In February 2012, I faced a $5,000 deficit and the prospect of sinking deeper each month. I simply hadn’t been working on my funding. With a wife, two small children, a third child on the way, and other Navigator staff watching my example, I planned my “comeback.”
First, I asked my supervisor for time to devote exclusively to fundraising. He readily agreed. Next, much like when new staff begin raising funds, I made fresh lists of names. I had a well-developed email distribution list of 700 names. This group of people received our ministry email update every six weeks, but only 100 of those people gave to our ministry regularly, leaving 600 whom I could approach about funding. Next, I went through my Yahoo address book and found another 50 names. Soon I had four pages of people to contact!
My strategy was to start at the top of the list and start calling. I planned to make phone-email-phone appeals and to meet face-to-face with people when I could, but face-to-face appeals weren’t going to be as do-able in this scenario (even though they are the most effective method of raising support).
I anticipated having to leave voice-mail messages, so I decided to use this to my advantage. This was my voice-mail script:
“Hey, Jim. Joe here. I want to catch up with you, and I have a question I want to ask you. Give me a call when you can.”
About 35% called me back. If they didn’t, I would call them up to three times and leave voice mails. If I still didn’t hear from them, I would email them something like this (if people were 40 or younger, I texted the message):
“I’m trying to reach you. I want to catch up, and I have something to ask you. Let me know when would be a good time to call.”
They eventually got the idea that I wasn’t going away! (And no one told me I was annoying!) When we finally managed to talk by phone, we’d catch up for 5-10 minutes, and then I’d say,
“I have something I want to ask you. You’ve been getting updates from Joy and me for a few years. You know we’re supported financially by churches and individuals who believe in what we’re doing. I’m calling to see if you’d be willing to be a part of this. I’m not asking you to answer right now. But I’m asking if I can ask.”
Nearly everyone agreed to hearing more about our ministry right then, and I also explained carefully what we needed to raise in additional monthly support. As soon as we finished our phone call, I emailed them the same information we’d just gone over on the phone—our ministry vision (which they usually were already familiar with since they received regular updates) and a clear invitation to financial partnership.
I gave people a few days to think and pray about their decision, then I followed up by calling them again. (I did not use texting or email in this step unless it was to schedule the phone call.)
I devoted one week a month for three months to this funding strategy. During funding weeks, I was on the phone like a maniac! Here’s what I did each day of these weeks on average:
-30-40 phone calls (many were voice mail messages)
-10-20 emails a day to explain the vision and appeal
-10-20 texts to schedule calls
-1 face-to-face appointment
In those three weeks over three months, plus asking some of our current donors to increase, God provided $3,000 in new monthly support. We’re well clear of the “deficit dungeon” we faced a year ago, and with year-end gifts, we’re closer to being fully funded than ever.
I’ve learned these lessons from the funding “comeback” experience.
-Prayer is key. It’s the number one fundraising strategy. During the comeback, I often prayed, “Lord, you know my numbers better than I do. I surrender my budget to you. If it’s not right, lead me on that. But if this is really the amount I need to live and minister, then I need you to move on my behalf. I need help, endurance, and for you to lead people to give.”
-Desperation can be our friend. It can humble us and motivate us to overcome fear and procrastination and to get busy!
-Fundraising is hard work. If I’m not funded, I want to make sure it’s not because I didn’t do everything I possibly could.
These verses guide my fundraising.
-2 Samuel 10:12 (NEV)—“Be strong! Let’s fight bravely for the sake of our people and the cities of our God! The Lord will do what he decides is best!” This motivates me because effort is in my realm, but the results are God’s. Like the two men in this passage, I know what my “job” is. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m going to give it my all and leave the outcome to God.
-2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NEV)—“And in this regard we pray for you always, that our God will make you worthy of his calling and fulfill by his power your every desire for goodness and every work of faith…” When I go on a funding “crusade,” am I doing this by faith, or am I trusting in my methods? I’m trusting God, but I am also going to do more than sit at home and have quiet times. I must put one foot in front of the other and trust Him for the results.
20s Mission Director, Colorado Springs
Contact Joe via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.