Saturday, July 14, 2007

How To Raise Support For Your Church Plant/Missionary Project

I know quite a few of my blog readers are in the process of raising support for their church plants and missionary efforts, so I thought I'd share the manuscript of a seminar I taught a few years ago at the National New Church Conference about raising support. Here's everything I learned about how to raise money over three different church plants. Hopefully it makes the painful process of fundraising a bit easier.

Step #1 Commit Your Entire Project To God
Know that HE is the one that will provide the resources that you need. The number one factor in raising money for your church plant is your “calling.” “When God calls, God provides,” the old saying goes. Commit this entire project to God…resting in the fact that HE will be the one to make this happen! Just make sure that when the money does come in that you humbly acknowledge that GOD was the one to provide the resources and not your own persistence and ingenuity.

Step #2 Recruit At Least 10 Faithful Email Prayer Partners
Recruit at least 10 people that you know well and you are convinced will pray for you on a regular basis. Send them all an email asking them to pray with you about this issue from the time it starts until the money is raised. Make sure they have email because it is quick and easy to use…people can receive and pray for requests almost immediately. Make sure you email them at least monthly, alerting them to important churches and people to pray for. Make sure you regularly tell them how their prayers were answered.

Step #3 Secure The Necessary Equipment
Now that you have committed this project to God and asked his people to support you in prayer, make sure you have the proper equipment to get the job done. You’ll need (most of this is obvious!):
-Computer and Printer
-2,000 8 x 5 index cards and an index card box holder (I'd use Excel now)
-Project letterhead and envelopes (as many as you’ll send plus thank you notes)
-Project Brochure describing why the support is needed
-A response card with return envelope to place with each letter
-A monthly “Project Update” sent to each contributor with return envelope

Step #4 Set Your Fundraising Goal
I’m assuming that you need to raise a portion of your monthly salary for a set number of years. Your goal will be (1) your exact monthly need plus (2) 10% of that goal for every year beyond two years (since 10% of your support will drop off each year after the second year). For instance, if you salary is $48,000 total package and you need to raise half of that--$24,000. Then your monthly goal is $2,000 a month. If, however, you need to raise that for more than two years, then you want to add an additional 10% for each year after the second year. If you have to raise $2,000 for three years, add an additional $200 to that goal. If four years, then add $400. If five, then $600. So let’s say, for instance, that your goal is to raise $2,000 over five years, then your goal would be to raise $2,600 a month. In most cases this will provide a cushion in the early years that will carry you in the later years. Most people incorrectly assume that their support will remain constant. Experience has shown that it won’t.

Step#5 Make An Exhaustive List Of People/Churches Who Could Be Used By God To Help Meet That Goal
At this point you need to make an exhaustive list of three different groups that will be used by God to provide for you monthly need. Write down every person that comes to mind. Don’t discount anyone! Once these names are all compiled you want to submit your list to your evangelistic association to have them add their names/addresses to their mailing list to receive your monthly update immediately. That way they will receive information on a regular basis as they are “deciding.”

Group #1 Individuals who will commit to give monthly
Make a list of all the potential people to individually support you. Go through: email databases; home phone books; high school and college year books; alumni association lists, etc. Make sure you list…
-Yourself (tithing)
-Your immediate family (mom and dad, sisters and brothers)
-Relatives (grandparents, uncles, cousins, etc.)
-Friends of your immediate family or relatives
-Friends from high school, college, or graduate school
-People in your home church
-People in all the churches you’ve served
-People in your current church
-Neighbors and friends in the community
-People in other denominations who know you

Group #2 Churches who will place you in their monthly mission’s budget
Make a list of churches that could possibly give to you. Now, the worst thing to do is “direct-mail” every church you can find! You will only be supported by churches where you are able to establish a personal connection (either visit them personally or know someone there who can “vouch” for you). Because of that you need to be focused. You need to concentrate on the most favorable prospects. With this in mind list all the following kinds of churches:
-Your current church
-Churches in your greater geographical area which know you
-Churches where college friends serve as Pastors
-Churches that might know you in some way

Group #3 “Boosters”—People who will go out and raise money for you by “lending you their name” through letters and phone calls
This is the group of people who will multiply your fundraising influence. Quite simply, they will help you raise money you normally couldn’t raise yourself. You need to make a list of these people and personally ask them to help you raise money. They in turn should make a list of prospective individuals and churches and send letters and make phone calls to “get you in the door.” “Boosters” could be:
-The Executive Director for your evangelistic association
-Former Senior Pastors of your home church
-Former College Professors
-The most well-known and connected people you know

Step #6 Organize Your Database/“Prospects Box”
At this point you need to organize yourself for a period of chaos unprecedented in your life! You are about to make a zillion phone calls and try to remember a zillion pieces of information (send who what letter? When is that meeting? When was I supposed to call who back?). If you organize yourself now you’ll save yourself a lot of missed opportunities.

