]

If you’re a missionary, you’ve likely sat through meetings intended to teach you fundraising strategies. If you know missionaries, you’ve likely been on the receiving end of donation requests. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve had serious misgivings about the usual models.
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The Business Model
It goes something like this:

  1. Define your target demographic
  2. Invest in relationships that will allow for fundraising pleas
  3. Casually mention that you’re going to be raising support
    * Wait two weeks.
  4. Make a clear request for financial assistance.
    * Wait two weeks.
  5. Call to ask if the potential donor has any questions and inform him/her that you’ll call again.
    * Wait two weeks.
  6. Call again to openly ask for a verbal commitment.
  7. If the answer is positive, follow up with donation documents and a hand-written thank you note.
  8. If the answer is negative, repeat Steps 2 to 6 .
  9. Then repeat again as needed.
  10. If your friends begin to run from you when they see you coming, you may have done it right!

This popular fundraising model is likely built on solid, tested data and it may yield the needed income, but I’m concerned about its implications:

  • Existing friendships exploited for financial gain
  • New relationships created for financial profit
  • Calling and vision overshadowed by a fixation on fundraising

I’ve sat through the seminars and given the strategy some thought, but have been reluctant to implement it because of its potential for collateral damage:

  • Do I want my friends and acquaintances to be uncomfortable meeting with me because they might be pressured to donate?
  • Do I want them to let my calls go to voicemail just in case this is my two-week follow up?
  • Do I want the dollar-signs in my eyes to keep people from seeing God’s call on my heart?
  • Do I want to reduce God’s promise of provision to a ten-step plan blending strategic interaction and field-tested timing?

I’d rather be under-supported by people who know me and believe in what I do than fully supported by people who felt bullied into donating.

I’d rather have ten supporters join this team because they too want to see the plight of MKs improved than twenty supporters sending monthly donations because the “Biblical Business Blueprint” worked.
I do understand that forethought and strategy are critical to any successful endeavor, but I  believe that authenticity and relationship trump “method” every time.
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The Crowd-Sourcing Model – unfair advantage?

And then there’s the GoFundMe phenomenon. Indiegogo. Youcaring. All those sites designed to allow users to launch campaigns the moment a need arises.
It’s no secret that our society is increasingly drawn to short-term, quick-fix, instant-gratification solutions. I get it. And I love that so much good is done every day through sites that make it easy to be Good Samaritans.

It feels so good to click the Paypal link and know that funeral arrangements, medical bills and disaster relief will immediately be covered.

But where does that leave the missionary world with its long-term vision and (often) years without measurable results?
We need to instill long-term goals in a short-term culture. We need to promote distant-lands needs to a here-and-now population. We need to emphasize subtle gains to a donorship motivated by visible improvement. But how?

When presented with a critical local need or the continuing deficit of a less urgent ministry, the average person will invest in the short-term solution—because it’s measurable, it’s crucial, it’s simple and it’s a one-time gift.

No long-term commitment needed.
Survey-Small1
The Survey Says
Back in June, I ran a simple survey to get a sense of the mentality of current ministry supporters. By no means is it formal scientific research, but it does point to trending mindsets and raise some interesting questions.
I won’t attempt to interpret the data below. I’d rather voice some questions and let you contribute your interpretation of the numbers you see. Please use the comment section at the bottom of this post to voice your thoughts and identify the survey question on which you’re commenting by stating its number (ie. #4).
[Note: There are debates going on as to the terminology we should use for those who give funds to ministries and missionaries. For the sake of clarity and brevity, I use “donor,” but that is not meant in any way to diminish their friendships, prayers and true partnership in Kingdom Work.

QUESTION 1
You’d be most inclined to support:
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  • With 74.05% of respondents most likely to support people they already know, where does this leave missionaries who have contacted all their friends/relatives and still have support to raise?
  • What are the dangers associated with raising support among friends?
  • How do missionaries with less “exotic” callings find people who are “passionate” about what they do?
  • What strikes you in these survey responses?

QUESTION 2
You view giving as:
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  • I find it encouraging to see over 60% giving to the whole person!
  • How do the 24% giving only to the missionary work affect the lives of missionaries?
  • What is the downside of having donors who are simply giving to obey a biblical standard (5.79%)?
  • What strikes you in these survey responses?

