As a former pastor, I shudder to think that someone might have been able to say this about my church. Actually, As a former pastor, I shudder to think that someone might have been able to say this about my church. Actually, it makes me shudder to think of it being said about any church. I am now a sales manager for a major steel company. In the almost thirty years of my professional career, my church has never once suggested that there be any type of accounting of my on-the-job ministry to others. Our church has never once offered to improve those skills which could make me a better lay minister. Nor has it ever asked if I needed any kind of support in what I was doing. There has never been any inquiry into the types of ethical decisions I must face, or whether I seek to communicate my faith to my co-workers. I have never been in a congregation where there was any type of affirmation of a ministry in my career. In short, I have to conclude that my church doesn’t have the least interest in whether or how I minister in my daily work.– William Diehl in Christianity and Real Life
Except for the church staff and those who work in the home, it’s likely that all of the adults in your church spend their working hours in the marketplace, not at a church or ministry job. And perhaps we should include teens and young adults, who are just entering the work force and figuring out what their life’s work will be.
So why do churches give them so little support? Why do so many churches fail to equip people to live for Christ in the place where they spend most of their waking hours?
When someone volunteers to serve in the youth ministry or Sunday school at church, leaders usually want to provide at least some basic training so that the worker can be effective for an hour or two a week. Yet that same person may spend 40-plus hours of every week working in the marketplace without ever being taught what the Bible says about their work.
Church leader, I want to challenge you to dig into God’s Word and find out what it says about living for God in one’s daily work. Then teach it to your people.
Imagine the impact it would have for the Kingdom if every marketplace worker in your church knew how to turn their daily work into an ambassadorship for Christ.
How does your church help your people to be faithful in their daily work?
I love fun, creative approaches to fundraising. If nothing else, creative thinking moves us away from the rubber-chicken dinners and spaghetti feeds that fundraisers are notorious for.
One event I heard about took place on a golf course. The organization numbered thousands of golf balls, and the guests all had numbers that matched those printed on the balls. The balls were carried up in a hot air balloon over the golf course. When the balloon floated into position, the balls all were dumped out above the first hole. The balls that went into the hole won the door prizes for the guest with the matching number.
Well, regardless of whether your event is out-there creative like that one or something more traditional like a spaghetti dinner, there’s one strategy that we propose that can make planning it a whole lot easier.
It’s what we call the event captain approach.
Say your event is a banquet. You would select table captains from among strong supporters of your organization. They should be people who have a good relationship with your ministry or nonprofit.
First you’ll ask your captains to cover the cost for all the guests at their table, and only the cost, not the cost plus a margin added to it. For example with promotion, food, staff time, and hall rental, a table might cost $500. So you’re going to ask each table captain to spend $500 and then invite four couples they’re friends with to be their guests.
Typically those four couples will be people who are going to be their peers, and so they’ll likely be at the same level of giving.
Now, in order to bring in the kind of money you hope to raise, you may want to look for table captains who can give at the level of $5,000 or $10,000 a year or more.
The event captain approach also works with other group-type events, such as a golf tournament, where the captains would invite friends to be on their foursome and would cover the cost for them.
Let’s say you’ll have 100 tables at your banquet. As the leader you only need to focus on 100 table captains. Instead of trying to focus on 800 guests, you just focus on 100 tables. When you take the time to focus on the table captains does two things.
First of all it relieves the burden on the organization to have to run around and sell 800 tickets.
Second, it takes you out of that mode in which it’s so easy to look at people with dollar signs in your eyes. If you address people that way, they will know it. Instead, the table captain approach allows you to focus on taking these folks to a deeper relationship with your organization.
A ship should only have one captain, but for your next fundraising event, the more captains the better!
Do you have some suggestions on how to take some of the stress out of event planning?
You’re hard at work planning your next big fundraising event. You and your staff are scrambling to attend to endless details. You need to recruit and train volunteers. You need to publicize your event. You’re devising a strategy for follow-up of each person who attends.
Where is your leadership board in all of this? Are they involved? They need to be.
The fact is your leadership board comprises some of your organization’s most effective ambassadors.
Why is that?
How will you go inspire and encourage your leadership board to “come on board” for your next fundraising event?
I remember where I was when I first saw the images on the TV screen. The news was just reporting that planes had been flown into the World Trade Center. I was at a coffee bar in Grand Cayman. No, really! I was getting some coffee to take back to my wife, who was beginning a lazy day of vacation.
Who doesn't remember where they were on that tragic, unforgettable day?
In the aftermath of 9/11, my team was called to consult about certain ministries’ financial devastation. Some ministries survived; many didn't. All organizations need to be prepared for unforeseen financial problems. In a SWOT analysis, the "T" stands for THREATS. Threats come from the outside—things you can't see and can't control. But you’d better plan for them, or they will sneak up and take you out.
