So, you’re ready to go on a short-term mission trip. Awesome! You’ve done your research, completed your application and gotten your immunizations. Now comes the best part: fundraising.
For many, raising support is the toughest part of going on a mission trip.
There are so many myths and falsehoods surrounding support raising, (Fundraising is asking for handouts. It will alienate my friends. It’s another step I have to do before I can start my real ministry.…) that it’s easy to lose sight of the blessing fundraising brings to all who are involved. You’re not just asking people to write a check, you’re inviting them to partner with you in ministry.
As you start your fundraising journey, here are some practical tips on how to raise funds.
Write a letter.
A support letter is the most foundational tool in the fundraising toolbox. Use your letter to outline your calling to serve overseas, what you will be doing and your need for financial and spiritual partnership. This can be sent via snail mail or email but should be personal, explanatory and direct.
Make a list of people to send the letter to, starting with the people who have already invested in your life: family, mentors, friends, neighbors and teachers. Then, expand the list to people in your circle who are passionate about the Great Commission and seeing it fulfilled.
Explain the “Why?” with the “What?”
As you begin telling people about what you’re doing and where you’re going, whether through your support letter or in-person, don’t forget to tell them why you are going.
People support ministries they believe in. Sure, you’re going to be doing awesome things on your trip, but sharing the testimony of your calling to missions paints a bigger picture of God’s work in your life, which will continue long after you return home.
Make it easy for them to contribute.
If your supporters have to find a checkbook and a stamp (two things that are growing increasingly rare around the house), they’ll probably forget to make a donation — no matter how good their intentions are. Give your supporters multiple options for giving: a link in an email to give online, a post on Facebook with your giving link or even a pre-stamped return envelope with your letter.
Share about your church and agency.
Having the accountability of a sending church and a missions agency gives you more legitimacy in the eyes of your supporters. When communicating with supporters, give them information about what your sending church and agency do and the role both are playing in your trip.
Share their websites with your donors and provide the email addresses of your church and agency contacts. If you are going with TEAM, encourage your supporters to contact us if they have any questions about the ministry area or work you’ll be doing.
Break it down.
Your supporters will appreciate a good analogy. It’ll take 168 café lattes to support you each month? That’s great! You’ll be able to help people better understand the big picture of your financial goals when you find a fun way to break down your expenses.
When someone sends out hundreds of letters but fails to follow up with the recipients individually, it’s called the “spray and pray” approach. Often, initial letters and emails don’t get a response simply because people forget or are too busy — not because they don’t want to support you.
Send out letters in small batches, and in the letter, let the reader know you will be following up with them within a week. Then, personally follow up with a face-to-face visit, phone call or Skype session. This allows you and your potential supporter to have a more candid two-way discussion about your ministry.
Say thank you.
Remember to say thank you to your support team in multiple, meaningful ways. Before you leave, drop a personalized note to your supporters thanking them for their faithful partnership. While you are serving, tell your supporters about how you are seeing their prayers at work and the tangible ways their gifts are impacting the Kingdom. You can do this through pictures on social media or an email newsletter.
In reality, fundraising may feel like the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. But it will probably also be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. You will learn to trust the Lord with your ministry before you even set foot in another country. When you ask for support, you are inviting someone into a Great Commission partnership with you that will bless them just as much as it blesses you (if not more!).