QUESTION 3
If ministry workers are raising support, you’d rather:
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  • Note the very small number of people who respond well to traditional fundraising methods. Are we getting it wrong?
  • There’s been a lot of talk about the ineffectiveness of newsletters and a push for creative communication (ie. video updates, memes, charts), yet 22% prefer to hear about a missionary’s need in that way. Should innovation follow demand or trends?
  • 36% prefer to be told about a ministry in an informal context. Does this require that missionaries trade “efficient” communication methods (ie. letters, Facebook statuses) for a more time-consuming but relational approach to networking?
  • What strikes you in these survey responses?

QUESTION 4
When you begin supporting someone, it’s:
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  • It would be interesting to know the demographic of the 37% who commit to giving for the duration of the ministry. Do you think this might be a generational difference?
  • How do supporters who may choose to end their donating at some point (46% of them) impact the way missionaries live, raise funds and communicate? Is this good or bad?
  • What strikes you in these survey responses?

QUESTION 5
When you support a missionary, you’d like to receive newsletters or mass emails:
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  • How does one find a communication schedule that pleases a majority of supporters?
  • What strikes you in these survey responses?

QUESTION 6
When you support a missionary, you’d like personal contact (by email, mail or phone):
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  • What are the challenges of communicating personally with ministry partners?
  • What is the value of such communication?
  • What do supporters want to hear about in personal emails/calls?
  • What strikes you in these survey responses?