One thing that’s really surprising to me is how few ministries and organizations have a clearly defined, compelling vision that they can offer to one another and to other people in the community.
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the most important part of fundraising is not raising the money. It’s engaging your audience with the vision of what your organization exists to accomplish. Without doing that work to make that kind of clarity available to people, it becomes very difficult to engage them in what you are doing.Now, it’s true that a nonprofit or ministry that lacks a clear and compelling vision can still succeed in raising a few dollars at an event. But an event that doesn’t connect people with a compelling vision won’t draw people into deeper levels of engagement. To be sustainable, your organization needs to engage people at deeper and deeper levels of commitment and participation.
Planning a fundraising event without clarifying and sharing your vision can lead to some undesirable results:
The purpose of your event is more important than the event itself. A successful fundraising event takes a great deal of planning. But the most important step of all is to clarify your vision for yourself and your audience.
What creative ways have you found to share your vision at your events?
Every organization needs support if it’s going to last, and they commonly rely on marketing to drum it up.
Marketing is important in getting the word out, letting folks know who we are and what we do. But we have to let go of the idea that we’ll just keep telling people about the needs we have in our organization and they’re going to keep responding and volunteering and supporting, because they’re not. Studies are showing that.
The real key to building a sustainable nonprofit is stewardship of your relationships, whether with individuals, foundations, or corporations. Stewardship is not just raising funds. It’s really an opportunity to build a sustainable nonprofit by ministering to a population of your ministry.
God brings community to your ministry. He works through the community of relationships. He wants to bring people together to work together in a caring community to see things accomplished. That’s how God works.
And when God brings people together, it’s our responsibility as leaders to steward those relationships. Whether they’re affluent people to a homeless mission, homeless to a homeless mission, government agencies, or foundations, God’s brought them together for a particular vision or cause. And when He brings that community together, it’s our responsibility to come along and minister to those folks as the broken, servant-leaders that God has called us to be.
We no longer can look at funders as if they’re in a silo and separate from all the other things that we’re doing. They’re not there just to bring us money, and then we get busy about doing the ministry. Those funders are part of our ministry. God brought them to us for a reason—so that we will minister to them, encourage them, and help them grow.
Every one of us who leads an organization is a pastor, in effect, not just a preacher but a pastor, not just an administrator but a pastor, not just a grant writer but a pastor, not just a volunteer but a pastor whose job is to minister to the full spectrum of individuals and organizations that God has brought into our circle.
Our job is to be good stewards of these relationships, and to identify not just the obvious ones, but also the ones may still be on the fringe. We can reach out and draw them in as well.
What you’ll find when you take this approach to stewardship is that it becomes healthy, and it becomes fun. I know many people who don’t like to raise money, because they look at it as begging. If that’s you, you’re doing it wrong. Your approach is incorrect.
Instead, go out and begin to build relationships and minister to these individuals God has brought into the circle, into your vision’s support system. And as you minister to them, the byproducts will be their time, talent, treasure, intellectual properties, and relationships. They’ll start to bring to the cause the things that God has given them to steward.
Your marketing efforts matter, but nothing takes the place of relationships in making your ministry sustainable.
You may know that we at the Vision Group are big on building genuine relationships with funders, relationships in which you seek first to find ways to minister to them.
As you take that focus, what ends up happening is you’re never really short of resource. The resource is always there, and it’s sustainable because you’ve spent the time to build lifelong relationships with those folks. It’s just an issue of looking and finding out what relationships and resources God has brought about and learning how to step up to those.
Why is relationship so important? Just because that is how Christ deals with people. When we read the stories of Jesus in the gospels, it’s all relationships, from the prodigal son to the unjust steward. Whether they’re in the parables or in Jesus’ own ministry, it’s about relationships.
And the quality of that relationship is important. There’s a story in John 5 where Jesus goes to the pool at Bethesda and asks a lame person who’s been there for 30-some years if he wants to get well. The man doesn’t answer his question. Instead he dodges it and says, “No one’s ever around to put me in the water when the angel stirs it.” Jesus was trying to deal with this on a totally different level than the lame man was. And so He had to redirect the relationship by saying, “This is about you being well. This isn’t about the pool. This is about you being well. So pick up your bed and go.”
It’s important for us to understand that that relational model is precisely the one that we need to be engaged in. We are in fact the hands and the voice of Jesus in our communities and in our ministries. We need to follow His example and not some big, starry-eyed fundraising scheme.
The reality is that people will support something that they come to believe in deeply. And they catch that belief, that vision, when they are in relationship with someone who already has it.
Leader, that’s you.