Should Relational Fundraising be Taboo in Church?

I recently participated in a church fundraising committee meeting.  This was my first time using my professional experience with fundraising in a ministry setting.  Most of the dialogue was brainstorming about what events could be held, what feeds could be done, what auctions etc.  (This isn’t unique to churches but a common anthem in fundraising everywhere).  When people think of fundraising they often think of an event, which makes sense, events are the most visible.  However, events can also be the most expensive which threatens your net.  Even though a well-planned event certainly has its place in fundraising, my personal opinion is: there are more lean ways to “fundraise”.

I decided to ask about their donor prospect list and individual gift strategy vs. grants or other avenues of income that could be available.  With a couple basic fundraising questions I had taken the air out of the room- and not in a good way.  As I sat wondering about the reaction I couldn’t figure out: was relational fundraising overwhelming because it was outside the purview of the folks I was sitting with, or was it taboo?  Stewardship and generosity are one of the most compelling ways we demonstrate God’s love to a world that is often entrenched in consumerism.  “But whoever has this worlds goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” 1 John 3:17.  It seems obvious that God would require us to sacrifice our resources to help out our fellow man, but is that biblical principle for the welfare of the needy alone?  Absolutely not.  Giving in the manner that God intended for us blesses the giver infinitely as they demonstrate their love to God.  Love should be the defining reason we tithe, donate, or share.  If a gift is coerced out of guilt or shame it ceases to please God.  This will be a significant difference in relational fundraising within the body of Christ vs. a more secular approach.

I imagine my experience above would be similar in many of your own congregations out there.  So in this series let’s take a look at the “Whys” and “Hows” of relational fundraising in the church, starting with the “Whys”

You’re Already Set Up: All the best practices for relational fundraising advise us to think of it as a relationship and not a transaction.  Most donor management software is established so you can track the details of a donor (in addition to their gifts) and manage the aspects that are most important to the donor.  This allows an organization to develop a relationship that feels personal with their donor. As a body of believers we congregate to build relationships.  These relationships already exist within your body.  In addition, giving is a fruit of spiritual maturity, so making efforts to know the heart of your congregants is a natural progression.  Strategically identifying what their heart is passionate towards, and how their personal beliefs about giving flush out, will be essential to building a deep and righteous connection with your congregation, it just so happens that it is a key strategy for relational fundraising too.

It Matters to You and the World:  There is no missing note in God’s composition.  He doesn’t need us to accomplish His will, but by His grace he allows our messy participation.  A good portion of the blessing that is hidden in faithful giving is for us.  It builds our faith and reliance upon God.  Money can make it easy to feel independent of God.  Giving keeps our heart orientated to the mission of God: mindful service to others, and intimate reliance on God our provider.  Asking us to be faithful stewards of the resources God allots us is not solely evaluated on an individual basis.  The church has an obligation to be sacrificial and wisely manage the resources that come via gifts to the Lord.  When you build off of the relationships you have established with your congregation you will be in touch with the direction and heart of what God is stirring your congregation to.  Your finger will be on the pulse of what it is God is calling your hearts to.  Utilizing that knowledge will help you responsibly expend your resources.  You can be confident you will be working in tandem with God’s will and that is a guarantee that life transforming work will be happening.

The Future Happens:  A small church recently faced losing their building when there was a denominational change from higher up.  This church had not only been a pillar within its community for over 67 years, it had been a refuge for first generation Japanese during World War II.  Losing this building would have been a devastating blow, not only to the congregation but the city that they were so influential in.  Because the church already had very active relationships they were able to raise $200,000 in six weeks to buy back their building.  What made it possible? In addition to God’s hand, was that fact the church knew who had the capacity to help.  They were able to speak comfortably to their congregation individually, and as a body, about giving in significant and sacrificial ways.  These were natural relationships, built on prayer, discernment and brotherly love.  At some point your church may face the future, building campaigns, unforeseen need, or a call to action.  Understanding your congregation as a body and individually will allow you to respond with obedience.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of the “Whys” concerning relational fundraising within the church. But I hope it inspired you that establishing open dialogue about giving is healthy for your church.  Next we will be looking at the “Hows” of relational fundraising and dissecting strategies, practices, and mistakes to avoid that can help you establish and grow these relationships.  Look forward to that article in the next coming month.