10 Common Fundraising Mistakes

Here’s an article that I have found very helpful…

10 Common Fundraising Mistakes

By Brian Kluth (pastor, natl-intl generosity speaker, author & radio commentator)

Mistakes to avoid for maximum effectiveness in funding your ministry…

For more than twenty-five years I have been involved in financial matters in Christian ministries of all types and sizes. As I reflect back on a wide variety of funding experiences, here are some of the most common mistakes that I would encourage you to avoid:

#1 – Thinking money will come to you because you have a need. Money does not flow to needy institutions but to promising leaders who have a realistic and inspiring plan of action. Needy institutions exist everywhere. What will make your ministry rise to the top of the many appeals and proposals people receive is a confidence in your leadership and your proven ability and/or proposed plan that will effectively address specific needs and opportunities.

#2 – Saying you adhere to the George Mueller pray-only-and-tell-no-one principle without following George Mueller’s practices. George Mueller was a man uniquely used by God in the 1800’s. In his lifetime he saw God’s answers to thousands of specific prayers for God’s provisions. If you are going to follow the principles of his ministry and funding practices, you would need to: (1) Give yourself wholeheartedly to a group of people who have no way of providing for themselves (in his case, orphan children), (2) Make every need (small or large) a matter of specific prayer, (3) Be committed to living within the means God provides (and without the use of debt), and (4) Communicate in writing praises for God’s specific provisions to hundreds and thousands of people (i.e. George Mueller annually sent out a newsletter-type report detailing hundreds and hundreds of prayers and the ways in which people were used by God to answer these specific prayers – this newsletter gave people “living examples” of how they could be used by God to help the work of Mueller’s orphanages). Some people also feel George Mueller’s methods are the only way God provides. The scriptures give much greater latitude in how God provides for His work. Moses had a large group gathering, David asked for leadership gifts, Nehemiah asked a major leader for government support, Paul sent appeal letters and field representatives, Elijah experienced God’s miraculous provisions with the help of ravens but also asked a woman to directly support him.

#3 – Thinking your can raise major funds without strong personal relationships or seeing the people in person. Big gifts do NOT come through bulk-rate mail appeals. Big gifts come because people are intimately acquainted with your cause and/or have been specifically asked to consider making a major commitment. Major givers also need to be involved and asked to participate on the front end of any undertaking or project. Go to your best givers and prospects first, not last. Don’t make the deadly mistake of thinking, we’ll try our best, and then a major donor will hopefully come in at the end of the effort and save the day. Ministries that have done this have found themselves with unstarted or unfinished projects that have greatly embarrassed them and seriously eroded their credibility with their donor publics.

#4 – Trusting methods to provide for you instead of the Master. In this day and age, it is easy to try to latch onto various “fundraising methods” that you have heard worked for others to meet their financial needs. Personally I have had experiences where God used certain methods to meet specific needs. When I later used the same method to try meet a different need, I experienced complete failure. What I had done was to put my trust in fundraising methods instead of the Master. Over the years, I have been learning to go to the Master and seek the methods (old ones and/or new ones) that He leads me to use to meet a specific need.

#5 – Hinting at your needs with the hope that people will respond. I once heard that there are four ways to have your needs met, three are biblical, the fourth is not. The first three are: going in your closet and specifically praying for God’s provision; using money you have or earned or saved up to purchase the item; or going to God’s people, explaining the need, and specifically asking them to help. The fourth method (that is not biblical) is: just hinting about your needs. God’s first three methods are far superior to the last method. Nine times out of ten this last method will leave leaders empty handed and resentful.

#6 – Pursuing money instead of God’s provision. It is very freeing to discover that your need is not for money but for God’s provisions. Do you need equipment? Do you need a vehicle? Do you need a new building? Do you need some professional services? God may provide you with some or all of the money for these items or he may choose to provide the actual item on a donated or discounted basis! If God owns everything, He can be very creative in the way He provides. During the construction of a debt-free $800,000 building, the ministry I served with spent $300,000 in cash donations and the other $500,000 came through God’s provisions in the way of donated and discounted materials and labor.

#7 – Trusting God for the payments instead of trusting God for His provision. One wise Christian leader once said, “What God orders, He pays for” and “Where God Guides, He Provides”. A ministry policy of debt-free operations and capital expansion will allow you to experience God’s provisions in ways you would not otherwise experience. I have personally experienced the value of a debt-free policy in many ministries I have had the experience of serving. When there seemed to be no way to meet the need without borrowing, God always opened up a way or gave us the patience to wait. Note: I know of many solid ministries that have used a solid long-term financing plan to meet their facility needs. But I am also aware of ministries that have “borrowed for the future” with the “hopes” that the funds would come in. A critical principle when considering borrowing is the issue of surety, which in its simplest terms is, “do you have a sure way to pay for the obligation you took on?”

#8 – Not personally giving at 10% or more of your own income to the Lord’s work. If you want to short circuit God’s provisions for your life and ministry, just convince yourself you “cannot afford” to faithfully give to the Lord’s work. This deadly deception will do more to destroy your faith and God’s provisions than any other single thing you can do. I have counseled, advised, and worked with a variety of leaders and ministries in the U.S. and overseas. I have discovered that when a ministry leader is not committed to faithfully giving to the Lord’s work in his own personal life, it has a definite impact on the person’s attitudes and actions in all personal and corporate money matters.

#9 – Attempting to use simple arithmetic to try and meet your funding needs. I am aware of one ministry that wanted to raise $9,000,000. They sent a letter to the 3000 households on their mailing list asking everyone to send in $3000 over the next three years. Some of the wealthy quickly sent their money and decided they had done everything they needed to do to help with the project. For many of the people, the thought of giving $3000 was an impossible task. In the scriptures, God teaches that each one is to give according to how God has blessed them. In many major building projects, 10-20% of the givers will provide 80-90% of the funds. If you do not recognize this truth, you will have a recipe for disaster and humiliation in trying to meet your funding goals.

#10 – Thinking you can conduct major funding efforts or a capital fund drive without experienced help. Real money is not raised by neophytes striking out on their own. There are tried and proven biblical methods that need to be understood and applied. Here are a number of ways a ministry can get the help they need in order to be successful in their fundraising efforts: Send a ministry leader or team to get Christian fundraising training, utilize the gifts of a board member who is greatly experienced in fundraising programs and campaigns, find an experienced fundraising mentor, hire experienced development staff, pay a stipend to an experienced Christian fundraising professional from another organization to help develop a solid funding plan, and/or retain the services of a Christian consultant or fundraising firm. Without some level of training and/or experienced help, a ministry will never be able to fully accomplish its mission and goals.