Random Thoughts on Fundraising

moneyManaging fundraising for an organization can be challenging at best. One of the first questions we get asked by anyone running an orphanage, food bank, or any other ministry is, “How do you fund it?” This rambling article is not a request for funds. This is meant as an encouragement to give intentionally, give wisely, and give in a way that honors everyone involved. Here are a few random observations on fundraising.

It’s interesting to watch trends in giving. So many issues cloud donation decisions that have little or nothing to do with actual needs or the problems an organization might be dealing with. People give for so many different and varied motivations. A genuine desire to help, guilt, habit, an emotional response, are just some of the many reasons people open their checkbooks. Sometimes a trend just takes off for no real reason. A few years ago, someone put up a joke Kickstarter fund to make potato salad and asked for $10. They raised $55,000 in two weeks. People must really like potato salad.

Changing seasons is a good example of shifting donations. Only about half our funding is from committed monthly donors, the rest is a little more random. Comparing December to January, our donations drop by 75%. Between people getting in their last year-end tax deduction, or giving to help orphans over the holidays, December is always our best month financially. But come January, yikes, it’s like people forget that children eat after the Christmas parties are over. We know this is going to happen, so every year and we try to plan for it, but to see how fast the donations drop is still a little scary.

Another area people tend to respond to is short-term and dramatic events. A couple of years ago, a ministry we work with had a substantial fire, no one was hurt, but they lost a few buildings on their campus. In talking to the director three days later, I told him, “The fire will be the best fundraiser in the history of your ministry.” Six months later, he brought up the conversation and agreed with me. They replaced all the buildings, and the money kept coming in for months.

People are often surprised when they learn that we cover the costs of our older children to go to college. I usually point out that education is one of the “easy to fund” areas. People get it, people like higher education. Education is warm and fuzzy, and people can get excited about it. Almost no one cares when we need a new septic tank or tires for the van, or to replace fire extinguishers, these type of expenses are not as emotional, connecting, or exciting. But any organization spends a considerable amount of money on the boring everyday minutiae of life. The lights need to stay on, and you need to put gas in the bus. Most funding needs are not a huge emotional draw; education is.

Giving to shifting social trends is very common. Right now, if you do well-drilling or work with human trafficking, this is your time. These two areas are trendy, and people are throwing money at these causes. (Don’t get me wrong, they are excellent and worthy causes to support.) You never hear about world hunger much anymore. Remember the Band-Aid Fundraising Concerts in the 80s and 90s? When was the last time you heard about fighting world hunger? The trends have shifted; it’s a different season.

I hope that you’re already giving more than most people (or you would have stopped reading by now.) I would encourage you to give wisely in two different ways to whatever ministry or cause you support.

1) Give to the urgent. Give when there is an emergency or special event. Things come up in any organization, and they need your support for the significant challenges. Join with others when there is a fire, medical emergency, or some other special one-time need.

2) Give consistently, not randomly. Organizations need to plan, need to budget, and need to know they can count on you. Even if it’s $10 a month, it means a lot to the organization you care about to know they always have a certain amount they can plan.

At our ministry, we have a wide range of donors. Some give randomly; some have committed monthly. Many of our donors have been giving for years and know we can count on them. It’s a privilege to work alongside our donors and to use their gifts responsibly. One thing I am very aware of, we could not even begin to do our work without our great donors choosing to partner with us.

Money in ministry is always a hard topic, and one nobody likes to talk about, but every ministry needs to pay the bills. Money is a powerful tool, money is a huge responsibility, use it wisely.

Sharing this post on Facebook, or wherever you hang out online, helps more than you might know.  Please pass this along if you think it will bless or help others.  Thanks
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