Undoubtedly there are dozens of ways to organize yourself that work (you need to find one that works for you!). But I found a system that is flexible, workable, and easy to use. I simply call it my “Prospects Box.” I place all my “prospects” on 5x8 cards (both churches and individuals) and place them within easy to find divisions within an index card box holder. That way I have them accessible when I call and make calls, I can write on the cards quickly to record information, and I can recall them in a second (versus placing the info. in a database).

In your prospects box you want to create eight separate categories:
1. Individuals
2. Hot Church Leads
3. Churches To Call—Daytime
4. Churches To Call—Nighttime
5. Churches To Call—More Than 2 Weeks Away
6. Churches To Send “One-Time Crisis Letter” at third week in November
7. Churches Committed
8. Individuals Committed

Step #7 Before You Start Anything Remember These Two Ideas!

Idea #1 Fundraising is based on the “law of large numbers.”
Picture a funnel with a large opening at the top and a small opening at the bottom. You will contact a ton of perspective people/churches in order to produce your monthly goal. Do not take it personally when people say “no” to you. It is not a reflection on you…it is the law of large numbers. In a sense you need to get a certain number of “no’s” before you get to a “yes.” So every time someone declines to support you think, “Yes! I’m one step closer to my goal and getting this over!”

Idea #2 Get perspective!
You are not raising money for a business—heaven and hell hang in the balance. At first you’ll feel awkward…like you’re raising money for yourself. Get in your mind that if you don’t do this you won’t have the resources to build your church well and people won’t go to heaven as a result. Routinely read the great commission passages to refresh yourself as to why you are doing this!

Step #8 Steps To Raise $ From Individuals
The quickest and easiest money to raise is from individuals! All that person has to do is “decide” to support and you can have a check in one week! A church on the other hand could take many months, if at all. Most church planters expect to receive roughly 1/4 of all their support from individuals. That’s good to keep in mind, because if your monthly goal is to raise, say, $2,000 a month, then $500 of that goal should come from individuals.

1. Place all your prospects on your index cards (as well as in a database for printing labels)

2. Send a one-page letter explaining that you are starting a new venture and need their partnership (see “individual support letter). With this letter enclose your brochure and you “response card.”

3. About one week after your letter is sent sit down with your index cards of individuals, pray for God’s leading, and follow-up with a personal phone call. If you don’t personally call someone after you send them a letter you decrease your chances of support by at least 50%!

4. Simply ask, “Hi, This is ______, how are you? (Small talk) “Did you receive my letter last week?” Share with them your excitement about the project and then ask them to prayerfully consider supporting you and sending in the card. Most people never ask for the money! They know why you are calling so make sure you ask them for the money!

5. After the phone call IMMEDIATELY send a follow-up note thanking them for their consideration and reiterating how much you need their support. Also, place another “response card” in that note (9 times out of 10 someone will “pitch” your original letter and need another card. Many simply won’t respond because they don’t have a card! Also, make sure on your monthly updates that you have a “reply card” on all your mailings…some people will think for months and then respond after seeing that “reply card” stare at them for months.

6. On their index card write down the date that you called and the date that you sent the personal note as well as any pertinent information. Make sure, whether you are working with a church or individual, to write all pertinent information down! After 20 to 60 calls you won’t remember to remember anything.

7. If they are supportive, at some point ask them how you can get their church on board!

8. If they say to call back in a month or two, place that card in the “Calls to make more than 2 weeks away” section. If they said they’d think about it--place the card back in the “individuals” section of your Prospects Box.

9. If the person doesn’t say to call back and wants to think about it I wouldn’t do too much after sending a follow-up card and response card. If they don’t respond within a few months they probably won’t.