Please (oh please!) contribute your thoughts in the message space below. We can learn from each other, whether we’re support receivers or support givers. (If you’d rather email me your comments, send them to michelesblog@gmail.com.)

~~~~~~~

Why yesI am currently raising support! 🙂 I believe in the importance of this ministry for/about Missionaries’ Kids. I’ve seen it change lives as God has used my experiences and efforts to give MKs a voice while informing their families, educators and sending agencies. Would you like to join in the effort? Just $200/month are still needed.

Please click HERE for online giving, or contact me for Global’s mailing address. Thank you so much…

 

Comments

Comments(7)

  1. My parents were home missionaries. What we had each month to live on depended solely on the gifts of others to the ministry and the odd jobs my Dad was able to pick up on the side to help feed, clothe and shelter our family of 6. I know what it is like to live on very, very little. When I started supporting my first missionary, I expected it to be for the lifetime of that missionary in their field of service. I had seen a lot of that with my parents. After a while, I began supporting several missionaries. I enjoyed hearing from them monthly quarterly or even a couple times a year.
    Things changed through the years. I stopped supporting a missionary because I realized one day that I had not heard from them (receipt or prayer letter) for over 9 months. I was uneasy about continuing to support something that I knew nothing about. That has been about twenty years ago. There was another ministry I supported faithfully and passionately for many years. I never imagined I would stop. Then one month I found myself unable to make myself write out the check. I had a huge check in my spirit. I tried again the next month and felt the same way. I do not know to this day why not but I felt very strongly that I was no longer to support that missionary. They knew how strongly I felt about the work they did so I found it interesting that they never inquired as to why the checks stopped. I actually never heard from them again.
    The few times I have stopped supporting a missionary, there has always been another shortly thereafter that I feel led to support. Some are in ministries I feel passionate about. Some are not.
    Interestingly enough, there are several missionaries I have kept up with, one for almost 30 years, that I have never felt led to regularly send support checks to.
    Just like the missionaries are led by the Lord to their place of service, I believe the Lord leads those who are to give to support them. Oh, if only more would listen to the prompting of the Lord and obey His directives to give! Let us have ears to hear, hearts to obey and wallets to give!

  2. One of the more interesting ways I’ve seen people raise support (specifically, moving and settling-in expenses) was to list the things that were needed, and their cost, an invited people to claim a particular need and cover the expenses for it. It was a list few people could argue with (e.g., no, we really can’t do without a bed) and in some ways, gave a glimpse into the world they were moving into.
    This particular request came in the same maildrop as a nice check I’d earned doing a tattoo design . . . and God elbowed me in the ribs a little. I didn’t get the new motorcycle helmet I’d wanted. Instead, two missionaries got a 6-month supply of butane. And I remember feeling like I’d actually done something to contribute to their ministry and well-being, picturing them cooking and staying warm during the stormy winters off the Mediterranean, rather than just moving a thermometer graphic by a fraction of an inch, or contributing a small amount towards some amorphous, impossibly large goal.

    • Carol

    • 7 years ago

    Having lived on support for over 30 years it is very interesting to me to read and hear the views of others regarding support. From day one, my husband and I felt that if we were going to get to the mission field, God was the one who would make it happen. He would send us the people we would need. And because those special people felt His leading and acted upon it, we have always treasured them as lifelong friends – whether we knew them before or not. They support us – but we are a team – we couldn’t do what we do without them.
    I now find myself in a position caring for seasoned missionaries as well as guiding and helping to train new missionaries. What I stress to each and every one is “relationship.” They have to treat each supporting relationship as a living thing. It needs care and attention. Thank you’s, cards, small gifts on furloughs, attention to every communication. If someone increases their giving write them or, if possible, call them. Thank them. Let them know how much this means to you. If someone stops support – call them. Not just because the support stopped, but to find out if everything is ok. Maybe they lost their job or their is an illness or other stresses behind it. Tell them you will be praying for them. It is the very least you should do in a ‘relationship.’
    I have seen many missionaries lose support because they have not given the effort to maintain those relationships.
    In raising new support, we have encouraged our new people to make every effort to personalize their presentations. Have friends invite other friends to a presentation. Explain what God is calling you to do and then invite them to join your team. You aren’t asking for money, you are giving them the opportunity to join you in the work God has called you to. They will become part of the special group of people who will share in the news of your advances and pray during your difficulties. But you commit to do that for them as well. That keeps the team alive.
    I have seen a lot in over 30 years. And what I need to say to supporters – people who are deciding to give – COMMIT. Promise before God you will not just “try this and see if it works’ or “well, ok, I will do this for a year.” Commit. Don’t stop support until the God who led you to start giving, leads you to stop. Someone, somewhere in the world is working and depending upon that faithfulness. And Missionaries – COMMIT – make a promise that you will love and care for the people God sends to you to enable you to do the work He has called you to.

    • Bev H.

    • 7 years ago

    As a missionary who moved from a salary-paying mission to a support-raising mission, I have experienced the frustrations and joys of both systems. When we attended one of those famous seminars to learn how to raise support, one speaker claimed that once we had engaged in support-raising we would not choose to go back to any other system (what he called the “magic button” system). I SERIOUSLY doubted him. However, years later, we have found that the relationships we have built through fund-raising are MUCH richer, much more varied and much deeper than the relationships we thought we had with our prayer supporters in all our previous years of ministry.
    The personal touch is essential, I highly agree. Writing letters and making phone calls can be a good start in fund-raising, but if you are willing to go on the road, drive hundreds of miles and bend your schedule around to try and see people, they understand that you value them as people and not just as givers. Staying in touch with people, REGULAR personal thank you notes (I’m appalled at how many of my colleagues rarely if ever write thank you notes!), responding to e-mails, praying for the needs expressed by our supporters and following up on them . . . . Partnership is a two-way street and not enough missionaries take their side of the deal seriously enough.
