I’ll be honest. Raising financial support for my ministry is not one of my favorite things to do. I’ve discovered that it is much easier to keep the partners I have than to continually find new ones.
Henri Nouwen in A Spirituality of Fundraising said, we are offering “people the chance to invest what they have in the work of God. Whether they have much or little is not as important as the possibility of making their money available to God.” Nouwen’s words changed my perspective on partnership development. Up to that point, it had seemed like work and drudgery. Now it became a great joy and an opportunity to bless and minister to people.
Here are a few ideas that I have used over the last forty-four years in ministry. Some overlap or expand on previous principles.
Change your vocabulary, mindset and your future.
We need to modify our vocabulary and our mindsets from seeing our financial supporters as donors, to seeing them as ministry partners. It can be too easy to get into a mindset that says, “We’re the getters and others are the givers.” Or, “Our job is to get and our partners’ job is to give.” People want to be part of something bigger than themselves, to be involved in something they could never do on their own. By partnering with you, they can have a larger ministry. You can help them experience that, by sharing how their support is changing lives now and for eternity. Most don’t want to be seen simply as “money bags,” but want to impact the Kingdom of God.
Discover what motivates your partners.
To keep partners for the long haul, you need to discover what motivates them. Find out what they want. For example, how do they want you to communicate with them? Emails, texts, calls, visits, etc. Most of these require a commitment of time and effort, although not as much as many people spend in constantly raising new support. Once you establish a loving relationship with your partners, you won’t have to continue raising new support.
When you communicate with your partners personally, you show them that you value them, not just their money. When you consider communication with your ministry partners as a key part of your ministry, rather than just writing to donors, you see it in a new light. It doesn’t have to be burdensome. You can communicate personally in a variety of ways, including: a handwritten note (it can be just one to two sentences), a phone call, a visit in person, a text or personal social media message, a personal email, a personalized, computer-generated letter or a newsletter with a personal note on it. Even with the latest high-tech methods, nothing has as much impact as a handwritten note or a phone call (unless they told you they prefer to communicate another way).
An attitude of gratitude is so critical that, without it, most will be doomed to struggle financially. Have you ever thought that gratitude unexpressed is ingratitude? It is more than a feeling. It is an action and must be communicated. Consider the story in Luke 17:11-19 of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus. Did you realize that ingratitude is sin? (See 2 Timothy 3:1-9—ungratefulness is included in the list of horrible sins. Ouch!) Gratitude may be the most powerful source of encouragement for partners to remain committed. However, gratitude must be communicated personally—an impersonal newsletter does not work.
Minister to partners.
This article provides many ways to minister to your partners. You can also minister in practical ways, using the gifts God has given you. At first, it may seem odd to think about relating to partners as a God-given ministry, not an added burden. It’s not about getting support. It’s about having a whole different group of people to minister to over the years. You will probably have a longer relationship with your partners than with others in your ministry.
Listen and care.
Most people long for someone to care enough about them to listen to them. When I communicate with people on the phone or in person, I usually try to keep the conversation on them. I remind them that they know what I’m doing already, because of my letters. When you talk with partners, focus on them, rather than talking about yourself and your ministry most of the time. The primary purpose for demonstrating your care for them should not be to get support (or more support) from them, but rather to build deeper relationships. You can also show caring in your personal written communication.
People long for deeper connections with others. Praying for them and with them can be one powerful way to build friendships. One time after I prayed with some partners, the wife was crying and said, “I’ve never had anyone pray for me like that.” Shortly after they raised my support. That wasn’t my purpose, but an added perk. God has brought such incredible joy as I’ve developed precious lifelong friends with those who support my ministry.
Consider these questions:
- How do I currently refer to my ministry partners? (If you use “donors,” I encourage you to change your vocabulary and how you see them.)
- Do I feel that communication with current partners detracts from my “real” service to God or is it a vital part of my ministry? Is it drudgery or an exciting opportunity?
- In what ways and how often do I express gratitude to my partners?
- What can I do to minister to my partners more effectively? (Hint: you might want to ask them what they need or want.)
- What is one thing I will do as a result of this article?
How you answer these questions will determine whether raising and maintaining support is a joy or drudgery. It will reveal whether you are relating to financial supporters as donors or partners. And it will probably determine whether you are continually having to raise more support or you can focus on your ministry, including to your ministry partners. How would you rather spend your time?
This article is submitted by Jessica Wood of Support Raising Solutions. Support Raising Solutions is a Missio Nexus member. Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.