Step #9 Steps To Raise $ From Churches
Churches are a lot harder to raise $ from! The key to raising money from churches is to find out who “makes the decisions” on the Mission’s team or church board (usually churches under 150 run mission’s through their eldership or church board). You can waste a lot of time and money talking to someone who has no influence whatsoever on the mission’s budget. The key, without question, is to find out who pulls the strings on the mission’s team. In almost all cases, that person will either be the Senior Pastor of the church or the Chairman of the Mission’s Team (who is usually an elder or chairman of the elders) or both. The “art” of fundraising is to find this key person without wasting a lot of time and money (phone calls and stamps!).

The principle I follow is that “The smaller and newer the church, the more influence the Senior Pastor has over mission’s. The older and larger, the less influence that Senior Pastor has.”

The other key principle is this: you won’t get any money unless you actually make a presentation to the group!

Churches rarely support someone they’ve never see! Thus, your two-fold goal is to: (1) find out who the decision maker is and (2) get his approval to let you make a presentation to their mission’s team. Now that you have compiled your list of churches and exhausted your “booster” list, here’s what to do:

1. Place all your “church cards” in your “Churches to Call—Daytime” section of your Prospect Box (unless you already know the home address and number of a mission’s chairman).

2. Prioritize your list based on people you know within those churches—starting with churches where you know the Senior Pastor’s well and ending with churches you have no contact with but are close to in proximity.

3. Start by calling the Senior Pastor’s of the churches you know well (without sending any material yet) and (a) tell them what you’re doing (b) cast vision for the project and (c) ask them point blank to put you in their mission’s budget and (d) ask them who the point person is to talk to. At this point they will usually say, “John Smith is the mission’s chairman. Right then ask him for John Smith’s HOME ADDRESS and phone number (Always ask for home addresses! That way you stand out as opposed to sitting in a crowded mail box that gets at least 20 to 30 appeals a month!). Write his name, address, and phone on your index card and then send both that Pastor and the mission’s chairman a letter and a brochure (don’t include a response card…your goal is to get to make a presentation). If you are making a zillion calls at once…place the card off to the side marked, “Send info.” and mark the date. That way you can “batch” all your calls together and all your “letter work” together. SAVE ALL YOUR LETTER WORK FOR TIMES WHEN YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY MAKE PHONE CALLS. SAVE PEAK PHONE CALLS HOURS FOR CALLS NOT PAPERWORK.

4. For churches you don’t know well you’ll have to call the secretary to get the mission chairman’s phone number. Call her/him up and say, “Hi, this is_____, and I am a part of a new church plant in _______ with ______ organization. I was wondering, who is your mission’s chairman and how can I get a hold of him?” 6 out of 10 times she’ll give you the mission chairman’s name and address. MAKE SURE YOU ASK FOR HIS/HER PHONE. Some will say, “We don’t give out that kind of information.” If they do…call the Senior Pastor a day later and call him. If you can’t get the mission chairman’s home address and phone from either the secretary or Pastor, don’t send them any information, it will be a waste of time and money (unless you know someone else in that church). If you get a mission’s chairman who is available during the day (retired?) then place that card in the “Churches To Call—Daytime” section of your Prospect’s Box. If you get a mission’s chairman who is available at night, place him in the “Churches To Call—Nighttime” section.

5. Phone call tips…

*Best time to call a church “cold turkey” and talk to a secretary to get the phone number of a mission’s chairman? Anytime Monday thru Friday 9:30am-11:55am. (Call and give the impression that “of course you’re supposed to give me his name, address and phone number").

*Best time to call a Pastor in a church? Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday from 10:00am until 11:55am. (Many Pastors take Monday or Friday off, visit in the afternoon and take care of administrative things in the mornings).

*Best time to call a mission’s chairman at home? Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7:30pm until 9:30 pm; Saturdays 1:00-6:00pm.

*Stagger phone calls according to time zones (call Ohio and Kentucky first and then finish those calls at 9:30pm Ohio time…then call Indiana from 9:30-10:30pm Ohio time which is 8:30-9:30pm Indiana time.

*If you call and get an answering machine…ALWAYS leave a message and (1) cast your vision for the project in a pre-planned 20 second speech…let people hear your excitement and (2) ask them to call you back…you will be surprised at the number who do!