    My personal struggle in regards to the survey is this — the fact that people prefer to hear about needs by letter, and yet in our experience so few actually read those letters. We communicate regular (more or less monthly) with a short e-mail update, but then send a lengthier newsletter every three months. I’m always astonished when I meet with people that I consider to be “close friends” and they are unaware of what is happening in our ministry or family. They obviously have not read the communications we’ve been sending their way. This is not all people, thankfully, but it does represent a large portion of those we try to connect with. We are really wrestling with what is the best way to communicate with people in this day and age information is preferred in twitter-sized bites.
    I absolutely echo Rebecca W’s comment that God calls supporters, just as he calls missionaries and I believe that if all the givers were responding to God’s promptings, we would have no trouble funding the missionary effort in the world!
    Be authentic, be YOU, and remind people that they are not giving to YOU (or ME) but they are responding in obedience to God and partnering with Him to reach the lost.

    • Lizzie

    • 7 years ago

    I am a missionary, and I have lots of strong feelings about support raising… 🙂
    1. It’s SUPPORT-raising, not FUND-raising. We are seeking people’s support when we go out, not their money. We treat committed prayer donors the same way as financial donors (one-time or recurring). Their prayer support means a whole lot more when we are at the end of ourselves than the fact that there is money in an account in Atlanta…
    2. We believe in the sovereignty of God. Just like we believe in His sovereignty over the hearts of those He will draw to Himself, so we believe He will lay on the hearts of His people a desire to enable His work to be done in His way.
    Our approach then, is to say up-front that we believe this – truly believe it! Our job is to be faithful to the task of sharing what God is doing around the world. That’s our “presentation” – in it we hope people will catch a vision and see our heart for ministry. What God does with that is up to Him and them. Not us. I trust none of our friends/family run when they see us. We really don’t care who gives!
    3. Communication: We try to email out newsletters every 2 months. It used to be every month, but when you’re in language school your letters tend to get repetitive… I personally write back every person who comments or drops us a line of encouragement in response to the mass-mailing.
    Additionally, I have a list of all supporters: Churches, individuals (prayer, one-time givers, and pledgers), that I work through about 1-2x per year. I grab a stack of postcards when we are out (especially if we travel for church outings/retreats), and write a few personal lines. A postcard takes about 2 minutes to write. It’s the least I can do for people who take the time to pray and send money faithfully! I especially try and write the children of supporters, telling them of what our girls are up to. I hope that helps in raising the next generation of not only supporters, but missions-minded people who will follow God’s leading.
    4. Ministry: The overwhelmingly vast majority of our supporters are churches or individuals in whom we have invested our time and ministry long before we went to the field. We never asked for support before going overseas (except for the one time our mission required us to “to practice”). NEVER. And yet we raised a very large monthly amount to cover the cost of living in an expensive western European city. We find people give when they can really see your heart – not just for others, but for them as well.
    That was a long comment… like I said, I have feelings.

  3. I am so grateful to see these results! As a missionary myself this is so helpful! Although we receieved MPD training, we still often wonder what people think and expect when it comes to supporting missionaries. I’ve been doing this for 9 years and this has been an ongoing reality in a changing culture. How do we raise our support in a relevant way especially when our ministry isn’t as “exoctic” as others? How do we go about making our needs known without offending people? As a missionary, this isn’t something you just do at the beginning of your ministry. It’s ongoing.
    #2 Great to see that so many view it as giving to the whole person! We have often wondered that.
    #3 We have found the relational approach is always the best one. Ultimately it’s God’s work and He works in peoples hearts, but it seems to me that making your needs or situation known is best done through relationship. It’s a tricky thing as a missionary because you never want people to feel like your “targeting” them and you definitely don’t want them to feel pressure at all but yet when you’re raising support you run the risk of either of these things happening.
    #6 It is easiest to communicate with supporters when you already have a natural relationship with them. It just flows then and seems much more effortless. Personal contact is so vital! All of us, the missionary and the donor, are doing our part and so of course it’s important that they are in the loop with what is going on. It can be a real challenge though espeically when life and ministry are so busy. You really have to prioritize it.
    I would say that each person has to find what works for them in their sphere of influence and in their cultural context. What works here in Ontario definitely wouldn’t work in California and so on. It is SO helpful though to hear the voices of those who support missionaries and how they view these things! We can really help each other out by communicating about this stuff. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this survey!

  4. The question that stood out the loudest to me was #6 about having contact with the missionary. I have been following the ministry of a couple who have to be in their 70s by now. Listened to the wife speak at a ladies group over 30 years ago and was impressed at her openness, and genuineness – both praises and struggles of life in Africa. I could relate to her a good deal because I grew up in a primitive area of Indonesia. Many similar issues, if not with our immediate family, than with fellow missionaries who were “Aunt” and “Uncle” to me… My heart has been drawn to this family’s ministry – but they don’t have time for me… I have repeatedly asked to have lunch with them while on furlough. Their home is an hour away – I don’t mind traveling an hour to visit with a fellow missionary! For two years I was actually the Sunday school teacher for the class that supported them. She still wouldn’t go out with me. Frankly I feel SNUBBED!!! Our family is not wealthy – maybe she would have taken me up if we were – but I was interested and I pursued the wife! – for a while. She doesn’t have time for me, and at this point in time I don’t feel that God has asked me to contribute to their ministry – even though one of them is translation, and I am 100% on any translating team!
    On the other hand, there is a couple, probably in their 50s (I am 52) who run a boarding school for national children who need a home. I grew up in boarding schools and my heart is drawn to their ministry. They have faithfully been taking the time to meet up with me – don’t even remember for how long. Just a hamburger at McDonalds for an hour. We supported them for a while. When we were no longer able to do that, we have been able to help with the special projects aspects of their ministry. Busy couple who have time for those who partner in ministry with them… And potential supporters, of which I was one at one point in time.
    I’ve enjoyed following your ministry! May God bless you with the support you still need to raise.

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