This post is the eigth post in a nine part Series: On Marketing and Ministry. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage.
Every ministry at some point faces the challenge of raising funds.
Some ministries pass a plate, collecting an offering every week.
Some ministries operate on a missionary model, gathering a support team.
Marketing helps us make the most of both of these models.
The Offering Model
The first thing to think about in the offering model is your messaging. What message are you sending when you pass the plate?
We've all seen manipulation and begging, have all felt seen ministries treat an offering / tithe as a payment and obligation, collected without accountability from everybody for no particular reason. So many people view Christian ministries as money-grubbing, as money-obsessesed, as sleazy. And if we're not careful, this is what people hear when we collect the offering.
Good marketing, however, thinks through the messaging around the offering:
- Why you're asking (advance the mission)
- Who you're asking (members, not visitors)
- What you're asking (a cheerfully given gift)
- That you're asking (salvation does not hinge on this)
This is a missed opportunity in the offering model. We easily toss five bucks in the offering plate and watch it pass by ... and then keep the rest of our time and money to ourselves.
[Side note: this is one great reason to be in a small ministry / ministry-plant at some point in your life ... it opens your eyes to real needs for money and volunteers]
There's a pressure that comes with the offering. You feel like you have to put something in. But giving in response to pressure is a poor substitute for giving that happens in response to involvement.
Evangelicals struggle to tithe, in part, because we're not involved enough in what our churches and ministries are doing. [I've written on this in more depth in my post on Giving and the Heart]
When people give, they want to be involved. Hearts follow money. Do we have space for involvement at a level that echoes large gifts? Good marketing designs systems that allow for deepening involvement.
The Missionary Model
As someone involved in parachurch campus ministry, I've been raising funds for the past 8 years. This is ... oddly ... the hardest part of my job and the biggest limiting factor on our ministry. But I've learned a lot over the years ...
Support the ministry, not just the missionary
When I started raising funds, I asked people to help support me so I could do ministry. And people who knew and loved me gave generously. But as the ministry grew, this wasn't enough to fund the ministry and things began to get awkward.
When your ministry budget is $35,000 ... no problem.
When your ministry budget is $80,000 ... awkward.
The missionary stays the same, but budgets increase as responsibility increases. If people see themselves as supporting the ministry, not just the missionary, they'll understand those increases. Additionally, people who don't really know the missionary can still give to the missionary.
We need to take care, then, to market the ministry, not just the missionary.
Invite people to move from Donor to Partner
What do you do with someone who gives to your ministry? Say thanks. Share news. Ask for more money next year. Maybe, if you're really organized, you share prayer requests. But what else?
A lot of us have bought into the myth that our donors don't want to be involved in our ministry. "They're giving the money so that we can do ministry" we tell ourselves. And maybe this is true for some donors ... but not for most of them.
My biggest donors, the ones who have given the most for the longest, want to be most involved. Don't be surprised if you see the same trend ... if you make space for it to happen.
This is the heart of great marketing ... inviting people to deeper levels of engagement. To learn how to do this, check out Permission Marketing by Seth Godin.
What sort of marketing around fundraising does your ministry use?
The last post in this series will be on Marketing and Theology. How do the two intersect, and should they? A link will be published here as soon as the post is published.
Photo courtesy of anankkml and http://www.freedigitalphotos.net