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5 Principles of Intentional Relationship Building for Missionaries Fundraising

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The lifestyle of a faith-based missionary is filled with adventure. Having watched my parents and other believers live life on nothing but God's grace and the generosity of the church instilled in me a love for this kind of missions. It's almost romantic - dedicating your life to something that can't be seen. It's also amazing being able to watch God provide time and time again. Yet as I reflect on the steps my parents took to join the ministry and the steps I'm currently taking into the mission field, I cannot help but notice that I have clear advantages and even clearer disadvantages, and most of this is based solely on one glaring fact.

My age.

I was born in 1994 (meaning I turn 22 this year, if you are curious), which places me in Generation Y, also known as the Millennial generation. There's nothing special about this generation from a money standpoint, except that it is filled with young adults who are just finishing their education and establishing themselves in careers. What I've found with this group of young people are two things - entry-level pay and mounds of college debt. These people, if they end up joining a financial support team, typically cannot commit to high levels of support, and that's if they commit at all.

This group of people also happens to be my peer group. These are the people with whom I emotionally and spiritually struggled through college. Most of my closest friends are millennials, and though I know most of them would financially support me if they had the means, many of them are struggling just to make ends meet. So then what happens when your list of potential supporters are poor college students?

Millennials will inevitably have to broaden their horizons and look to acquire a good portion of their financial support from a different generation other than their own. That's what makes networking so important. According to the Nielson Holding's Company, Baby-Boomers (individuals born between 1946 and 1964) control 70% of all US disposable income, and the generation right after, Generation X, controls another large portion of funds. In order to effectively raise money, millennials need to be willing to go outside of their comfort zone and share their needs with the older generations. The best way to do that is through intentional relationship building with people outside of one's peer group. Here are some principles for this process:

1. Get the Word Out

No one is going to be able to assist you financially unless they know you have a need. One must be willing to use the many ways that are now available to get the word out. I think it's important to note that you aren't "begging for money" when you do this, but rather giving the Body of Christ an opportunity to join your mission. Besides, many people are willing to give. A big part of the struggle of fundraising is the "how-to" in getting information to the public. Look to use different techniques. Create clear literature that is well-suited for your audience. A study done by InformationWeek indicated that a majority of baby boomers prefer news and financial information on paper that is easy to understand. Give them something they can read during church presentations or give them a phone call in order to establish a personal connection. Also, don't discount using social media outlets like Facebook to get the word out. FoxBusiness studied the numbers; Baby Boomers represent the biggest number of new users on Facebook. Use a crowdfunding app to spread the word like wildfire!

2. Make it Easy to Donate

With the advent of online giving apps and crowdfunding, supporting missionaries is now easier than ever. Make this option available to your potential supporters. Not only does it make giving simple, but many of these applications allow you to to track charitable donations, making it easier for you. It may surprise you that many people whom you might expect to prefer giving money the "old-fashioned way" actually use online giving tools to support you or your ministry. The vice-versa is also true. Some of the most tech-savvy people may still prefer to do their giving with a check in the mail. Either way, you want to meet the preferences of your supporters for missionary fundraising.

3. Minister to Supporters Hearts

During a missionary training class I attended, one of the instructors asked if I would go to the front and make a staged phone call to a potential supporter. I did everything I was trained to do, yet the person I was speaking with threw me a curveball. She told me that her son was sick and couldn't commit to full-time support. I offered to put her on our church's prayer wall and then ended the phone call. When I was critiqued, my instructors encouraged me that I could have done so much more during that one phone call. What I needed to do was change my mindset. I'm not just fundraising; I'm ministering, too. Take the time with to pray with and minister to your potential supporters. Seek to meet them on their level.

4. Broadcast according to Donor's Preference

Between newsletters and video updates, the tools to update your supporters are endless. In order to save money and time, it may be best to think about which media outlet to use in order to best reach an audience. Newsletters are typically more effective to the older generation. Younger generations focus on outlets that take the least amount of their time. Thus, you may only want to send out newsletters with text to donate numbers with a mobile giving app to the people who are going to read them. Don't be afraid to ask supporters about their preferences.

5. Keep up the Connection

Obtaining the commitment of a supporter does not mean that the job is done. Make it a daily practice to keep up the connection with your supporters. That may be through the thank-yous that you write when you send out receipts. That may mean making a connection whenever you're visiting their town. Whatever it may be, making these relationships simply takes intentional effort.

When you follow these principles, you'll find yourself making more than just a network of individuals who can commit to supporting you financially; you will make some of the most encouraging friends you never knew you could have with someone thirty years older than you. Make the leap and start networking. I guarantee that you won't regret it.

Posted on: 09/01/2016
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