“Fundraising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry,” Theologian Henry Nouwen wrote in his book, The Spirituality of Fundraising. He goes on to say, “Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission.” By asking people to share in the financial burden of a trip, the team members are ministering to those who are interested in the ministry but cannot join in the “going.” This ministry sees people for who God has made them to be. It truly listens to people and the desires of their hearts. It allows people to play a significant part in something meaningful and be blessed because of it.
There is a tested and tried process of fundraising that has been proven to work effectively for decades of summer missions trip participants. Acknowledge that fundraising simply has to be done, and then continue to follow the path with these final five of the ten steps for the funds to be realized:
6. Passionate Follow Up.
The fundraising job is not done once the support letters are in the mailbox. The newly published mission resource, Making the Ask: Raising Money for Summer Missions Trips, emphasizes that this is when the challenging and intentional work begins. Ten days to two weeks after mailing the support letters, the enthusiastic and passionate follow-up begins. Establishing the right mindset going into the follow-up process is crucial. It’s all about people.
The goal is to speak on the phone or in person with everyone who received a support letter. This personal contact is what will make the difference in building personal relationships with every prospective donor. During the time with your prospective donor, there will be the opportunity to make a direct ask for money to fund the mission trip. Communicate your vision for the trip, talk a bit about logistics, and then talk about financial partnership. Suggest specific amounts or giving levels from which to choose.
- Let people know how much you have left to raise and how their gift can make an impact. Closing in on the goal makes all gifts seem more meaningful.
- Give clear instructions on how to give (check, online, credit card, cash, mailing address). People may not give if they are left wondering how to give. Make the whole process as easy as possible.
- Consider creating a card or half-sheet with all the relevant information on it as a reminder. Email the given information as a follow-up.
7. Small Group Fundraising Meetings.
Another opportunity for summer missions trip fundraising, in addition to sending support letters and rigorous follow-up, is small group gatherings. These gatherings of 10-12 people occur in homes over dinner or dessert. They offer team members an excellent opportunity to communicate their vision about the trip and then ask people to contribute financially. These meetings can be a personal way to further connect with others and raise some additional funds.
8. Consider Social Media Fundraising.
You’ve seen them in your Facebook feeds and marveled at how easy it seems to do. The truth? It’s not actually that easy. Truly effective digital fundraising is a science that requires research, analytics, follow-up, influence, thousands of followers, a bit of luck, and time. To rely only on social media to raise all the money for summer mission trips may not be the best strategy. However, there is no harm in putting some information on your social media feeds to create awareness about the trip and generate interest. Some people may indeed give directly to an online fundraiser.
- Post information about the trip in a catchy and compelling way.
- Add photos or relevant videos.
- Entice people to click for more information.
The greatest opportunity? The personal follow-up can be done with those who interact with the social posts. If someone likes a Facebook post or drops an encouraging comment, send them a direct message or text them and ask if you can personally tell them more about the trip over coffee. Use social media as a fundraising tool, but not the ultimate fundraising solution.
**Please note: Use social media and the internet carefully or not at all if the summer missions trip is traveling to a restricted access country. The protection of the partner ministry is of utmost and primary importance.
9. Consider A Second Support Letter.
Four to six weeks before trip departure, if there are still a good number of people on the list who have not yet given toward trip costs and if there is still a hefty trip cost balance to be covered, consider mailing or emailing a second support letter to two groups of people: anyone of the original who has not yet given; plus others from the categories on the list who were not included in the first mailing. Use this opportunity to communicate some important and timely information:
- Give an update on summer missions trip training.
- Provide an update on team members & team activities
- Offer an update on how much funding is left to be raised
- Suggest giving levels that will be most helpful to reach the funding goal
- Remind prospective donors of the final deadline for funds to be received
This second letter can be mailed or emailed since time will now be fleeting. Be sure to follow up with phone calls, texts, emails, or personal visits. Remember: Follow-up makes the funds come in.
10. Say Thank You!
Gratitude is a fundamental key to fundraising. Fundraisers cannot ask people for money, receive gifts, and then not thank donors. That is a fatal flaw. Thanking donors is of the utmost and highest priority. Here are the best practices concerning thanking generous donors who have partnered financially with summer missions trips:
- Offer a timely thank you. Do not wait until the end. Thanks should be given immediately.
- Write handwritten thank you notes and mail them. People will appreciate the extra effort, and the handwritten note will stand out from other junk mail they receive every day.
- Include a small bit of personal commentary about the donor in the note. Show to them you’ve been listening to them, paying attention to their life, and that you care.
- Use casual, friendly language. Write as you speak and keep your note “normal.”
When you make the ask with a succinct vision statement that can be clearly articulated, there’s simply no more powerful accelerant for giving. Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe. It creates a vivid message for your team to carry across the entire summer mission trip. Thanking donors is just as important as making the ask. It is a crucial part of the cycle that donors expect and appreciate and we are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Make the ask. Certainly, it will be good. And- to make it even easier so you don’t miss any of our Church Growth Resources– you can also receive our ministry blog posts straight to your inbox!
Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe!
Fundraising might seem like a frightening thing for most people. However, in the end, it can be rewarding, a huge blessing, and an important ministry to Summer Missions Trip Team Members, as well as the financial partners who get involved. Making the Ask: Raising Money for Summer Missions Trips outlines how it is thrilling to see what God can do when Team Members step out in faith and let Him work through them.
For more information on fundraising, visit ACST’s Consulting pages.
Cal joined the ACST team in 2004 and is currently the Market Strategy Manager serving denominational ministry partners. He received a degree in Secondary Education at Southeastern Bible College before pursuing graduate work at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. He has served on various local nonprofit organizations, including The King’s Academy, a Christian school in Florence, SC., and R.E.A.C.H., an educational resource group based in Florence.