*Always present yourself to a MC as someone who is to be seriously considered, worthy of respect, and the project as something they absolutely don’t want to miss!

6. Now that you have sent letters to the home addresses of the church mission chairman’s at various churches you are ready to follow with a phone call (see phone tips above). Confidently call the mission chairman and say, “Hi, you don’t know me, but my name is_____ and _____ gave me your number. I am a part of a new church in______ --a place that really needs a new church--and I was wondering if I could come and make a presentation to your mission’s team? When is your next meeting? I want your mission’s team to consider placing me in your monthly mission’s budget.” Remember to drop as many names as you can! The goal here is to create affinity with the person. If he/she likes you then you have a great shot! Cast your vision! Be upbeat! Stand up while you are talking on the phone to sound more enthusiastic! You have 30 seconds to sell your project!

You want to come out of that conversation with either a “yes” or a “no.” Most times you’ll have to call him back one month later so he can ask the team if you can come in. If you have someone who will be checking to see if you can come speak, then place that card in the “Hot Prospects” section. If they say they won’t decide for a few months, place that acrd in the “Calls To Make More Than 2 Weeks Away” section. Some will cut you right off and say they have no money. If they say “no” or “we don’t have any money,” then you immediately place them in the “November crisis letter” category to send a request for a one-time gift in November (the best time to receive “end of the year” gifts.”

7. Eventually you’ll narrow those phone calls into meetings which will then become “decisions” to place you into their mission’s budget. The good news is that “Roughly 80% of every place I visited” placed me in their mission’s budgets. The bad news is that it took a ton of work to get those visits. The goal, obviously, is to turn phone calls into visits, and visits into monthly commitments.

8. Churches that have money to support you always fall into four categories:
(1) New church plants just starting a mission’s budget
(2) Churches starting all over again by “eliminating all their missions” and starting from a clean slate
(3) Churches that are growing and have new money available
(4) Churches that have or are going to “axe” an existing mission

9. What kind of support can you expect out of churches? It can vary from $25 to $500 a month…with rarely a few topping that. The usually range will be: 50 to 100 attenders have $50 to $100/month potential; 100 to 200 attenders have $100 to $300/month potential; and 200 to 500 attenders have $300 to $500/month potential

10. At the presentation, come 15 minutes early and be prepared to speak for no more than 15-20 minutes. Greet every person with a smile and a handshake. Have an outline for everyone to follow. Make small talk until you they are ready for you. Be humorous and positive (most mission’s teams are used to boring mission’s speakers!). State why you’re there, why the project is important, and why you want them to partner with you. Make it as personable as possible…teams want to support people not projects! Share about your family and your fears about going there. From the heart tell them why you really want their partnership! At the end make sure you ask them for the money! Try to get a “feel” ahead of time as to what they are capable of supporting you…then at the end say something like, “I’d like for you to prayerfully consider supporting us for $200 a month (or whatever).”

11. Follow up the meeting by calling the chairman no more than 3 days later. Ask him point blank, “Well, what’s the news? Are they going to support us?” If they do…great! Send them a thank you note immediately with directions as to how to make out the checks and where to send them. If not, place them in your “November Appeal Section” and send them a one-time appeal letter in November. You’ll almost definitely get some type of gift out of them at some point.

Step #10 The Importance Of Personal Follow-Up
Personal contact with supporters is crucial for helping them maintain a sense of partnership in the project and to keep the $ coming! At the very least I would count on: (1) A letter/email from you monthly detailing the “ins and outs” of the project (2) A personal phone call 2x’s annually and (3) A personal visit every 3-4 years. One great way to get your church or individual involved is to bring them on site to help out!

Finally, Now that you are getting ready to launch out into fundraising territories remember a few things:

First, you are an ambassador of the King on a mission from Him. Remember the seriousness of your mission!

Second, make sure you eat right, exercise, take a day off, and stay balanced. At the beginning you will seem overwhelmed, but as you follow the steps outlined you WILL see God work in an amazing way!

Third, you are about to embark on the most amazing faith-journey you’ve taken in a while. You will be amazed at how little you actual do in this process and at HOW MUCH God opens doors.

Relax and be patient. Do what you can do and allow God to do the rest! Blessings!